Day 9, and we’ve finally come to that weird one where Godzilla has a son, and plays jump rope with him. #9: Son of Godzilla.
Since we are now dealing with Godzilla’s son, we have to start asking biological questions about Godzilla’s species. I was operating under the assumption that Godzilla was the last of his kind. This is the same monster we’ve been following since Godzilla Raids Again, and the characters often refer to the monster as “he,” so I wonder where the Godzilla egg came from. Does Godzilla reproduce asexually? Did he mate with another species? Is his son only half Godzilla? It’s hard to say.
What I can say is that Minilla is a weird, weird addition to the Toho canon. Minilla (so-named because he is a mini-Zilla) is a baby-faced, huggable little critter who seems to serve the same function as the Ewoks did in Return of the Jedi, i.e., to sell toys. Minilla’s cuteness stands in direct contrast with the spirit of the Godzilla films so far. Godzilla was always kind of a cool guy. At the very least, he was a scrappy little boy who just wanted to be left alone, and only fought other monsters out of necessity. Minilla is like the obnoxious kid brother you never wanted to babysit.
Fans of the Godzilla series are typically ambivalent about Minilla (played in the movies by Little Man Machan). Some enjoy his antics, and naturally accept him as part of the Toho monster canon. Others have compared him to Scrappy-Doo, in that he has a far-too-precious appeal to make a known character more hip. Also, that he’s obnoxious. There is a scene in this film wherein Minilla plays jump rope with his father’s swishing tail, and it’s an insufferably adorable scene that makes you long for the big long monster fights of two films ago. The name “Minilla,” by the way, won’t be officially spoken aloud for two more movies. Minilla is also sometimes called “Minya.” He is not to be confused with Godzooky. Godzooky is the human-sized talking Godzilla creature from the 1978 Hanna-Barbera cartoon show The Godzilla Power Hour.
Son of Godzilla takes place on Sollgel Island, where an ambitious reporter (Akira Kubo) has discovered a klatch of scientists conducting weather-control experiments. The storms around here have eerie powers; when the first one strikes, it somehow mutates the local nine-foot mantises (called Kamacuras) into 30-foot mantises. The Kamacuras travel in packs, and hate Godzilla. Late in the film, one of the characters becomes ill, and the locals have to trek into the cave of a giant spider to get an antidote from a local plant. The giant spider is called Kumonga. Although Kumonga and Kamacurases look cooler than, say, Ebirah, they still only read as lesser monsters. Like they aren’t a proper challenge for Godzilla. Godzilla can, and does, easily stomp and murder these big ol’ bugs.
Perhaps the primary reason Son of Godzilla leaves a lesser impact is its score. This movie is filled with elephantine ba-dump-ba-dump music, which is a definite change from the usual orchestral score we’re used to. Indeed, the iconic Godzilla theme (written by Akira Ifukube) is an essential pert of these movies. The last film was suffused with surf music, and this one is just plinky cartoon stuff. A lot of the monsterish gravitas is missing, thanks to the absence of the orchestral score.
Luckily, this will all turn around in the next film, which is – and I can say this without hyperbole – the best film in the Godzilla series. Director Ishiro Honda will be back, the music will be back, and many, many monsters will return, along with a pile of new ones. I also take a great deal of pleasure in the fact that the next film was released on my birthday.
Up next: Destroy All Monsters (1968)