When the well of innovation has all but dried up and the reserves of originality have been spoilt by commercialism, what is a man to do but give the scaled monster Godzilla a son? Surely, this was not the best avenue to follow when thinking up yet another entry into the Toho chain of kaiju boxing matches. Son of Godzilla gives Jun Fukuda another outing as director, his feverish attempts to riff on James Bond in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep clearly impressed someone. Not audiences, of course, but someone saw a spark that could be tapped into without much effort or financial cost. A lucky break for the series’ survival, but not so for those that grimaced in horror and humour at the first sighting of the monsters that lurked on the screen of this late 60s Godzilla cash-in attempt.
A soundscape of sixties sci-fi nonsense is the end result. Fukuda rattles the cage of these kaiju by once again attempting to bring the modern popularities of action and tense musical cues. It makes for a film that is devoid of message, a sad shame considering those were the aspects of earlier entries into the series that made the films so strong. This balance between kaiju creature bashing and analysis of culture and capital. It is lost here entirely. A struggle it may be to settle into Son of Godzilla, there are definite rewards to be had. Slogging through the opening scenes of sci-fi that are barely different to the base of operations found in Fukuda’s debut to the series, it shows rather clearly that he has found the niche he wishes to follow.
But credit where it is due, he follows this narrative to the letter and lets the creative visions shine through when they can. Giant ants are the main villain of this piece, and while some of the special effects have somehow dated far worse than previous instalments to the franchise, they are quite scary, even if they don’t have some definitive, unique appearance outside of “being quite big.” The benefit of this is an identifiable monster, some small insect blown up to truly horrifying proportions. Such a monster is needed to introduce newer characters, and the essence of success is there, just not capitalised on too well. Comical and poor-quality models make their way through a usual cacophony of useless scenes that try and blur nonsense human angles with Godzilla, his pupils dilated and his eyeballs bulging out of his head as he attempts to shoe ants away from the son audiences never wanted him to have.
While it is clear to appreciate and even easier to respect the lingering love for the characters, Son of Godzilla is where it feels as though it has faded. In the place of nurturing care and a cautious hand is the mania-induced fever dream of a director gone mad, trying to make ends meet by flinging offspring into the mix. Son of Godzilla is, for better or worse, a product of Fukuda, whose thought process throughout his time with the series was not a strong lead, nor was it worth following. As a film, it is unredeemable. But as a piece of mindless entertainment, Son of Godzilla finds itself on a level not too dissimilar with the films we love to hate.