REVIEW: Godzilla vs Mothra (1992)

godzillavsmothra_posterWhile Toho’s long-running Godzilla franchise offered viewers a relatively repetitive string of giant rubber suit monster fights, from film to film there were regular changes in focus and tone. The so-called ‘Heisei era’ had kicked off with 1985’s serious Return of Godzilla (aka Godzilla) before tackling more serious science fiction in Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) and a deeply bonkers version of the same in Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991). Godzilla vs Mothra, released at the end of 1992, takes a more fantastical route that the three previous Heisei films. The story is much simpler, and the tone considerably more child-friendly and earnest.

A meteor strikes the Earth, waking the slumbering Godzilla as well as uncovering an enormous egg on a Pacific Island. The incident also wakes Battra, an insectoid bat-like creature that attacked the Earth thousands of years ago. When the Marumoto corporation attempts to move the giant egg to Japan, the ship is intercepted by Godzilla, causing the egg to hatch into the giant insect Mothra. Battra arrives at the scene, leading to a three-way giant monster battle across Yokohama.

While the human drama often plays second fiddle to the giant monsters of Godzilla, in this case it feels particularly subservient. The film begins with Indiana Jones pastiche Takuya (Tetsuya Bessho) getting arrested while raiding a tomb in Thailand. Set for a long prison term, he is offered a path to freedom by his ex-wife Masako (Satomi Kobayashi) – as long as he leads an expedition to Infant Island. It is there that the team uncover a giant egg as well as the Cosmos – a pair of tiny alien twins who sing to and speak for Mothra. Once Mothra’s egg is loaded onto a ship and sent towards Japan, Takuya and Masako’s story is essentially done beyond pointing and gasping as Mothra, Battra, and Godzilla fight one another.

The focus, then, is on model cities getting trampled and destroyed by rubber-suit monsters. Effects lead Koichi Kawakita does an outstanding job with Godzilla vs Mothra. It is not just that the monsters themselves look great, or that the environments in which they fight look particularly effective on-screen. The genuine achievement here is in the dynamic and realistic photography that captures the action. Whether it is monsters fighting out at sea, or Godzilla ominous rising from an erupting Mount Fuji, this is likely the best-shot Godzilla picture to date.

This is a superficial picture, and may disappoint fans that prefer the more intricate or human-oriented plotting of other Godzilla films. For those who simply crave scenes of giant monster mayhem, however, it is likely to prove a delight. It is one of the appeals of a franchise this lengthy; there really is a Godzilla film for every taste.

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