How Godzilla met your Mothra
Mothra vs. Godzilla is another Godzilla film that gets yanked around with several titles, the other relevant one here being Godzilla vs. The Thing. Some might also just call this one Godzilla vs. Mothra, but there are too many later Godzilla movies featuring Mothra with some variation of Godzilla vs. Mothra in the title that I will just stick with Mothra vs. Godzilla here.
I have a special relationship with this Godzilla movie because it is the first time in my life that I was ever exposed to Godzilla. I remember the shaking nervousness that I had when Godzilla was on screen, and looking back on it several years later, I can understand why I felt so terrified.
But first, the story: A massive typhoon rages a Japanese coastline one night, and along with massive piles of debris, the typhoon brings a giant monster egg which several fishermen notice floating in the open water. The egg is brought ashore, and a greedy Japanese businessman named Kumayama takes the egg for himself to put on exhibitions in hopes of accumulating big bucks. Kumayama and his behind-the-scenes partner, Torahata, are confronted by the tiny twin fairies who serve as Mothra's caretakers, with the fairies demanding that the egg be returned to the island where Mothra resides. A reporter, Ichiro Sakai (Akira Takarada), his photographer assistant, Yoka (Yuriko Hoshi), and a scientist, Professor Miura (Hiroshi Koizumi), meet the fairies and promise to help them. The five try to persuade Kumayama and Torahata to return the egg, but to no avail. Everything changes, however, when Godzilla suddenly surfaces on a beach and begins another tour of destruction through Japan.
Mothra vs. Godzilla is usually regarded as one of the better Godzilla movies in the franchise, which is definitely true, but I'd like to say that it also has one of the "better" Americanized versions. For one, any alterations are minor, with the most notable one being an additional scene in which American ships launch rockets at Godzilla, which proves barely effective. It's really just fan service because we are given no proper explanation as to who these American people are and how they came onto the scene so fast. As soon as it is clear that the rockets don't work, the American military men are not seen or referenced again. It's nothing more than an extra 2 minutes of watching fruitless efforts by the military trying to stop Godzilla.
Unlike King Kong vs. Godzilla or some future Godzilla installments, the dubbing in Mothra vs. Godzilla is actually not that bad! The characters still have a small, lingering trace of nonchalance in them, and some of the dialogue is laughable (one character is told that he is a genius for proposing that Mothra should fight Godzilla), but for the most part, the dubbing is tolerable, which is a success in my book. Regardless of which version you watch, Mothra vs. Godzilla is short on details and plot elements, but heavy enough on monster action. The story refuses to get too chained down with problems involving human characters, and it wastes literally no time in getting from necessary destination to necessary destination.
- Godzilla returns to his role as an unforgiving monster of destruction, and it is a role that is embraced with pure villainous glory. I mentioned before that I was pretty terrified when seeing this movie for the first time at a young age, which was also my first time ever seeing Godzilla. I am not surprised, because I still felt slightly shaken when watching Godzilla in this movie several years later. Godzilla resembles an antihero more than a pure villain in King Kong vs. Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again, but there is no mistaking that he is a true bad guy in this film. There is no goofiness about Godzilla, playing the villain part effectively with angry-looking eyebrows and a face that reads, "I will destroy everything and I couldn't care less who I kill in the process." The many failed attempts of the military also emphasize Godzilla being simply indestructible, as he brushes off tanks and planes like flies and endures multiple jolts of electricity. Speaking of electricity, I'm not sure what exactly is Godzilla's vulnerability to electricity. He marches through electrical wires like they were annoying cobwebs in this film and in the 1954 film, but in King Kong vs. Godzilla, it's effective enough to make Godzilla retreat towards Mt. Fuji. It has yet to kill him, so I'll just assume that electricity doesn't work on Godzilla. Anyway, Godzilla just marches through every obstacle thrown at him, and everything seems hopeless.
The strange thing is that this is probably the only Godzilla movie where I can't see Godzilla as the giant fire-breathing monster that the world has come to know and love. Instead, I see Godzilla as an embodiment of pure, unadulterated terror. This stems from how rarely that the franchise depicts Godzilla as a seemingly unstoppable, no-questions-asked villain, which makes Mothra vs. Godzilla all the more special. I do think another small part of it is also how terrifying that Godzilla seemed to me when I first saw this movie, something that I'm not sure if I'm ever going to get over.
- The story, as a whole, is noticeably uneven. Godzilla polarizes the story towards him once he surfaces about a half hour into the film. We go from curiosity and human squabbling over an egg to a consensus effort in stopping Godzilla. The egg only becomes relevant again when Godzilla is threatening to destroy it. Outside of the title screen, the only other thing within the first half hour of the movie that would remotely hint at Godzilla lurking around is a piece of radioactive material that Sakai and Yoka stumble across while searching the typhoon debris. Any and all subplots involving human characters are pretty much crushed by Godzilla's trampling feet, and whatever character development we were getting stalls altogether. Then again, whoever really cared about the humans in a giant monster movie anyway?
The story of Mothra vs. Godzilla is about as bare bones and straight-to-the-point as you will ever find in a Godzilla movie, but it does have the advantage of missing anything totally ridiculous or over-the-top. That's not to say you can't laugh at anything within the film. One character keeps making a point of eating hard-boiled eggs. See? It's funny because everyone is talking about a giant monster egg! Godzilla also has some clumsy moments such as getting his tail stuck in a tower and losing his balance and ramming into a pagoda.
Godzilla's presence as a ruthless villain is where the movie really flexes its muscles, and I encourage you to really soak it in because Godzilla starts to really change in the upcoming movies, for better or worse. The American English-dubbed version is perfectly acceptable to watch as well, with some of the most tolerable dubbing that you might ever hear in a Godzilla movie. The plot might radically change once Godzilla appears, but there's plenty of monster action and excitement that avoids being total cheese, which elevates this Godzilla film as one of the best in the entire series.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: