May 16, 2011

Son of Godzilla (1967)

TO MY DELIGHT, Dash showed an interest in Godzilla last year when he discovered the Saturday morning animated series from the late ‘70s, which was a childhood favorite of mine during its brief run.

But for Dash and Jack-Jack’s first exposure to the classic Godzilla movies, I needed something just as age-appropriate. That may sound silly, since the Godzilla flicks are essentially men fighting in rubber suits as they demolish models of Japanese cities and villages. But in many of these films, the humans are more violent than the monsters. (In Destroy All Monsters, people are shot in the head and throw themselves off cliffs.)

So after checking the “parents guide” pages of many of the Godzilla flicks at the IMDb, I landed on Son of Godzilla.

Plot:
Scientists experimenting with changes in weather on a tropical island get more than they bargained for when Godzilla shows up to battle humongous insects and protect his newborn child, Minilla.

Critique:

Purists of the Godzilla franchise largely disown Son of Godzilla, calling it pandering and childish compared to other entries in the series. But that’s exactly why it felt like a good place to start with my 8- and 5-year old boys.

It’s easy to see why more fervent fans of the Godzilla series find Son of Godzilla a bit corny. A couple of examples:
  • The opening situations involving the scientists on the island, and the musical score that accompanies them, are very lighthearted and reminiscent of the tone of live-action Disney films of the same era.
  • Goofy music plays whenever Minilla is fumbling about, and at one point the filmmakers even have Minilla throw a kicking, screaming temper tantrum on his back.
The film spends too much time trying to give substance to the scientists’ efforts to control the weather, and there’s a budding romance between investigative reporter Goro (Akira Kubo) and native island girl Riko (Bibari Maeda) that’s harmless enough.

But the human storylines aren’t why we watch these films. We want to see giant rubber monsters throw down, which is what makes the classic Godzilla films exciting, cheesy fun (here, Godzilla and Minilla battle giant praying mantises and a monstrous, web-slinging spider). Unfortunately, the battles in Son of Godzilla are infrequent, and the best clash (where Godzilla takes on the praying mantises) is early in the film and too brief to be satisfying.

While Son of Godzilla is by no means a classic (though the ending is oddly touching), it was a good first choice for introducing Dash and Jack-Jack to the Godzilla film series. Now the question is: Which one do we see next? Suggestions are welcome in the comments below.

Tidbits:
* A year after Son of Godzilla, Kubo also starred in the aforementioned Destroy All Monsters.
* Director Jun Fukuda directed several other films in the Godzilla series, including Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

Rating:

What did Dash and Jack-Jack think?
After only one brief appearance by Godzilla in the first 25 minutes, Jack-Jack’s patience was tested, while surprisingly Dash was interested in the dubbed dialogue of the Japanese cast. To their credit, they both stuck with it to the end, even when there were long stretches of action-less dialogue (a pitfall of many of the Godzilla films).
Dash (on the praying mantis): “It’s not really scary.”
Jack-Jack: “I think I like the girl the most. I think the girl knows everything.”

Is it suitable for your kids?
Son of Godzilla is rated PG for “sci-fi monster violence.” Godzilla bodyslams and breathes fire on several of the giant mantises, as well as the giant spider. In a couple of other scenes, Minilla is in peril as the monsters pursue him. Also, a man is attacked by one of the giant spider’s claws, but escapes unharmed.
From the humans, there are separate mentions of a concentration camp and having a cold beer, men shoot their rifles at a giant praying mantis, a man gets grazed in the arm by a bullet, and there is a brief scene of smoking.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
I haven’t met any serious female Godzilla fans in my lifetime, though I’m sure they’re out there. I’m guessing this would be more of a you-and-the-boy(s) situation if you decide to check it out.

And he was stompin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, dad / You know I'm gonna be like you."

Son of Godzilla
* Director: Jun Fukuda
* Screenwriters: Shinichi Sekizawa, Kazue Shiba
* Stars: Tadao Takashima, Akira Kubo, Bibari Maeda
* MPAA Rating: PG


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Rent Son of Godzilla from Netflix >>

7 comments:

Budd said...

I think Mothra is pretty kid friendly.

Retro Hound said...

I reviewed this at one of my blogs: http://rantsbyrobert.blogspot.com/2008/09/king-kong-vs-godzilla-and-son-of.html I said "Boy these are awful movies. But awful fun at the same time. The plots are so full of holes I won’t bother to point them out. Even my preteen kids were trying to figure out how to patch the holes. The acting is generally horrible. You know what though? Every time Godzilla gives his trademark roar, I’m an 8-year-old boy again and all is forgiven."

We just ran through a BUNCH of them, mainly in Netflix instant. Unfortunately, they now all kinda blend together, but one of the later Mechagodzilla ones had a lot of cussing in it and wasn't very kid-friendly in my opinion. It seems to me that King Kong vs Godzilla is kid friendly. It's probably best to stay with the earlier ones, except the first one, is has a lot of destruction and indicates a lot of people dying.

John Kenneth Muir said...

Excellent review.

I've been working up to introducing my four year old son to the Godzilla films for awhile. We actually started the process by watching the mid-1960s Ultraman episodes.

Many of those episodes are absolutely suitable for children, but a few do actually feature frightening-loooking monsters. There's one episode featuring a Mummy that freaks my boy out...so we never watch it.

At this point, I don't know that my son would yet have the patience to stick with Son of Godzilla. The problem being, as you state, it's pretty action-less.

I've also tried to interest my son in King Kong, but no luck yet...

Next, I'm trying the original Land of the Lost as his gateway to sci-fi nirvana...

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mikelietz said...

I don't recall any head shots in Godzilla vs. Monster Zero but it's been a while since I watched it. It's as much a 60s space movie as a Godzilla flick, so it has that going for it...

James (SeattleDad) said...

Can't wait to show Lukas these, but will probably have to wait a bit still. We may actually see Nemo for the first time tonight, so Godzilla will have to wait.

StuartOhQueue said...

Glad you weren't too hard on it. Not a favorite but I have love for all things Godzilla.

I'm shooting a stop-motion project with Heroclix miniatures and I couldn't resist the temptation of writing in a cameo bit for my foot-tall Godzilla figure.

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