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19) GODZILLA AND MOTHRA: BATTLE FOR THE EARTH (1992)

Japanese and international release title: Godzilla vs. Mothra
U.S. release date: May, 1998, by Tri-Star Video.
Japanese audience attendance: 4,200,000
Director: Takao Okawara
Screenplay: Kazuki Omori
Sfx: Koichi Kawakita
Musical score: Akira Ifukube
U.S. version available on home video by Tri-Star Video.

Synopsis:

An enormous meteor lands in the Pacific Ocean, causing destructive tectonic plate shifts in the Earth, and stirring up Godzilla once again. As a result, the Japanese Defense Agency loses track of the kaiju, and psychic Miki Saegusa is once again given the task of locating the errant behemoth.

Meanwhile, far away in the Arctic region, the giant caterpillar Battra is awakened by the life force of the Earth itself, and begins a trek underground towards the general vicinity of Japan, near the meteor’s landing spot in the ocean. A typhoon in Indonesia causes a landslide on the barren Infant Island, which is in the midst of a virulent deforestation project by the Marumoto Corporation, and this reveals a gigantic egg. Soon afterwards, a good-natured professional thief named Takuya Fujita is attempting to steal a rare statue from a hidden temple in Thialand Indiana Jones-style, when he is captured by the authorities. He is confronted in jail by his estranged wife Masako and a Murumoto Corp. representative named Kenji Andoh, who inform him that the company offers to pay his way out of trouble if he agrees to put his skills to use for them by investigating the site of the meteor crash on Infant Island, the discovery of which may mean greater profits for the company. While Fujita initially declines the offer due to the thought of working for an amoral company, he quickly changes his mind when he’s told that his jail sentence will be fifteen years long.

As the three make their way to Infant Island, the meteor isn’t found, but the huge egg is. While investigating the egg, they soon encounter two 30 cm tall telepathic priestesses who call themselves the Cosmos, and they reveal their own origins as well as that of the egg, which they explain contains the larva of the giant moth Mothra, who is the protector of the Earth, mystically created by the planet’s own life essence, and who is psychically linked to the Cosmos due to the latter’s reverence of the Earth. The Cosmos are the sole survivors of an ancient and advanced race on Earth (possibly from Atlantis or Mu [an alternate name for Lemuria], the two legendary lost continents) and their race worked in concert with the protector of the Earth, Mothra, 12,000 years ago, until severe disruption of the planet’s ecology occurred when a few renegade members of the Cosmos created a weather-controlling device that provided energy by draining the life force of the Earth itself. As a result, the Earth defended itself by creating a “dark” version of Mothra called Battra, a living elemental force like Mothra herself, who savagely sought to heal the ravaging of the planet by destroying the Cosmos. Mothra, who is a defender of all life, including the Cosmos, opposed Battra, and while the latter was defeated, the resulting destruction of the civilization’s weather control system virtually wiped out the entire Cosmos race in an enormous flood. Due to the reappearance of Mothra’s egg, the Cosmos explained that this is due to the severe ecological crisis created by the corporate societal structure of the human race, and they fear that this means that the Earth has also recreated Battra to demolish the human race again.
Indeed, the Battra larva appears in Nagoya, leveling the city and crushing the J.S.D.F. battalion that attempts to stop him. The insectoid kaiju only departs when he senses the presence of his ancestral nemesis, Mothra, and heads via the ocean towards the location of the egg.

