By Kyle B. Stiff
Here’s a quick rundown on what may be the best Godzilla move of all time. It’s about a little boy who goes to Monster Island and meets Godzilla’s goofy-looking son, a creature with a battle cry that sounds like a donkey. They become friends while stock footage taken from other (better?) monster movies plays in the background. Most kaiju fans don’t take this one serious because it *seems* lighthearted, even silly. But, behold: Godzilla’s Revenge (also called All Monsters Attack) is the darkest Godzilla movie of them all.
The movie opens with shots of an industrial wasteland.
This is the urban jungle that formed Ichiro, our protagonist, a little boy growing up among steel girders and desolate parking lots with two parents constantly working and only a television to keep him company during dinner.
We know right off the bat that Ichiro is not a cool kid as he explains to his little lady friend the sound that his imaginary monster friend makes. She is saved from his autistic cringe when a gang of bullies show up to assert dominance.
This is life for Ichiro – being bullied in an urban hellscape with no one to protect him. It’s the opposite of the kaiju formula, where monsters who were made for endless war beat the shit out of each other throughout all eternity. Ichiro’s life is just a sad blip on the radar.
The fact that Ichiro doesn’t wallow in sadness only makes his sad fate more apparent to the adult viewer (and more palatable to young viewers who just wanted to see some giant monsters fight each other).
When Ichiro is alone, he dreams of being on Monster Island. He imagines that he is friends with Godzilla’s son, Minya (or Minilla), a sort of cute creature with a face that is nonetheless nightmare fuel. Minya is just as pathetic as Ichiro, though he puts on a brave face, simply stating that he has no friends so that there can be no confusion about his state. This may be more the result of Ichiro’s latent autism, in which his emotional disconnect with himself manifests in imaginary friends stating matter-of-factly that they are alone and without friends but not making a big deal of it.
Minya is bullied by a monster called Gabara, a giant lizard with a cat’s head and wild orange hair. Gabara looks stupid and thus he’s a real shit, just the sort of thing that would be dreamed up by a young boy sorting through his own problems.
In fact, it’s important to note that even though Ichiro retreats into a fantasy world to get away from life’s difficulties, I think it’s a psychologically healthy fantasy world. It doesn’t cater to his desires but presents him with the hard truths about life in a way that a young boy can understand. He doesn’t daydream about a world where everyone is nice to each other and nothing can hurt him. He knows that’s impossible. He knows the world favors the strong, and he wants to be strong, even though he’s scared.
In his fantasy world, Godzilla doesn’t cut Minya any slack. One might make the mistake of thinking that being the son of the most powerful monster would guarantee you an easy life, but Godzilla didn’t become the most powerful by being soft. Godzilla doesn’t have time for Minya’s tears, and when Minya desperately seeks his help against his bully, his father pushes him back toward Gabara. On Monster Island, there is no room for weakness! In fact, I think the title All Monsters Attack isn’t necessarily an order, but a statement that this is what monsters do: They attack. We do the same. It’s how we survive!
The funny thing is that once Minya gives the fight everything he has, Godzilla actually does help him when things get really hairy. When Minya embarrasses Gabara and Gabara loses his cool, Godzilla comes in, throws Gabara around, whips him with his tail, beats his face in, squats and shits on him, you name it. There’s a life lesson in there: No one will help you until you help yourself. Problems seem insurmountable but you still have to give it some effort, but once you do, help will arrive.
Or it won’t, and you’ll die.
Either way, it’s better than living in fear like a coward!
In the end, Ichiro’s fantasies about Godzilla and Minya and the Monster Island lifestyle inspire him to fight to survive a pretty harrowing real-life situation in which some bank robbers kidnap him and even consider killing him. It’s a rough situation, no doubt traumatizing for someone as sensitive as Ichiro. It’s a grim reminder of the world he lives in, a mean urban toilet bowl where a grown man will pull a knife on you if you get between him and a bag of money. But in surviving, Ichiro gains perspective. When his bullies try to torment him the next day, he doesn’t even consider backing down. He already knows true pain, so he has nothing to fear, even against opponents bigger than him. He fights! He even beats the alpha who leads the bullies!
But here’s the thing. When Ichiro wins the fight, does he force the bullies to give up their cruel ways? Does he make them slink off in shame so they can contemplate their misdeeds? Hell no – he becomes their leader!
And his first act is to terrorize a painter working on an advertising billboard. The man falls over, covered in paint, and as Ichiro and his crew laugh at the man’s plight and run away, it is simply a continuation of the will to survive and fight and persist in a cruel world. Such is life on Monster Island, also known as planet Earth!
It’s this point that deeply troubles many viewers, especially some guy on YouTube that spazzed out about this movie. The guy on YouTube said this movie’s morals are indefensible, that this movie is horrendous because it depicts kids saying hell and damn, and he hates the idea of bullied kids turning into bullies themselves. He thinks it’s an awful movie for kids to watch. I’m sure he’s one of those guys who thinks that children should only watch pleasant things, and should be taught that kindness means everything, and that discomfort must be avoided at all costs.
Does that sound nice? It shouldn’t – those are the values that turn people into livestock! Life is cruel and the suffering only ends with death (and maybe not even then). Avoiding pain doesn’t lead to pleasure, but to weakness and further suffering. Once we grasp that simple fact, what better lesson could a parent give than to teach their children how to fight and survive, even if it means hurting them?