Godzilla vs. Mothra, also known as Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth is directed by Takao Okawara and stars Tetsuya Bessho, Satomi Kobayashi, Takehiro Murata, Megumi Odaka, Akiji Kobayashi, and Akira Takarada.
It is a pain in the neck to hear someone say the title, Godzilla vs. Mothra, because Toho, somewhat unintentionally, has made Godzilla facing off against Mothra to mean one of a bajillion different things. Only one other kaiju movie before 1992 had featured only Godzilla and Mothra, that of course being 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla or as it was known in North America: Godzilla vs. The Thing. So while there was only one straight-up Godzilla versus Mothra movie before the Heisei series began, the two monsters had starred together in several other films, enough times that deciphering the whole Godzilla and Mothra relationship ended up being like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle where fitted pieces keep popping out.
But it's okay. Continuing their ambition from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah of bringing back all the classic monsters, Toho got to work getting the beloved Mothra up to date, capitalizing on a screenplay written in 1990 by Akira Murao, in which Mothra fights a dragon named Bagan who tries to destroy humanity for abusing the Earth's resources. A neat idea, but Toho didn't think Mothra had the marketing power to be a hit with audiences overseas, so in came the internationally recognized Godzilla. The story of Mothra vs. Bagan was altered to include Godzilla, but that's not all: Bagan was re-conceptualized as another insect monster named Battra, one that is a dark, evil twin of Mothra.
The story of Godzilla vs. Mothra tells us that long ago, an ancient civilization tried to control the Earth's climate, and in response, Earth created the flying insect monster Battra. However, Battra grew unstable and started to destroy the Earth. Mothra, another monster responsible for protecting the Earth, faced Battra in a great battle and won. In the present day, a meteorite crash lands on Earth and awakens both Godzilla and the long-dormant Battra, the latter of which is still angry over humanity's abuse towards the Earth's natural order. The meteorite also uncovers a giant egg that belongs to Mothra. Three explorers, Takuya Fujito (Tetsuya Bessho), his ex-wife, Masako Tezuka (Satomi Kobayashi), and secretary of the greedy Marutomo company, Kenji Ando (Takehiro Murata) are sent to explore Infant Island where Mothra's egg is located. While there, they meet the Cosmos, two pint-sized humans who can communicate with Mothra. Kenji informs the Marutomo Compay of the egg's existence and has them come to retrieve it, presumably for protection. The egg eventually hatches to reveal a new Mothra larva, who comes into contact with Godzilla and a Battra larva. Mothra escapes when Godzilla and Battra take their fight underwater, and heads for Tokyo in order to rescue the Cosmos, who have been kidnapped by the head of Marutomo.
Was "Save the Environment!" the message that all movies were going for back in the early-to-mid 1990's? Other pro-environment movies like Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas came out around the same time that Godzilla vs. Mothra did, so I guess how you feel towards movies like Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas will affect how much you may like Godzilla vs. Mothra, even though all three movies are radically different in regards to plot and setting. The strange thing is that this is not the first time that a Godzilla movie has attempted to be proactive in regards to keeping the Earth's climate in tip-top shape, the other being 1971's Godzilla vs. Hedorah, although that movie was more on the nose about minimizing pollution. Thankfully, Godzilla vs. Mothra avoids nauseating preachiness when it comes to its pro-environment attitude, and while the movie is mostly flawed in other areas of its writing, this is still one of the better Godzilla movies of the entire Heisei series.
- I'm glad the days of the cheap stock footage are over, because there is absolutely no shortage of quality now when it comes to the monster action. The fights involving Godzilla are wonderfully entertaining, and Takao Okawara crafts the fights to include more than just Godzilla firing his atomic breath or Mothra flying around and whacking Godzilla on the head. Battra knocks Godzilla over using a ferris wheel, and Mothra and Battra ram into each other a couple times while flying through the air. The green screen is embarrassingly noticeable during some shots of Battra chasing Mothra, but that's the worst it ever gets. All three monsters are given equal opportunity to do something, and the fighting is all the better because of it.
- Godzilla vs. Mothra is completely in love with its Mothra and Battra history, so much so that it throws into question what exactly Godzilla's purpose to the story is. Unlike Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, where we got a valid explanation for why the characters needed to go back in time and prevent Godzilla from ever existing, there's next to nothing in this movie to justify why Mothra and Battra need to confront Godzilla, other than to prevent him from wrecking Japan yet again. The script is missing a clear reasoning for why Godzilla has to be present, and because of this, hardly anything about the plot would change if Godzilla was removed altogether.
The script also includes a lousy family divorce sub-plot between Takuya Fujito and Masako Tezuka, and it's handled without the least bit of care. Almost everything regarding this sub-plot is done through side comments that the characters make while they're either running from the approaching monsters or standing by and watching them fight. I commend the effort towards making something worthwhile out of the human plot of a monster movie, but it just doesn't turn out well.
So despite a highly problematic script, Godzilla vs. Mothra excels with its monster action and benefits from a cool-looking new monster in Battra. A lot of the story elements, like the hatching of a Mothra larva and a greedy corporation trying to use the egg for their own reasons, are borrowed from 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla, but there's enough new material here to make for a fresh update of Mothra and for a perfectly watchable installment to the Heisei series. The film turned out to be a huge hit when it was first released, and this helped keep Toho inspired towards bringing back more of the classic kaiju. After a bumpy start, the Heisei series finally had some sense of direction.
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