In the meantime, despite the warnings of the Cosmos, Andoh compels Fujita and Masako to honor their contract with the company by making good on their promise to deliver the meteor to the Murumoto Corp. Since the rock couldn’t be found, the egg is to be towed to Japan in its place for the company to exploit as it sees fit. However, while the egg is en route, Godzilla suddenly appears, drawn to the strange object by the psychic emanations within it. As the King of the Kaiju attacks the trawler carrying the egg that is hooked to the ship, Fujita fights Andoh over releasing the trawler, thus sparing the human lives on the vessel. Immediately after its release, the Mothra larva hatches from the egg, and defends herself against Godzilla. However, she soon discovers that she is no match for the atomic beast in her larva form. Just then, Battra arrives on the scene and also attacks Mothra. Getting in each other’s way in their effort to destroy Mothra, Godzilla and Battra end up battling each other instead, culminating in a titanic underwater struggle which ends only when the two creatures end up falling into a fissure created by an erupting undersea volcano, which was an aftereffect of the massive tectonic plate shifts caused by the meteor crash.
During the melee which occupies her two foes, Mothra stealthily swims back to her home on Infant Island.

After arriving in Japan, Fujita and Masako begin growing close once more, particularly after Fujita sees their young daughter again. Towards the purpose of making a new life for them, Fujita gives in to greed once more and negotiates the sale of the Cosmos to Murumoto himself, who wishes to use the tiny twins to gain publicity for his company. However, Mothra telepathically senses the distress of her priestesses, and hurriedly swims to Tokyo to rescue them. Razing much of the city in her quest to find the Cosmos, the giant caterpillar is appeased when the twin priestesses are finally freed by Masako and her daughter. However, the military then opens up a full scale assault on the young caterpillar, severely injuring her and causing her to climb onto the Diet Building, where she becomes immobile, presumably to heal her wounds. At dusk, she finally spins a silken cocoon about herself, and for the next several hours, begins gestating into her adult form.

Shamed by what her father had done, Fujita’s daughter confronts him, and Masako tells him that the only way she will reconcile with him is if he rejects his life as a thief. Fujita, realizing what he did to the Cosmos was wrong, agrees and decides to help them against the company’s exploitive ventures. In fact, the once loyal Andoh himself turns on his boss, disgusted by the ruthless avarice practiced by the corporate structure of the world, and the threat it poses to all life on Earth.

Finally, Mothra emerges in her beautiful adult form, and flies away to confront Battra, whose living presence she can still detect. Rising from the magma nearby, Battra likewise senses Mothra’s approach, and realizing that she was now in her imago (adult) stage, he then metamorphoses into his own malevolent looking adult phase. Godzilla also emerges from the searing hot magma unscathed, and begins a destructive rampage towards Yokohama, and he converges towards an amusement park located in the city limits.

Nearby, Mothra and Battra engage in a fierce aerial battle, which ends with Mothra being cruelly taken down by Battra’s deadly prism beams. Soon encountering Godzilla in the middle of the amusement park, Battra battles him as well, and is soundly defeated. Recovering, Mothra flies over to Battra and telepathically communicates with her dark counterpart, convincing him that since they are both defenders of the planet, they must combine their efforts to defeat Godzilla, who will ravage the planet himself if they don’t stop him. Battra agrees, and the two mammoth lepidopterans join forces against the Kaiju King.

After a lengthy and violent battle, Mothra and Battra finally take Godzilla down by combining their energy weapons, and they then begin carrying him out to sea. Before doing so, however, Godzilla succeeds in ripping out Battra’s throat, but the defender of the Earth heroically struggles on until they are over distant waters, and then falls dead into the ocean. After dropping Godzilla into the water, Mothra surrounds him with an energy barrier that will temporarily confine him to a certain undersea area, and prevent him from returning to Japan for at least several months.

The next day, the Cosmos inform the reunited Fujita family and the rest of Japan that Mothra must now accomplish the deceased Battra’s original mission...to fly into outer space and deflect an oncoming Apollo asteroid that will otherwise collide with the Earth at the end of the 20th century. Bidding their friends and home planet a fond sayonara, and converting themselves into pure psychic energy, the Cosmos merge with Mothra and guide Earth’s kaiju protector towards her long and lonely mission in space.

