Toho experienced greater success by re-introducing Ghidorah back into the Heisei series, so the next logical choice was to bring back perennial favorite Mothra. Mothra hadn't shared screen time with Godzilla since 1966, as part of the monster soupcon Destroy All Monsters. As with much of the Heisei series, this draws heavily from popular Western films of the day. The openning borrows heavily from Indiana Jones, with the protagonist stealing from ruins, apparently in Cambodia. A thief who also avoids paying his child support he's one of the least sympathetic protagonists in the Godzilla series.
A meteor has descended on a far-away island (Infant Island, specifically) and our protagonist is pulled out of jail to lead a team including his ex-wife and a corporate secretary, into the interior of the island. There's a bridge scene I greatly enjoyed the first time I saw it in Romancing the Stone. When the people enter the cave, they find a window cut into the rock that points them in the right direction.
Mothra's egg looks just the same as it did in Godzilla vs Mothra, a pastel, sherbert-y swirl of pale green and pastel orange. The shobijin are back, this time they refer to themselves as the Cosmos. They aren't played by the Peanuts anymore, but look twin-like. In an abrupt turn-around from Godzilla vs King Ghodirah, and in keeping with Gorgo, Mothra, and Mothra vs Godzilla, the greedy industrialist is back. And if the religious subtext has waned, Mothra is still beholden to a higher power: The Earth.
Battra is the new villain, and continues Mothrea's theme of twins. Battra is the dark twin of Mothra, created by the angry Earth. Like Mothra, is has larval and an imago forms, which is quite unlike any sort of bat. It also uses Rodan's cry. Luckily Rodan hasn't been heard from since Destroy All Monsters. But he shows up in the next film. Coincidence? I think not. It's first form is a sort of crawling lizard, with a horn. It has energy beam eyes that destroy the military when they show up, and another beam that comes from the horn. With the dark coloration with colored extrusions, there's a presaging of Destroyah's design.
The imago form is again, black and angry, retaining the horn. And has no explanation. Mothra undergoes its transformation, and then there's a flying Battra. But it's definitely changed, it has spiny insect-looking legs now.
Mothra's backstory has been tweaked. Mothra is a guardian of the Earth, who lived twelve thousand years ago, in harmony with all living things. But, as all utopia, someone got a bright idea and screwed it up. The Earth created Battra to combat Mothra, and did so poorly. Mothra defeated Battra, which was laid to rest in the ocean. As with Godzilla vs King Ghodirah, the writer has the idea that monsters are unaffected by a few thousand years under the ocean. This is much the same origin story as the Gamera reboot. And, like the older Gamera films, deals with an ancient civilization of great power. Fortunatly, it's quite dfferent from the Seatopian society from Godzilla vs Megalon.
Mothra's larva looks the same, although it's larger than it has been (I blame monster inflation). The imago form is even more colorful than the prevous versions. The colors are richer. And it has an energy beam that comes its antannae.
Mothra's egg is carried from Infant Island to Japan on a barge towed behind a ship, similar to how King Kong was brought from his island home in King Kong vs Godzilla. And like Mothra, the Cosmos are kidnapped, to be exploited by a large and uncaring company.
As the egg is being hauled away, Battra and Godzilla have an underwater fight. It's so intense that they break a fissure into the ocean floor, both Godzilla and Battra are consumed. But we know from Godzilla vs Biollante that Godzilla can survive immersion in magma. Miki Sagusa, who has an amazing amount of nothing to do in this film, should remember that.
Usually, Godzilla gets the major military welcome as it approaches Japan, but this time, it's the Mothra larva. Battleships, helicopters, and planes fire at it. And Mothra does the majority of the city destruction as it finds a place to coccoon. It settles on the Diet building, which hasn't been seen since King Kong vs Godzilla.
It's important to remember that Godzilla is still the bad guy here. Mothra is the beneficial force, and Battra, is initially intent on destroying Morhta. But after Battra gets kicked around by the King of the Monsters, Mothra uses some sort of friending glitter. This is another new Motyhra power. Showa Mothra only had its poison scales as a weapon of last resort.
Mothra tries this on Godzilla, who responds with the uses the nuclear pulse, his new trick, and Mothra falls away.
New BFFs Battra and Mothra then join forces against Godzilla. It doesn't work out well for Battra. They get Godzilla down, grab him, and start to carry him out to sea. Battra gets the front ent, and like Mech King Ghidora before him, is subjetced to both the heat ray and Godzilla's bite. Seeing the inevitable outcome, Mothra lets go, and both Battra and Godzilla plunge into the ocean.
Mothra then drops an odd sort of containment grid to keep Godzilla quiescent.
With Battra's death, Mothra is now obliged to stop a meteor that will imact Earth in 1999. this could, perhaps be a nod to Destroy All Monsters since it takes place in 1999, and King Ghidorah initially shows up as a meteor. And I shouldn't be surprised that Mothra's wings work in space
I know that it was one of the highest-grossing films on Godzilla history, but dammit, this one doesn't do it for me. The humans are too unsympathetic, the monster fights are unsatisfying. Mothra is a difficult monster to hinitiate figthts with, because it cannot go in close. It's a moth. So the bone-crunching, building smashing I have come to expect from Toho just isn't there.
Further, the environmental message is so overplayed that it sounds like author's message. But the platitudes are very broad. 'We should take care of the Earth.' But it doesn't impact the plot at all. Godzilla vs Hedorah at least gave us the emotional impact and ugly consequences for environmental neglect.
The Blu-Ray is coming out with the subtitles, and personally I can't wait. The dubbed films feel flabby to me, the dialog disconnected from the rest of the film.
Next up, another old friend, a new baby, Ghidorah's spare head, and Godzilla gets his ass kicked.