|A heartfelt goodbye from Ishiro Honda
|written by tommyk
||February 21, 2012 - 8:20 PM PST
|Ishiro Honda directed the first Godzilla film, "Gojira" in 1954, and all the Godzilla films that followed up till this one, in 1969. This would be his last.
The Godzilla suit in this film is clearly worn out, in every sense of the term. The monster himself, now nearly 15 years after his premier, no longer scared anyone. Certainly the around the block cinema lines of '54 were gone. His gravitas faded, the beast had become something of a running joke, even in his home Japan.
But, Toho still trotted him out, as he still drew reliable audiences. Children had turned the adult-terrifying monster into a hero, and happily overlooked his shabbiness to cheer him on as he fought increasingly silly giant adversaries.
The films had gotten increasingly kitsch over the years, with lots of "kid appeal" thrown in, such as a "Son of Godzilla", the Jar Jar Binks of his day, dubbed "Minya" "Baby Godzilla" or "Minilla", who features prominently in this film.
It doesn't seem possible that anything good would come of this low budget effort, where most of the "monster" footage is actually recycled from other Godzilla movies. How could it not be a total train wreck?
But Honda deftly judo throws this one. He embraces the idea of a children's movie joyfully. The plot: a kid who dreams of Godzilla while confronting real world problems. Honda dodges the issue of Godzilla's silliness almost entirely by putting the beast firmly in the land of a boy's daydreams.
The hero faces real bullies and struggles in an ordinary, shabby, dull Tokyo. He draws courage to face it all from day-dreaming about Minya's fights against "bully monsters" on monster island. Trippy fantasy scenes occur where the two children, one a monster and one a human, commiserate with each other about how hard it is to be "small".
Godzilla shines here, and demonstrating how monster boxing is good parenting.
The message Honda sends to the smaller ( ha ha ) audiences that were still showing up for the films: take courage, never be afraid to stand up for yourself, and keep trying.
Honda would go on to become a close collaborator on Akira Kurosawa's last five films.
Overall, it's a cute, campy, but surprisingly well made C movie from a highly underrated director. If you recognize this is meant to be a kids film, it won't disappoint. You may find yourself cheering the "Home Alone" plot and it's simple, but rather heartening message of how dreams can inspire real world bravery.