“Son of Godzilla” – A.J. Hakari

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. As you may be aware, I’ve unleashed my fair share of bellyaching in regards to the Godzilla movies, namely the schlocky direction adopted by its earliest entries. But here I am, faced with quite possibly the goofiest film of them all, not to mention a heaping helping of crow upon which I must feast. To say Son of Godzilla is childish is to infer that the ocean is a tad moist, or that Uwe Boll makes bad movies. It represents the final phase of transforming what was once an icon of fear into a Saturday morning cartoon come to life — and, going against all logic and reason, it’s some of the most fun you’ll ever have watching this meanest of the green muthas.

Presumably set in the not-too-distant future, Son of Godzilla begins as the whole “be fruitful and multiply” thing has come back to bite mankind in the ass. With overpopulation on the rise, food is becoming more and more scarce, a dire pickle that a group of scientists hope to find a way out of. On remote Solgell Island, they’re conducting a series of experiments involving the weather to solve the food shortage, something intrepid reporter Goro (Akira Kubo) can’t resist getting the scoop on. But as it turns out, they’re not the only ones residing on Solgell Island, for not only are giant mantises abundant, an equally massive egg hatches Godzilla’s offspring. It’s not long before the Big G arrives to flex his parenting skills, leaving the scientists to find a way to escape the island before they become monster chow one way or another.

I’m not one to take the “so bad, it’s good” philosophy at face value. If a movie’s garbage, it usually stays that way, no matter how hard its “endearing” flaws and inconsistencies attempt to penetrate my candy-coated shell of cynicism. But I must admit that there are some flicks that reach such dopey heights, there’s no option but to sit back and enjoy the spectacle. If you haven’t ventured a guess yet, Son of Godzilla is just such an instance, and you can’t imagine how crazy it is for me to say so. This series tried to be many things over the course of 50-plus years, with this film as one of the few designed almost strictly for kids. It’s an approach that would fill any seasoned kaiju fan’s heart with dread, and it virtually crippled All Monsters Attack. But for Son of Godzilla, the filmmakers nailed the silly atmosphere just right and parlayed it into a rather amusing romp. Sure, Godzilla isn’t the slightest bit scary, the music is the corniest thing this side of a Laurel and Hardy adventure, and the wires moving the creatures are often in full view. But once again, it’s heart that spares the film from suffering a slight case of cinematic damnation.

Son of Godzilla is lighthearted but not stupid, never patronizing its audience or presuming that they can’t handle something a little offbeat. Maybe it wasn’t treated with the utmost care, but it’s nice knowing that someone cared at least a little bit about what went up on the screen. What saves the day is how five-time series director Jun Fukuda goes about business with a certain sense of humor, rather than abandon all signs of charisma as past Godzilla outings have. Most of this material comes through during Godzilla’s interactions with his little one, which will charm even the most stubborn grinches in the crowd. Not only is the little lizard cute to an almost disturbing degree, you have to love how the Big G shows him some tough love, allowing him to get pushed around and even flat-out leaving him behind in the most tongue-in-cheek scenes. Not a moment is to be taken seriously here, nor do Fukuda and crew even try. Entertainment is the order of the day, and that’s what you get when all’s said and done. This does without saying that a few of the film’s seams still show; Godzilla, quite frankly, resembles a turd with features, and after being spoiled with Mothra and King Ghidorah, it’s disappointing to see that the chief monster villain is just a big spider.

I can bitch to my heart’s content about how I prefer my Godzilla movies lean, mean, and as scary as they can be given the circumstances. But if a flick is done well, no matter what style it adopts, what’s to prevent me from having a ball? I know many will shake their heads in shame at the idea that Son of Godzilla even exists, but if you watch it in the right frame of mind, its cheesy charms just might end up working wonders.

Rating: ★★★☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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