After making her/his long awaited return to solo adventures in 1996 with Rebirth Of Mothra, the most benevolent bug this side of that ant from Honey I Shrunk The Kids fluttered back to the big screen barely a year later. Originally titled Mothra 2: Battle Under The Deep Sea in Japan, the western release stuck with the whole “Rebirth” thing for a title even though the featured rebirthing had already happened and instead focused on a more watery adventure than before.
But one problem that dogged Rebirth Of Mothra is that despite it’s virtual non-stop action, the movie itself carried all the weight of an actual moth and its eco-message got lost somewhat in all the explosions – with a whole new human cast, a brand new watery villain and an ocean-set plot, can Rebirth Of Mothra II manage to find the time to stop fluttering about the issues like it’s a giant lamp and get to the meat of the matter?
Hordes of weird-ass star fish creatures have been turning up off the coast of Japan and have been treating the environment like a free bar at a hated relative’s wedding and the only people who know what’s going on are the Elias sisters Moll and Lora, tiny, Barbie sized beings who flit around on a small version of Mothra dubbed Fairy. The Starro-esque starfish invaders are called Barem that are expelled from a huge sea dragon called Dagahra who was an experiment created by a lost civilisation called the Nirai Kanai in order to contain pollution before turning evil. Of course, if your best idea to combat pollution is to create an environment destroying monster, your civilisation probably deserves to be lost, but nevertheless the Elias enlists three children (two male bullies and their female target) to travel to Nirai Kanai to find a lost treasure that will halt Dagahra’s onslaught.
Aiming to thwart the salvation of mankind once again is Moll and Lora’s evil sister Belvera who whizzes around on a tiny pet cyborg dragon and dresses like Princess Peach visiting a leather bar and she makes a play for the treasure in order to guarantee that we mucky humans will finally be wiped out once and for all in order for the planet to thrive. Blatantly pretending that Belvera hasn’t got a point, the movie has the children sprint all over the lost city that’s emerged from the sea on order to beat two greedy, mind-controled fishermen to the treasure while being led by a curious, fantastical creature named Ghogo that looks like a fluffy toilet seat with the piercing eyes of a man who’s seen some shit.
Meanwhile, the newest incarnation of Mothra, flaps in to fight Dagahra and try to save the world, but while Leo Mothra struggles not to be overwhelmed by the sea-dragon’s lethal starfish (ew), it’s the humans and Ghogo who will ultimately decide mankind’s fate.
So, I don’t know if you noticed there, but there wasn’t a whole load of Mothra in that synopsis of a Mothra movie and thus we come immediately to the main problem of Rebirth Of Mothra II. While having environmental concerns brought up by rampaging monsters isn’t exactly a new thing (even Godzilla became an unorthodox, Green spokesperson when fighting an amorphous smog monster back in the 70’s), you feel that this second Mothra entry in two years is trying to muscle in on classic Gamera territory by adapting the screaming kids/fantasy eco-adventure. However, the trouble with that is that at the time the Gamera movies had evolved into something far more sophisticated than just a candy coloured romp and in comparison, Rebirth Of Mothra II feels not much more than a giddy throwback and one that bizarrely sidelines it’s title creature in favour of squawking kids and a creature that looks like one of those poofy hats. While the dueling trifecta of Elias sisters keeps the continuity firmly in place it unfortunately means that despite the switch in location and the streamlining of Leo Mothra’s involvement, it’s pretty much the exact, same movie as the last one. There’s even a recreation of the first movie’s fight scene where Moll and Lorna have another ariel dogfight with Belvera while our human leads duck for cover amid the fizzing lasers.
However, when the movie switches location to the maze-like temple of Nirai Kanai, the movie literally becomes nothing more than kids running through endless corridors intercut with a fluffy moth and a rubber dragon fighting to the death that contains more obnoxious noise and endless sprinting than Christopher Eccleston’s entire run of Doctor Who. Needless to say, matters get somewhat repetitive, but most off putting is the fact that Mothra gets less plot than the mildly creepy Ghogo, a bouncing beast who genuinely looks like Wilford Brimley has been reincarnated into a strangely ineffectual Pokemon. With it’s long, witch-like claws, the power of urine that heals (a urophilliac’s dream, surely) and a gangly antenna that looks worryingly like the enlarged pineal gland from From Beyond, the unnerving little sod is a bizarre creation, even for a Kaiju film and even though I’m unsure if this was an attempt by Toho to try and make this unholy bastard the next cuddly toy sensation, praise be goes to whatever deity managed to thwart Ghogo becoming a household name.
While given a decent antagonist to wrestle with (Daghara is a giant lizard with a manta-ray back and mortar launchers in his shoulders), the main problem is that Mothra himself simply has no plot to work with and is relegated to simply showing up when needed, no questions asked and while this was never an issue for Godzilla during his 70’s, superhero phase, you feel as a benevolent earth god, Mothra should warrant more respect from his own movie. He (never gonna get used to calling him “he”) even gets to change form into the ultra sleek Aqua Mothra in order to fight the submerged death-lizard in his own turf, but this is something that just kinda happens, like Super Mario sprouting a racoon tail or wearing a frog suit to swim. The fact we have a Kaiju who can adapt its body to any threat is a truly mouthwatering concept, hinting that our antenna-ed hero has any number of alternate forms when it’s required to go on the offensive, but its sadly glossed over as Leo Mothra is shoved rudely into the movie’s B-plot.
The eco-message is getting equally laboured too and while it’s obviously an honorable thing to devote your story too, suggesting that the way forward is telling only three children (and not even particularly bright ones at that) that their generation needs to buck up it’s ideas to save the planet from ecological disaster that was essentially caused by previous generations is a little rich and not exactly helpful.
With all that being said, even though Rebirth Of Mothra II has inherited all of the previous movie’s faults, it’s also managed to keep all of its plus points too with the exaggerated colour pallet, boundless energy and naive charm all still intact. It’s just a shame all of these attributes are aimed away from its winged lead in favour of a hair ball with a peeing fetish.