I’ve never been a big fan of Toho’s various “giant insect” monsters. I dunno, they’re just so much less imposing and creative than their more dinosaur and dragon-themed characters. While I can sort of tolerate the likes of Kumonga and Kamacuras, since they’re used very sparingly, Mothra is a Toho character I’ve never particularly liked. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I find a giant moth to be relatively boring or if it’s because she’s the perpetual “good guy” of the Toho universe, but I just can’t stand her. Maybe it’s those damn Twin Fairies that boil my blood? For whatever reason, though, Mothra is wildly popular within the Godzilla fanbase and used very, very frequently.
Drat and double-drat.
After a raging hurricane, a mysterious egg washes ashore near Nagayo and a duo of greedy industrialists wastes no time in legally acquiring the egg for their new theme park, Happy Center. Journalist, Ichiro (Akira Takarada), his photographer, Yoka (Yuriko Hoshi), and a scientist named Professor Miura (Hiroshi Koizumi) don’t like this one bit and try every means they can to get the industrialists to surrender the egg. As revealed to them by the Twin Fairies (Emi and Yumi Ito), the egg belongs to Mothra: The Guardian of Infant Island. Their problems only worsen, as Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima) rises from his resting place and attacks Nagayo. As Godzilla’s rampage draws nearer to the egg, Mothra mobilizes for one final attack!
So, considering my established distaste for Mothra, one would think I’d dislike this movie. To be honest, I prefer most of Mothra’s future appearances in the Showa series over this one (Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, especially), but Mothra vs. Godzilla honestly isn’t a bad installment on its own. The human drama is some of the best and it carries the film quite well. Much to my astonishment, they don’t imply or force any romance angles at all. Ichiro and Yoka’s relationship remains strictly platonic throughout the course of the film. Most Godzilla films try to force some ham-fisted mushy stuff into the mix because they feel obligated to, so it was refreshing to see one that ignored that requirement altogether.
Mothra vs. Godzilla comes across as more of a follow-up to Mothra than King Kong vs. Godzilla, continuing the story of Mothra, the Twin Fairies and the people of Infant Island more so than focusing on Godzilla’s chronology. As a sequel to Mothra it works very well, but can be a little depressing. Infant Island has been desolated by nuclear bomb testing (which was mentioned in Mothra) and Mothra is dying. Mothra’s lifespan is particularly peculiar, as only a few years ago she went from being a newly born larva to a full-grown moth. Though not specifically stated in the movie, the implication seems to be that the nuclear bomb tests poisoned or injured her in some fashion. So far as Godzilla is concerned, his thread doesn’t present itself until a little over the half-hour mark.
The showdown between Godzilla and Mothra is both good and bad. For whatever reason, Director Ishiro Honda chose not to slow down much of the battle footage, and kept it at either regular speed or what looks like fast-speed; so it has that same spastic effect as seen in Godzilla Raids Again. These moments look incredibly bad and, I assure you, unintentionally comical.
That aside, the fight was pretty marvelous. Though battle choreography with a giant moth is rather limited, Honda makes the most out of it; the scene where Mothra grabs Godzilla by his tail and drags him away from her egg being my favorite moment. The second fight of the movie, between Godzilla and Mothra’s twin larva is a little less exciting. They follow him to Iwa Island then proceed to perch themselves at vantage points and douse him with silly string until he plummets into the ocean. Not exactly thrilling, especially since this moment drags on for what feels like forever.
The part where one of the little fuckers nips his tail and Godzilla proceeds to throw a fit was pretty great, though.
I suppose it all boils down to a matter of taste. Those who adore Mothra will get a kick out of this film, while those who do not will likely find it irritating. I enjoyed it more for having a fairly compelling human angle, but when it’s supposed to be a movie about two monsters fighting each other, that’s kind of missing the point.
And as an aside, the scene where the jets shoot Godzilla with a missile and his head catches on fire: holy shit.