Let me admit right off the
bat that this is one of my favorite Godzilla
films. The acting, special effects, and story,
though competent in several areas, are not
the true source of this film's charm. Nostalgia
is the root of Godzilla vs. Mothra's
appeal. In a great many ways, this film harkens
back to Mothra’s previous appearances,
and that does something for me (unlike
the previous film, Godzilla
vs. King Ghidorah (1991), which differed
too greatly from King Ghidorah's iconic Showa
formula). Mankind’s disregard for the
Earth has wrought dire consequences.
A large meteor crashes into
the sea, setting off a violent chain reaction.
Ocean levels rise and a large typhoon hits
Infant Island in Indonesia, uncovering a giant
egg from a seaside cliff, which was weakened
by deforestation. This impact of the celestial
body occurs near the location where Godzilla
has been resting since his defeat at the hands
of Mecha-King Ghidorah one year prior...
Meanwhile, Takuya Fujita, an
explorer and treasure hunter, finds himself
in hot water when the authorities catch him
in the act of robbing an ancient artifact.
He’s left with two options, spend fifteen
years in prison or work with his ex-wife Masako
Tezuka on an expedition to Infant Island.
He chooses the latter. Locating the enormous
egg during their exploration of the island,
they also uncover something equally as remarkable.
A pair of tiny girls, who call themselves
the Cosmos, reveal that the egg belongs to
Mothra, a guardian of the Earth.
The Cosmos reveal that centuries
ago, a great civilization existed on the planet,
but they went too far by creating a machine
that controlled the weather. In response,
a powerful dark twin of Mothra, Battra, was
born to take its revenge. Battra destroyed
everything in his path until the erring civilization
was no more. Ultimately, Mothra had to intervene
in order to stop the this vengeful creature.
After a fierce battle, she vanquished Battra
and laid him to rest in the northern sea.
The Cosmos reveal that mankind is walking
in similar footsteps. They fear that if the
meteor awakened Mothra, it may also have roused
Battra. It is decided that Mothra’s
egg will be safer in Japan than the now unstable
Infant Island, and it soon finds itself en
route to Japan via ship.
Surely enough, the meteor has
indeed unleashed Battra from his ancient slumber.
Breaking free from his glacial prison, he
quickly makes his way to Japan. All attempts
to halt the monster's march of terror fail,
and he tears through the helpless nation unimpeded.
Meanwhile, Mothra’s egg hatches, but
the Marutomo Company, the organization responsible
for deforestation on Infant Island, kidnaps
the Cosmos, thereby inciting the wrath of
Mothra. With three kaiju on the warpath, does
humanity have even a glimmer of hope for survival?
The story is very similar to
the original Mothra
(1961), in that Mothra goes on a rampage to
recover her precious fairies form the hands
of nefarious men (a welcome nod indeed). Although
the inclusion of Mothra's antagonistic counterpart,
Battra, proves to be an excellent new twist
on the story, Godzilla falls a bit short.
He almost seems tacked-on. The subplot involving
Masako and Takuya’s personal struggles
is handled decently; it gives the humans some
much needed character development. However,
the amount of time devoted to such labors
of characterization is frustratingly small.
The environmental subplot (a registered trademark
of Mothra films since time immemorial), is
interesting in that it gives the supposed
antagonist Battra an ironically positive motive.
The acting, unfortunately,
isn’t all that sound. The Cosmos are
the shining stars, and their handling of classic
Mothra songs is splendid. Though actresses
Osawa and Keiko Imamura aren’t twin
sisters, they look close enough to pass. One
unfortunate point to mention is the fact that
Odaka's recurring character (Miki Saegusa)
is relegated to a minor role, her only real
purpose being to telepathically locate the
Cosmos. Odaka, as always, does excellently
with what she’s given, though she barely
has anything to work with. Tetsuya Bessho
(Takuya) and Satomi Kobayashi (Masako) do
a satisfactory job as the leads, but they
don't quite stand out as well as they should.
When it comes to the latex
beasties, Godzilla is presented excellently,
as usual. At least one of his battle scenes
is something to write home about too, as he
engages in a satisfying tooth and claw battle
with the Battra Larva early on in the film.
