Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)

Class: User
Author: Godzillawolf
Score: (3.5/5)
December 27th, 2010 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

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 Sayaka Osawa and Keiko Imamura aren't twin sisters, they look close enough to pass. One unfortunate point to mention is the fact that Megumi 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 similarities).

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 favorite versions.

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.