When they have momentum, the rate that Toho can churn out Kaiju flicks is frankly stunning – and I’m not even talking about the inhuman pace they set with their relentless output in the 60’s. No, I’m talking about how they walloped out three Mothra movies in three years directly after belting out Godzilla movies at a similar rate during the Big G’s Heisei era. While I’ll admit it’s good to strike while the iron’s hot and take advantage of positive, public opinion, there’s also a danger of rushing matters, trading in originality for a prompt release date, which flutters us neatly over to the Mothra trilogy.
While admittedly a bright, colourful and perky series of child-orientated fantasy films, the first two, day-glo adventures of Leo Mothra suffered a little by being virtually identical to one another (something you could accuse a lot of Kaiju movies of, if we’re being honest), but with this final installment, would earth’s cutest defender pull something new out of the chrysalis?
After the Elias sisters – a trio of tiny feuding siblings who regularly fight to decide the fate of mankind while dressing like a bunch of knock off Disney Princesses who shop at a thrift store – have yet another spat while they struggle to obtain a powerful something called the Elias Triangle, children start vanishing all over the city under mysterious circumstances. It turns out the culprit is the infamous King Ghidorah, a golden, winged dragon who has been whooshing across the country and zapping away kids to store in a large, blobby meteorite like a three-headed Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Exactly why he’s switched from his usual cinematic shtick of slicing up buildings with his lightning breath to abducting pre-teens to drain their life force is unclear, but as a result, evil Elias sister Belvera finds herself trapped in the meteor with her good sister Lora who goes even evil-er due to being under Ghidorah’s spell.
Meanwhile, the other good Elias sister, Moll, teams up with sullen youngster Shota to try and figure out a way to thwart the malevolent space Dragon and free all the children before their parents all have panic attacks.
Into the fray is sent Leo Mothra, who finds pretty quickly that the Kaiju who’s more famous for being Godzilla’s arch enemy, isn’t exactly the giant monster you wanna fuck with and a plan B has to be rapidly conjured up before things get worse and so Moll sacrifices the last of her powers to transform Leo Mothra into Lightspeed Mothra in order for him to zap his zippy self into the past before you can say “Back To The Future”.
Going back millions of years, Mothra finds a younger, trimmer King Ghidorah who, due to the noticable lack of his trademark, chunky thighs, is presumably going through his gangly awkward teenage phase before finding out that binging on T-Rexs is stunningly high in cholesterol. But can our flappy hero manage to best this “weaker” version of the ultimate Kaiju bad-ass in the past while Belvera and Lana fight for the children in the present?
So, once again, it proves to be annoyingly hard to judge the Mothra trilogy on it’s own merits when the perfect 90’s Kaiju trilogy was happening at the exact same time with Shusuke Kaneko trio of exemplary Gamera movies, but it’s still, predictably business as usual with only a couple of minor alterations.
Possibly the best metaphor I can find to explain the pros and cons of Mothra’s solo bow is the inclusion of uber-baddie King Ghidora who somehow exists in this Godzilla-less world much in the same way Tom Hardy’s Venom movie try to operate without Spider-Man. As a die-hard Kaiju enthusiast, seeing the big, triple-headed bastard play big-band in another franchise is a genuine blast as it’s probably the best he’s ever looked in a non-CGI version, be it the classic, burly look or his slimmed down, prehistoric version that proves that even for giant monsters, metabolism eventually conquers us all. However, while the multiple scraps with Mothra are decidedly above average (not easy to stage when your monsters don’t have arms) and full of cool shit, you can’t help but point out that Mothra already fought a three headed dragon only two years before in the form of Desghidorah during the first movie. Also, compared to other closing chapters in other monster’s franchises, using a pre-existing creature seems a little cheap when Godzilla had to fight to the death with Destoroyah and Gamera butted heads with the ethereal Iris, two Kaiju specially created for their big, respective finales.
Still, Rebirth Of Mothra III (or Mothra 3: King Ghidorah Attacks) still ends up being arguably the best of the series as the movie actually takes the odd unpredictable turn and actually gives the Elias a little more to do than just whizz round on flying creatures and sing a bit. It also revisits Leo Mothra’s neat talent of altering forms depending on what kind of task he has in front of him which gives us not only Lightspeed Mothra but Armour Mothra and Eternal Mothra as well, which gives him more costume changes than your average Katy Perry concert. Plus, it’s use of it’s children as heroes has thankfully calmed down a little bit, even if the character of Shota is a bit of a moody git – but then when you consider how the grown ups act in this movie, maybe it’s somewhat understandable. Never mind the teacher who calmly reveals that over 500 children are missing from his school alone with all the detached emotion of a psychopath and focus on the worrying line of dialogue from Shota’s constantly fretting parents who openly state to one another: “I told you you should have used the belt on him more often!”
Enjoyably old school (the prehistoric scenes adorably look like someone’s gone to Toys R Us and bought a bunch of Jurassic Park T-Rex puppets), with a ton of Kaiju action, the Rebirth Of Mothra may not have been the greatest Kaiku series to come out of the 90’s, but it has enough boundless energy and a cool enough villain to end things on a glittery high before going back to the Godzilla franchise to continue being the poster-bug for endless self-sacrifice.