Mothra: A Love Letter
I first met Mothra about five years ago while attending BlobFest in Pheonixville, PA. It was Kaiju themed that year and everyone was dressed up and getting ready to watch The Blob, Godzilla v. MechaGodzilla, and Mothra. I had never seen many of the classic Kaiju movies but I loved Mothraas soon as I saw it and Mothra herself became a bit of a role model for me. I even have pictures with a fan who was dressed as MechaGodzilla and had a giant Mothra puppet attached.
A couple months ago, my love of Mothra was reignited. My partner and I embarked on a mission to watch as many Godzilla movies as possible as I wanted to show one to a crowd to tie into Godzilla: King of the Monsters. As I watched these movies, I was even more certain she was my favorite of the classic Kaiju monsters. My admiration for Mothra grew because she is a strong feminine presence that seems necessary in these movies. Although Mothra is powerful and deadly, she is also beautiful, bringing elegance and a sense of wonder to the monsters. In addition to these qualities, Mothra represents balance and peace and I love how this is portrayed in her movies. She literally lays waste to Tokyo in her title movies in an act of protection in order save the little people, known as the Shobijin, that live on her island.
So what makes Mothra different? If you watch the classic Kaiju movies you’ll notice how interchangeably the monsters are used. Sometimes Ghidorah is a villain, sometimes Godzilla is the hero and vice versa. Even their origins change in these movies, and its not really a problem since each of these movies tries to have a unique take on these creatures. Mothra is one of the more consistent characters, usually taking on the role of a natural protective force. She seems bound to the Earth and must keep it safe, whereas other monsters were created by science or potentially from another world. Besides her title movie I have not seen the other strictly Mothra based movies, all my knowledge is coming from her appearances in Godzilla movies. So in honor of Godzilla: King of the Monsters I wanted to talk about her appearances in these movies and why she is my favorite Kaiju based off of these features.
While I have not seen Godzilla v. Mothra from 1964 I have seen the similarly titled film from 1992 (also called Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth). A crew exploring Mothra’s home, Infant Island, steals small twin girls (which in this movie are referred to as the Cosmos) and take Mothra’s egg. Mothra is once again awakened to save them as well as the Earth. The Cosmos warn that because of recent events with Godzilla, Mothra’s egg was uncovered and it may have awoken Battra. Battra is introduced as an evil Mothra basically. The Earth created Battra when a civilization tried to start taking control of the planet and the Earth wanted them destroyed. Eventually Mothra and Battra must join forces to defeat Godzilla (they literally grab either end of Godzilla and drop him into the water). At the end of the film the Cosmos explain that Mothra has agreed to protect the Earth against other types of destructive forces. I love this movie for showcasing Mothra, and how she basically agrees to help the Earth as long as they leave her and her Cosmos in peace.
Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: All Out Monster Attack is a movie from 2001 that is one of my favorite Godzilla movies in general and a lot of this has to do with Mothra. In this film, the legendary monsters are awakened in response to Godzilla’s resurgence. All of the monsters cause great destruction in their awakening but Mothra ends up killing a bunch of teenagers who were trying to drown a dog when Yes, just like John Wick, Mothra wants justice for dogs. Mothra and King Ghidorah come together to destroy Godzilla and like in a lot of her films she sacrifices herself. She absorbs Godzilla’s radioactive beam and when she dies, gives her restorative powers to King Ghidorah to make him stronger. I think Dougherty took a few interesting pieces from this movie and pays tribute to them in King of the Monsters.
Another Mothra appearance is in the 2003 Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. I love Mothra in this film. Her Shobijin twins go to the Japanese Government and warn them that Godzilla keeps returning because they used Godzilla’s original bones to create MechaGodzilla. They advise them to get rid of the weapon and return it to the ocean, if they complete this task then Mothra will take the place of MechaGodzilla and protect them. However, if the government does not heed their warning Mothra will declare war on humanity. I love this because even though Mothra is a protective force, it is protecting and preserving the Earth, not necessarily destructive humans. Mothra has two larvae that show up and after Mothra once again sacrifices herself, the larvae use their powers to bind Godzilla in silk, which looked so cool!
The 2004 movie Godzilla: Final Wars is batshit crazy. I don’t even know how accurately I could describe the plot in this movie. However similar to King of the Monsters, Kaiju creatures are awakened all over the world, trying to destroy it. Unlike the rest of these Kaiju, Mothra tries to protect the Earth and even destroys the destructive monster Gigan. King Ghidorah (also known as Monster X in this movie) is released. The most powerful among these alien monsters, King Ghidorah and is aided by an upgraded version of Gigan to continue on in their destructive path. Before dying in battle Mothra is once again able to destroy Gigan. Although Mothra is not a huge focus in this movie with everything else going on, she gets a good couple of kills in which doesn’t normally happen, and I am a big fan of her taking some of these boys down.
Finally I have to talk about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which I absolutely love. I have to really give director Mike Dougherty props for taking a lot of the Mothra appearances and paying tribute to her in the most amazing way. Mothra is introduced very quickly in the movie and she is shown to be a huge and powerful larvae. When she feels threatened she begins shooting her web and throwing soldiers all over the place. Moments later when she feels safe in calm you realize she is a much more benevolent creature then one might think. She is cocooned for a pretty large chunk of the movie, but when she shows up she goes to the ocean to use her regenerative powers to help Godzilla regain strength and fight King Ghidorah. The idea is introduced that they are intertwined in a symbiotic relationship. You only really see her in her truest form in the last battle where she flies in and immediately webs King Ghidorah to a building to help Godzilla finish the job. She is damaged in her battle with Rodan but gets a beautiful and badass final blow in when she uses her stinger to stab him in the chest. And true to many of her appearances, she flies to Godzilla’s side to protect him and is killed in the process by Ghidorah, while using her restorative powers and help Godzilla win the fight.
Honestly King of the Monstersfelt like a culmination of all of the things I adore about Mothra and improved on a lot of them as well. You see her grace and power, and her design for this film gives her bioluminescence that is beautiful.. Production Designer Scott Chambliss mentioned in an interview how she was always the least designed of the monsters and that they wanted to put care and detail into her, which comes across when watching this film. Although I think she has always been beautiful with her colorful wings and bright blue eyes, they did so much work to make her even more wonderful and expressive. Also as a woman, it was pretty amazing to see Mothra defend herself when she is pinned up against the wall by Rodan, her eyes showing a ferocious look that felt very satisfying. I am excited about this new universe and about the potential to highlight more of what Mothra can really do. While she has alwas been an iconic character, it feels in some ways that she is just getting started.