Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) – Godzilla 60th Birthday Challenge

This post is part of my Godzilla 60th Birthday Challenge

I’ll be completely honest. After Godzilla Raids Again King Kong vs. Godzilla I was beginning to fear for my precious remaining sanity at the thought of having to get through another 20-odd Godzilla movies. Next up however was Mothra vs. Godzilla which changed everything. The franchise has left Gojira’s realism behind, this much is apparent, but not yet have the sequels seemed to commit to a new tone. This film finally feels confident in being a mix of comedy and awesome monster movie, and throws in being completely mental for good measure.

It’s just a really big butterfly. “IT’S A MOTH! AS IN MOTH-RA!!! GET IT?”

Mothra’s egg floats up on a small village’s shore very early in the film and a greedy businessman purchases it, to make it the centre of a theme park. Having not seen Mothra I was unaware of this monster’s origins but this film seems to be fairly standalone in that sense. That doesn’t mean everything has to make sense though,especially true with the introduction of Mothra’s guardians of sorts; twin ladies who are about 9 inches high and constantly speak at the same time. The question “Why?” is never really answered for their existence or actions, but they communicate to Mothra via some catchy, yet almost creepy songs, and follow the heroes around for much of the film, prompting some really neat visual effects showcasing their tiny size. The funniest moments of this film come simply because it is so unashamedly ridiculous; the script for example has lines every few minutes that are logically unfounded. Some allowance must be made for things being lost in translation, but the explanation for the businessman paying precisely 1,224,560 Yen for Mothra’s egg is laugh-out-loud insane, and there are no end of moments that can only be knowingly stupid, finally allowing the franchise to dive head-first into the B-Movie tone.

Mostly creepy.

Not too long after, Godzilla appears in a scene that is at once extremely cool, but also manages to reinstate some of the sense of terror from the first movie. I couldn’t say there’s ever any illusion that it’s not a man in a suit (except for in the brief stop-motion shots, pedants), but the rampage he goes on is pretty extreme and they’ve made the nice addition of superimposing him in some ‘real’ city shots, giving it a bit more credibility than the all-cardboard cityscapes featured in the previous disappointing installments.

Atomic breath. Check.

While the set-up is greatly entertaining, the final battle is what matters. Here the showdown lasts most of the last half hour, giving us plenty of time to try to come to terms with the image of Godzilla fighting an enormous moth and equally enormous brown caterpillars. It’s all totally ridiculous, and occasionally impossible to comprehend, but never anything less than entertaining and the 90 minutes go by quicker than 20 minutes in either of the previous two sequels. There is a revelation in this movie, half a century before Michael Bay patented the formula, that more explosions = better movie, in lieu of any reasonable plot or logic. This film marks the franchise finding its footing in the barmy-yet-incredibly-entertaining tone it has become known for, and I’m more excited than ever to see what lies ahead.

7/10

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