This is especially refreshing due to the energy-heavy
attitude of Heisei Era battle choreography.
Though Godzilla's heat ray is well-rendered,
the sound effect seems a bit off for some
reason. It should be noted that Godzilla isn't
around nearly enough in this film. A little
city devastation could have helped matters
a great deal. As for Mothra, she's been given
a few new accessories. Antenna beams and energy
enhancing reflective wing pollen seem to be
the biggies. We'll get back to why this is
a problem in a bit. As for the larval form,
the silk spray is actually a solid visual.
The design of the larval prop is fair enough;
a notable improvement over the Showa version.
However, the wings on her Imago form are almost
insanely stiff. There simply isn't enough
flapping. Overall, this is probably my least
favorite version of the lepidopteran kaiju.
Battra, the only new monster
of the film, is the shining star. His larva
form is brutal, menacing, and clearly a more
combat-ready version of Mothra. The fact that
Mothra’s larval form has only one weak
attack and Battra's has an arsenal of dangerous
weaponry lends credence to Mothra being a
creature of peace and Battra an engine of
destruction. However, the same cannot be said
for his Imago form. While I adore the design
completely and find it to be sufficiently
ominous, it boasts only one strong
beam attack. Had Mothra had one such attack
and were Battra’s stronger, I wouldn’t
have minded, but the fact that Battra, the
more battle-ready creature, is severely underpowered
compared to Mothra seems to be a bit counterintuitive.
While the upcoming Mothra Trilogy would bestow
virtually innumerable powers to the mammoth
insect, it only works there because the enemy
kaiju are extremely powerful (enough to give
Godzilla a run for his money). Here, Mothra
is, sadly, too overpowered for my liking.
Back to Battra, his modus operandi
is rather intriguing for a "villain".
While Mothra protects sentient beings along
with the planet, Battra comes across solely
as a guardian of the Earth. Honestly, it seems
as though he could care less about the survival
of the dominant species. In fact, Battra is
furious at mankind for a completely justifiable
reason. In a way, this humanizes Battra and
dehumanizes humanity, making him into something
of an anti-hero. This atraditional way of
sorting out protagonist and antagonist, strangely
enough, actually supports the environmental
aspect of the film.
Before we continue, there are
some miscellaneous special effects worthy
of note. Miniatures, such as maser tanks and
buildings, are quite realistic, and rotoscoping,
in regard to the volleys of energy attacks,
proves to be a victory on the part of the
effects team. Transformations excel too; Mothra's
metamorphosis demonstrates her beauty, while
Battra's is explosive and bombastic, increasing
the sense of uncertainty. Nevertheless, there
are some areas where poor effects have taken
their toll. Rubble from one of Battra's architectural
targets seems to literally phase through people.
One would expect a painfully unrealistic slip
like this from an older film, but not here.
Also, there is a sound effect with which I
find issue. Battra's roar is the major offender.
Giving the creature a cry almost identical
to Rodan is the problem; a unique kaiju should
have a unique roar (or at least one more similar
to Mothra, in order to mirror their dissonant
As far as music goes, Godzilla’s
theme is fitting, as always. Mothra’s
musical accompaniment is lighthearted and
reflects her more serene demeanor. Battra
is a bit wilder, more dangerous; yet, there
are some aspects of his theme that are reminiscent
of Mothra's. This creates a sort of melodic
foil. Special mention goes to the new rendition
of the Mothra Song, which is now one of my
Another noteworthy aspect of
this film is the amount of inspiration derived
from the premise for the abandoned
Godzilla vs. Gigamoth plot. The
idea of Mothra's dark twin and the environmental
message survive, and even some concepts for
Battra’s design resemble some of the
sketches for Gigamoth. Even more intriguing
is the fact that one of Battra's larval concepts
is very similar to one of the more frightening
early imaginings for the original 1961 Mothra.
In the end, Godzilla vs.
Mothra is a fun film, neither a breakthrough
nor a stinker. If you’re into nostalgia
(like yours truly), and specifically enjoy
a nice revamp with a dollop of the aforementioned
'stalgia stuff, you’ll really get a
kick out of this one. Maybe you'll even fall
for it as I did. At the very least, this movie
is still bound to get your Goji-senses tingling.