Ishiro Honda – surely the Stan Lee of monster movies – by this point in his career had belted out more than his fair share of Kaiju calamity and had already given cinema goers the twin towering terrors Godzilla and Rodan and yet the man’s genius was just simply have a dude in a rubber costume stomp the merry hell out of model tanks. No, Honda was very careful to make his whatever his latest monster opus was about different from what had come before to avoid things becoming stale. So where Godzilla was tonally different from Rodan, Mothra would be completely different than both of them. A noticeably softer viewing experience than the rather heavy Godzilla, Mothra introduced us to the queen of the Monsters in colourful style.
A massive typhoon causes a ship to crash on Infant Island and the survivors credit their survival to the ancient civilisation and the two doll sized priestesses who govern them. Kidnapped by a ruthless businessman (aren’t they all?) and forced to sing in a stage show, their absence causes their God, Mothra, to hatch from her egg on Infant Island and head towards civilisation in her larvae form. Arriving ashore she spins a cocoon and emerges in her unsuprising final form as a giant fluffy-headed moth. As she lays waste to the city with the hurricane winds she can stir up with her wings, will the humans pull their heads out of their butts and hand over the priestesses before it’s too late.
Mothra isn’t really like any other Kaiju or Kaiju movie before or after it, in so fact that it stands directly opposed to many, if not all of the genres conventions. Most headlining monsters are scaly, spikey, dull covered dreadnaughts of unthinking destruction, Mothra is soft, colourful and strikingly pretty (even her egg is coloured like it’s Easter) and yearns for peace. Through her priestesses she can reason and communicate, she only attacks when provoked or in defence of the earth, she really is a genuine original in a genre where giant lizards, robots, insects, crustaceans and even living pollution’s first instinct is to smash first, ask questions never.
There is, unfortunately, a slight problem; and it’s not even the fault of the movie itself per say. No the fault lies entirely with me because if, like me, you watched all these movies in a jumbled order, there is a very good chance you’ve seen this movie before, even if you’ve never seen this movie before. How is this possible? Because almost every Godzilla film that Mothra has appeared in where she has a co-starring role cut and pastes the exact plot of the original movie into itself wholesale. Mothra Vs. Godzilla, for example, is just the plot of Mothra but with Godzilla literally bunged in.
Also one of Mothra’s most famous traits, that of constantly sacrificing herself only for her larvae brood to continue on creating a perceptual circle of life (yeah, I said it, come at me, Disney) wasn’t actually introduced until she turned up in Godzilla rogue’s gallery. My pre-existing knowledge of the character makes the original seem duller than it actually is – like watching a pre-Dwayne Johnson Fast & Furious movie – and while that isn’t exactly fair on Honda’s movie, it IS fair to state that Mothra’s continuing adventures are more interesting than her origin. Because they are.
Good for a flutter…