While Kaiju legends such as Godzilla and Gamera racked up movie after movie in their various filmographies, other monsters had to be content playing second fiddle to the established hierarchy put in place by the main two towering, city smashing lizards. However, adorable, fluffy earth-campion Mothra isn’t your average monster and after her debut in 1961 – not to mention over thirty years playing second fiddle to the King of the Monsters himself – Toho studios finally gave the Beyonce of the Kaiju world her own series… sort of.
Debuting in 1996, a year after Godzilla’s much publicised death had hit the headlines and Gamera made his genre defining comeback,
Rebirth Of Mothra was somewhat overshadowed at the time, but this trilogy opener proves to be a perky – if hollow – romp that gives us a rather lighter 90’s adventure for a building crushing beastie.
A logging company discovers a massive subterranean prison while they ravage the local woodland and before you can say “giant three-headed space dragon”, Yuichi, one of the workers, inadvertently breaks the seal and takes it home to make a necklace for his screeching daughter. This turns out to be an impressively bad move as the prison contains the monstrous Desghidorah, a destructive force that was subdued millions of years “before time” by a species of highly advanced moths who acted as guardian to the diminutive, doll-sized race known as the Elias. Before you accuse me of banging out this review while downing a bottle of absinthe, know that things get even weirder: the last of the Elias are the kindly Moll and Lora, who watch over the last remaining moth, Mothra who lays a single egg to continue her line. However, Moll and Lana’s sister, the spiteful Belvera who will stop at nothing to destroy everything because…. uh, villain reasons?
Launching an attack on Yuichi’s home, his wife and his constantly bickering children, Belvera and her dragony steed, Garugaru, searches for the seal only to have a knock down, drag out rumble with her sisters who ride a smaller version of Mothra named Fairy. By now you must suspect I’ve switched from hallucinatory liquor to hard drugs, but wait – it gets weirder still.
After a brief bout of mind control and a lot of laser shooting, Belvera manages to get the seal and free Desghidorah who immediately starts draining the lifeforce out of the surrounding forests and will go on to do the same to the rest of the world if not stopped, but Mothra is too old and too weak after laying a new egg to continue her species.
As she fights a losing battle, the egg hatches prematurely to reveal Mothra’s son, Leo Mothra, who valiantly sets out to aid his mother in her losing battle, but can an old moth and a silk spitting larva hope to put down this triple-headed threat once and for all?
Anyone willing to debate my earlier comparison that twinned a giant, rainbow coloured moth to the wind machine addicted mega star needs to check their facts. Both arrive on the scene with a ton of unnecessary visual flair to an audience of hushed awe as they spray glitter around the place while an equally colourful entourage (literally) sings their praises – face it, Mothra is a diva of the highest order and she knows how to make an entrance, so it’s hardly surprising that her first solo film in over three decades is drenched in sugary colours. In fact, even by typical Kaiju standards, Rebirth Of Mothra focuses on spectacle far more than either of her 90’s counterparts with the screen literally bursting with rainbows, explosions and a lead creature that looks like a cuddly toy that skews the story more toward the younger market.
This decidedly more fantasy style movie even bravely casts out on it’s own, creating a brand new universe that doesn’t even hint at Mothra’s radioactive breathing co-star whatsoever and it’s genuinely nice to see another one of Toho’s icons strike out in a totally solo adventure that goes balls to the wall when it comes to extended set pieces.
But it’s here where strangely Mothra loses altitude; take an early scene that sees the tiny Elias sisters battle it out on their flying steeds through the house of the main family and zip through table legs that are a big as trees while their energy bolts wreck the joint. It’s impressive to see a genre that usually focuses on the massive scaling things down to the minute, but the sequence goes on for ages, eventually losing what impact it had by simply not knowing when to call it quits. It’s the same for all the action in the film that inevitably bludgeons you into numbness with pretty lights and loud noises and as a result it ends up having a plot to action ratio that ends up being more one-sided than Rocky IV which eventually even sidelines Mothra’s usual eco-message in favour of ever bigger booms.
Another thing I personally found annoying is that when Mothra is reborn, it’s as the suspiciously male Leo Mothra which somewhat counteracts the whole “Queen of the Monsters” title the big bug has been cultivating since her inception and its disappointing that the filmmakers have instigated an unnecessary gender change for a giant moth.
Still, despite that fact that the movie carries all the weight of an actual moth the movie is loaded with enough 1990’s, Japanese, monster movie kitch to keep things sweetly cheesy. Moll and Lana sing their songs of Mothra worship while standing in what appears to be an awful karaoke video while the evil Belvera bullies her pet dragon while dressing like Rita Repulsa has scored a hot date on a rare day off.
Compared to the majority of her peers, Mothra is usually one of the more deeper Kaiju that exist, but you wouldn’t know it from this candy-hued romp, but while Godzilla and Gamera brought the scale and grit, Mothra still manages to mantain her/his place at the table by being goofy, sweet treat.
The flaws are noticable, yet Rebirth Of Mothra is a fun flit around the block; just don’t expect the big bug to change the world while she/he’s saving it.