While watching this movie, a glaring gaffe in Mothra became clear. The film’s namesake does not show up until halfway through the movie. This is unforgivable. The sole reasons kaiju flicks exist is for the kaiju. Yet, Mothra marked a shift in the kaiju genre. It was the first movie to move away from the dark destruction that began with the original Gojira, opting for a lighter – often campy – fantastical flick. Mothra is not so much hellbent on meaninglessly laying cities to waste. Mothra has a precise mission, havoc only happens while on her mission.
Along with Mothra, Mothra introduces other characters who would make many kaiju appearances, the Shobijin. The Shobijin are not kaiju, rather they are one-foot tall “faries” who kind of control Mothra through telepathy. (It is also the first time magic is involved in a kaiju flick.) After the Shobijin are kidnapped by the evil capitalist Clark Nelson of Rolisica (read: United States) and brought to Tokyo to be exploited, they summon Mothra.
Mothra makes her debut (halfway through this f’n movie, mind you) by hatching from a giant egg on Infant Island, home of the Shobijin. Mothra does not start out as the giant winged kaiju. Instead, upon hatching, Mothra is a giant larva looking thing. The kaiju wastes no time making a beeline from the island to Tokyo. How does the larva swim? Kind of by slashing up and down (her form is atrocious). The larva’s first victim is a huge cruise ship which just happened to be in the way of Mothra’s route.
Mothra makes landfall and quickly decimates a damn. She then proceeds toward Tokyo, rolling over anything in her way, i.e. buildings, cars. The Japanese military shoots and hits Mothra with all they have, but it does nothing to slow the beast down. While in Tokyo, Mothra goes to Tokyo Tower and topples it for unexplainable reasons. (Aren’t you supposed to be saving the Shobijin, Mothra?) Mothra stops at the destroyed tower to spin itself in a cocoon.
While in a cocoon, Clark Nelson takes the Shobijin to
the US Rolisica. When Mothra breaks from her cocoon, she is now adorned in her trademark huge, colorful wings and takes flight to New York Kirk City (I wish I was making this up.). Mothra’s flying causes mass destruction, via the wind the giant wings create. After flying around New Kirk City (which I believe was once New Amsterdam), the main human characters get the Shobijin from Bob Evil and return them to Mothra. Mothra then flies into the sunset.
How does Mothra stack up as a kaiju? Shitily. Mothra starts out a larva who rolls over buildings, cars, telephone polls and what-have-you. The havoc she creates is immense, but it is done with no style nor personality. It just rolls. The larva’s moment of glory is when it topples Tokyo Tower. This is about as original as a drunk pissing in public for a kaiju. It was well worn territory. After her metamorphosis, there is a little more grace (she can fly), but still no personality. Hell, the destruction she creates is merely a side effect of her pursuit of the Shobijin. This kaiju does not have any interest in obliterating cities, which I am sure does not put her in very high standing among her peers. Also, other than the web she shoots at a helicopter right before spinning the cocoon, Mothra does not pack any weapon. You, Mothra, have earned the badge of total ineptitude:
I must say that part of Mothra’s rating may be due to how utterly awful the movie was. The main character’s inexplicably constant central involvement in the doings of national security and the like would have made Jeff Goldblum’s character in Independence Day blush. Plus, the overall light and comic element introduced into this genre was very much not welcome.