Godzilla versus Mothra
|Yuriko Hoshi||...||News Photographer Junko 'Yoka' Nakanishi|
|Hiroshi Koizumi||...||Professor Miura|
|Yu Fujiki||...||Reporter Jiro Nakamura (with egg and frying pan)|
|Emi Ito||...||Shobijin (Twin Fairy)|
|Yûmi Ito||...||Shobijin (Twin Fairy)|
Godzilla versus Mothra is a very solid Godzilla film. Mothra is, of course, an awesome kaiju, and her first appearence is great. Godzilla looks good in this film, if a little childish. Overall it's extremely enjoyable, one of the best Showa films.
Many fans consider this film to be one of the best Godzilla movies to date, mostly because it’s the last movie until The Return of Godzilla (1984) two decades later to show Godzilla as his original, villainous self. It boasts solid production values, particularly in regards to the two films which border it, the uneven King Kong vs Godzilla (1962) and the lacklustre Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster, (1964) a fine score by Akira Ifukube, and a serious yet still colourful tone. Unfortunately, despite having so many positive factors in its favour, Mothra vs Godzilla (1964) falls short of its potential greatness through a multitude of flaws, the combined sum of which significantly weakens the film.
To start on the more positive side of things, the plot is well structured, and skilfully handles a number of subplots and allegories concerning nuclear testing, the power of the media, corporate greed, and corruption. The acting is also quite good.
Unfortunately, the lead characters are quite bland and two-dimensional, and never seem anything more than script devices with the sole purpose of carrying the plot forward. The villains of the piece, two corrupt exploiters, are slightly better developed, but still nothing extraordinary.
The pacing could also have been better handled, as the steady plot development used in the original movie does not translate well into the ‘vs’ format the series was adopting, and as a result there are times when the film seems to falter. The highlight of the film, Godzilla’s battle with the adult Mothra, takes place long before the film’s conclusion, and the final battle between Godzilla and the two Mothra larvae is severely anticlimactic in comparison.
Eiji Tsubaraya’s special effects are some of the best of the Showa series, and are outstanding for the time, yet there is still a little room for improvement. The miniatures are quite detailed and convincing, and the matte work and pyrotechnics are competent. The Godzilla suit looks excellent in design, yet in motion its wobbly upper lip is frequently distracting. On the other hand, Mothra’s adult form realised very well, and it wasn’t until GMK (2001) nearly forty years later that this film’s version of her was topped. The two larvae are fairly well executed, although the wheels moving the props are occasionally visible, and their basic design is rather unappealing. The ambitious combination of high speed photography and frame removal used during the battle between Godzilla and the adult Mothra works well for the most part, but results in some quite jarring movements whenever both monsters are placed in the same shot, since the correct frame rate for Godzilla makes Mothra move too slowly, while Mothra’s optimum frame rate makes Godzilla move too fast. While Koichi Kawakita opted for the former in this film’s 1992 remake, Eiji Tsubaraya chose the latter, and while some may prefer it this way, the results are still inconsistent.
With Akira Ifukube composing, the music is predictably marvellous, rivalling Gojira (1954) and The Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) as his best work on the Showa series. Much of the music here would be re-used throughout the Showa series, and later revamped for the Heisei series, yet it makes its grand first appearance here.
Ultimately, the single greatest flaw in Mothra vs Godzilla is it’s portrayal of Godzilla. While the script casts him as a demonic aggressor, as in Gojira and Godzilla Raids Again, (1955) he comes across as a clumsy and uncoordinated creature who fails to give a convincing sense of threat. He handles himself very poorly in the battles with Mothra and her offspring, and destroys more buildings by accident than intentionally. As a result, the sense of fear and respect the original inspired is missing, and its absence is sorely felt.
At the end of the day, Mothra vs Godzilla is a passable entry in the series, but in no way one of the best. With its well-crafted special effects, believable acting and fantastic musical score, it had the potential to be a truly great Godzilla film, but its poor handling of Godzilla, uneven characterisation and anticlimactic ending ultimately drag it down. It’s better than its prequel, King Kong vs Godzilla, but it pales in comparison to films like Gojira, GMK, Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) and Godzilla vs Destoroyah. (1995)
Max’s verdict: 5/10