Godzilla Vs. Mothra: Battle for Earth is the fourth film in the Heisei series, that is the series of Godzilla films following the timeline established with Godzilla 1985, and by now the series had matured considerably. What Godzilla Vs. Mothra offers this time around is another environmentally friendly story courtesy of scribe Kazuki Omori (author of both Godzilla Vs. Biollante and Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah) pitting Godzilla against the venerable war-moth of the Toho franchise.
Godzilla Vs. Mothra offers monster mayhem and above average special effects that Kaiju fans live for, but also comes with some rather glaring caveats, that is, whole scenes lifted from the Showa series of Godzilla films. Some fans may view this as an homage, of sorts, to the glory days of old, but I’m not one of them.
We start off with a meteorite crashing into the Japan Trench, where (followers of the Heisei series will remember as the place Godzilla was dumped by Mecha-King Ghidorah) Godzilla awakens. The tidal wave caused by the impact exposes a massive egg on a small otherwise uninhabited island.
Meanwhile, treasure hunter (and obvious Indiana Jones, Jackie Chan in “Armor of God” knock-off) Takuya is arrested after stealing a small statue from a tomb. He is given the opportunity to work off his sentence by exploring the site of the egg for the environmental planning board concerned that the egg may pose a dangerous threat to Japan. At first reluctant because his shrewish ex-wife Masako is leading the expedition, Takuya relents when his charges are raised from simple vandalism to grand theft.
The Japanese military and associated science groups that always exist in the films, with the assistance of G-Force, the military/science group charged with defending Japan against Godzilla featuring the psychic talents of Heisei non-rubber recurring character Miki Sagusa, are tracking something other than Godzilla in the deep dark of the Japan Sea.
That something is Battra, or as they sometimes describe it, Black Mothra. Battra is a cool monster and one of the new ones added to the Toho universe for the Heisei series (along with Mecha King Ghidorah, Space Godzilla, Destroyah, and Biollante) and starts off as a wicked black caterpillar festooned with a massive horn (borrowed as it were from Megalon).
Back on the island Takuya and the archeologists discover both Mothra’s egg and the twin fairies Cosmos 1 and Cosmos 2 who share a link with the giant proto-moth. They explain that long ago the inhabitants of Earth created both Battra and Mothra to protect Earth from some unknown menace. But, the two monsters immediately started whipping on one another until their creators fled Earth for less mothy pastures. With their creators gone both Mothra and Battra have slept until now.
While transporting the egg back to Japan (to assist G-Force in fighting both Godzilla and Battra) the barge is attacked by both Godzilla and Battra. The Mothra caterpillar hatches (in a scene lifted from King Kong Vs. Godzilla), and all three monsters head to Japan for the showdown of all showdowns.
Like I said before, the film borrows a whole lot from other films in the Toho universe, and although in no way a comprehensive list, the borrowed bits are:
Battra looks like Megalon and has the same weapons as Megalon (as a caterpillar) His attack on Tokyo also looks like Megalon’s attack on Tokyo, which in and of itself was lifted from the original Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster.
Battra has Rodan’s voice. I know, it isn’t a real lift, but it pissed me off anyway. I mean, especially for we fans, why not take the time to invent a new sound for a new monster?
Mothra cocoons on the Japanese Parliament like he, er... it, did to Tokyo Tower in the original Mothra.
The naval battle with all three monsters is very much like the naval battle in Godzilla vs. Biollante.
The special effects range from fantastic to... well... visible wires. Neither Mothra nor Battra move all that realistically, certainly not as well as Mothra did in the Showa series (1954-1975). The twin fairies are totally underutilized as is Miki Sagusa. The acting is on par with all of the Heisei series, and the score is a fantastic update of Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla marches.
Overall this is my least favorite of the Heisei films because it could easily not exist and no one would care. The only good that came out of it was a rebirth in the popularity of Mothra in a short series of kids films that put this movie to shame.
Godzilla Vs. Mothra Battle for Earth is released through Columbia Tri-Star and shares a DVD with the much more interesting Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah, and in keeping with Columbia Tri-Star’s repellent treatment of the property, both films are released in full screen, Dolby sound, and with zero extras except chapter stops. Ignore the VHS version, it’s in shitty EP format and looks like ass.
Overall Godzilla Vs. Mothra is a pleasant enough diversion on a rainy Saturday afternoon, or as a way to introduce kids to the Godzilla universe, but the replay value is extremely limited.