Review/Comments:

The return of Mothra to the big screen following Godzilla's revitalization in 1984 had actually been planned well before this particular G-film was completed. In 1990, Toho intended to produce a film called Mothra vs. Bagan, which would revamp Mothra’s continuity as was done with Godzilla for the Heisei Era, and to start a Mothra film series. This film, which had both a screenplay and several storyboards completed, was not only intended to tell Mothra’s origin in much greater detail than her 1961 film produced during the Showa Era, but it would also pit her against the mythological dragon-like defender of the Earth known as Bagan, a kaiju Toho has long desired to bring to film, but has yet to do so at this writing (they initially wanted to face a different version of Bagan off against Godzilla in the early '80’s).

The aborted movie had many elements that were ultimately incorporated into the G-film being reviewed here. Bagan, a bipedal kaiju created by the life force of the Earth (like Mothra herself), and who fired destructive beams of elemental energy from his nose horn, would have been spawned by an aspect of Mother Earth to destroy the human race, who is ravaging the environment with its profit-driven industrial production. Mothra came to the human race’s defense, and the climactic battle would have featured an exciting first, a Mothra larva and adult fighting side by side against the ruthless Bagan; this team up of the larva and adult Mothra wouldn’t actually be realized onscreen until Rebirth of Mothra (1996), which also incorporated elements of the aborted film, but replacing Bagan with the new dai kaiju called Death Ghidora (a.k.a., "Desi-Ghidora" [ugh!]).

Bagan ultimately appeared, it should be noted, but not on the celluloid screen. He was Godzilla’s most formidable adversary in the 16-bit Super Godzilla video game created for the Super Nintendo game system in 1992. Much of this aborted film's script was incorporated in the 1992 G-film, although once again Bagan was replaced, this time by Battra, and Godzilla was hastily inserted into the proceedings.

This film proved to be a blockbuster for Toho, as the long-awaited return of Mothra created the highest attendance record of any of the seven Heisei Series G-films, since much more female viewers attended this movie than any other Godzilla flick, largely due to Mothra’s presence. Mothra was wonderfully realized in this movie by Koichi Kawakita, although many G-fans have complained that she looked a bit too plushy here (she looked considerably more plushy in the 1996 Rebirth Of Mothra film). She was also upgraded in the power department in order to be capable of standing up to this larger and more powerful version of Godzilla.
Her larva length was increased from 40 to 100 meters, and her adult wingspan from 100 to 175 meters [in her initial film appearance in 1961, Mothra was much larger than even this; her adult wingspan was 250 meters, but it was reduced to 100 meters when she first met Godzilla in the Showa G-series, who was then only half as large as he was now].

One unfortunate problem with the larva in this film was the fact that the model was quite stiff, moving like it was on wheels, rather than the realistic undulations seen with the larva in the Showa G-series, and in the recent Rebirth of Mothra film trilogy. The larva's silk spinning abilities were given an added twist here, in that they now seared the flesh of her opponent like acid.
Her adult form was given far greater powers than she previously possessed, including her bio-electric antenna beams (first seen in the 8-bit Godzilla, Monster of Monsters! video game from the original Nintendo game system in the late '80’s), she could project arcs of electricity from her wingtips, and her poison pollen now had energy deflective capabilities; when combined with Battra’s prism beams, it created an awesome weapon capable of felling even the King of the Monsters.

Battra was also very well realized, particularly his larva form, which looked extremely malevolent and menacing, although the sfx crew unfortunately utilized another Rodan-like roar for the kaiju’s cry. The adult form was also cool in appearance, looking like a demonic insect, but it lacked the horrifying grace of the larva.

Many fans have complained that newcomer Takao Okawara’s direction of the human drama was shabby, but I thought the cast was likable and engaging, particularly Tetsuya Bessho as Fujita, and his character went through an excellent moral evolution through the course of the film. Again, obvious influences from American cinema were in evidence here: the early scene of Fujita stealing the idol from the cave in Thialand was obviously inspired by Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The Cosmos were also well portrayed by Keiko Imamura and Sayaka Osawa, and their rendition of Mothra’s classic “Song of Peace” was every bit as beautiful as the version done by Emi and Yumi Ito, who played the Shobijin in the Showa G-series (and in the original Mothra [1961]). The screenplay by Kazuki Omori (who didn’t direct this time out for unknown reasons) was very faithful to the premise of the original 1964 version of this movie, as the evils of capitalism and the corporate superstructure of the major industrialized nations of the world was well played out.

