MOTHRA VS GODZILLA [1964] movie review Godzilla vs The Thing

August 18, 2012 · Print This Article

MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA [1964] is a movie that has haunted me for 30 years.  I can clearly remember when I first saw it as a young child, that it crushed me that my childhood hero, Godzilla, could be defeated by two larvae just shooting cob webs onto him!  I could not accept it.  For 30 years I could not.  I thought, why did Godzilla not use his thermonuclear breath more?  Why couldn’t he just rip off the webbing?  I anxiously rewatched the movie this afternoon hoping for answers to these questions.  Thankfully, I got them as viewing the movie with a more skilled movie watching mind, I could understand there were mitigating factors.
In the third act of MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA it occurred to me that this has to be considered one of the best Godzilla movies right after the original.  Peaking at the IMDB page for the movie before writing this I quickly saw that many other fans feel the same way.  There are interesting human heroes and villains to carry the first half of the movie illustrating how greed leads to ruin.  Then there are the specific monster movie characters introduced, including two tiny, twin girls known as the Shobijin who always talk in unison and have the power to communicate with Mothra.  They are connected to the native people of the island where Mothra lives too.  The island was devastated by nuclear testing leaving it a desolate rock.  Themes of environmentalism, anti-nuclear testing and corporate greed are woven together into a thriller monster movie with strong mystical and spiritual ties.  All this ties together into a compelling movie, not just a compelling monster movie.

The movie starts with a typhoon striking the coast of Japan washing ashore Mothra’s egg that is quickly bought by a corrupt local entrepreneur.  The tiny girls show up asking that the egg be returned to their island, but they are refused.

And then you hear it, Akira Ifukube’s unmistakable theme, short bold horn blasts that make up the Godzilla approach theme.  This sound always gives me chills.  Then the theme transitions into what I call Godzilla’s march, where it picks up pace and seems to invoke an unstoppable momentum.  The third phase of the theme is what I call the Godzilla denouement, where it slows down to a meditative beat.  I believe it is the second greatest movie theme ever composed, second only to Star Wars.  I believe it is necessary for a movie series to have a powerful unifying theme to elevate it to icon status, and also sound effects.  Star Wars has the powering up of a light saber and how it movies.  For Godzilla, it is his roar.  Iconic.

We learn much of the lore of Mothra, that he is male.  All my life I had believed it was female!  Also, that Mothra is now very old and dying, but will live on once the egg hatches and its larvae emerges.

Godzilla and Mothra have a fierce, intense battle to the death.  As I continue to go through the Godzilla series, I will not be surprised if it is not the best monster battle, probably for sure the best non-climax battle.  Godzilla is victorious, and Mothra collapses gently laying his wing in one last protective act over the egg.  I thought that was an incredible emotional touch by the director, placing the wing over the egg like that.

Godzilla after having an exhaustive battle with Mothra, is then electrified by a triangle of towers and then again by three metal nets dropped upon him that sent him to the ground, and if not for the transformers overheating, might have been the end of him.  So after surviving three battles, he swims out to a nearby island.  He must have been tired.  Now I can understand how the two Mothra larvae could defeat him.  Plus, the larvae used clever strategy dividing their attach and taking cover from Godzilla’s rock and thermonuclear breath attacks.  I was relieved to see that Godzilla did use his fiery breath much more than I remembered from 30 years ago.  It’s just those damn larvae kept ducking for cover and then eventually their silk spray covered his eyes.  And I would not say Godzilla was killed, rather just defeated and escaped into the sea.  I was relieved to not have 30 years of anguish alleviated by all these mitigating factors.

I am sorry that I watched GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER out of order where the tiny girls make their return, along with the Mothra larvae.  It would have been a nice surprise to see them turn up again.  I will be sure and follow the correct chronological order from here on out, though next I must go back out of order again to see the earlier KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.

Now that I know Godzilla did not suffer that much of a humiliating defeat at the end, I really appreciate how effective MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA is and that it is a true Godzilla classic.

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