Naturally, many people have criticized the pro-ecology theme as being too "preachy," including Ed Godziszweski in his book THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GODZILLA, when he says “The environmental themes are so heavy handed that they lose any potential impact.” This just displays the biased attitude that many people have against movies that set out to convey a message of social relevance rather than to merely entertain. It’s an all too common tragedy that people usually display an apathetic disdain towards acknowledging the many social problems plaguing our world, preferring that writers disguise such messages under the veil of cotton candy entertainment. The latter approach spares the viewer from having to think very hard or too critically, as opposed to blatantly pointing these problems out in a no nonsense manner, and to make these important issues the central focus of the film. Omori should be praised, not criticized, for his brave tackling of these social problems, as these elements elevated this film well above the mindless entertainment that most Westerners still believe Godzilla movies to embody.

In fact, this screenplay seemed to combine plot elements and scene cognates from the original Mothra (1961), the original Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964) and the never filmed Mothra vs. Bagan movie proposed in 1990. Thus, unlike the next film in the Heisei Series, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2, which told a completely different story than the previous 1974 Showa Series G-film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, this particular film was indeed something of a remake of the 1964 Showa Series G-film Godzilla vs. Mothra in addition to a remake of the original 1961 Mothra, as it told the same basic story seen in both of the latter two Showa Era films combined into a single screenplay. This time, however, as noted above, Mothra’s origin was retold in a considerably more detailed form, and this version could easily have carried a new Mothra film series apart and alongside that of the Heisei Era Godzilla series, especially since she was the only revived G-foe to survive her encounter with the Big G in the Heisei Series. Instead, Toho inexplicably chose to deny that possibility by sending Mothra off to space, thus depriving this excellent version of the character of both further major participation in the G-series, and of her own film series (she made a cameo appearance in 1994's tepid Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, and then this version of the Kaiju of Peace was seen no more). When Toho finally began a Mothra solo series in 1996 after the completion of the Heisei G-series, they chose to revamp her yet again, in a new version not nearly as satisfying as the second version of the Kaiju of Peace (she was revamped a third time for GMK [2001], but restored to a semblance of her Showa incarnation for Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. [2003]).

Mothra was given much more screen time than Godzilla in this movie, and appropriately so, since this film was intended more as a vehicle for Mothra’s revival than for Godzilla himself (and also since it started out as a solo Mothra film). This movie returned to the premise of a heroic monster (in this case, two heroic monsters) defending the Earth against an evil Godzilla, just as the original 1964 version did, replacing the twin Mothra larvae in the previous version with the adult Mothra and Battra in this one.

As for the soundtrack, Akira Ifukube was back with a wonderfully compelling score as is typical of the great maestro, and he was given the Japanese Academy Award for his fine effort here. Well deserved, I must say.

Despite the movie’s relatively minor plot faults and its fantasy-like tone, which some fans believed inappropriate for a Godzilla film, this movie was a highly engaging and entertaining entry into the Heisei Series, certainly one of the best G-films in either series, and is a must have for any Godzilla and/or Mothra film library.

Like the previous G-film, this movie wasn’t released in the U.S. until early in 1998 when Tri-Star Video released it along with Godzilla vs. King Ghidora just prior to Tri-Star’s god-awful release of the American made Godzilla (1998), though an English dubbed international version was released to home video earlier in Great Britain by Manga Video. Several cheap imports have made it to America prior to 1998, including an inferior bootleg version titled “Godzilla vs. Queen Mothra.” An excellent sub-titled Japanese version and the English dubbed international version are both available from Video Daikaiju.

All in all, Toho proved itself on the money (pun intended) with its revival of Godzilla’s old foes, and they decided to go with no less than three Showa Series revivals for the next G-film.

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