By Ben Dower
A meteor slams into the Pacific Ocean, awakening Godzilla and creating a typhoon. The typhoon hits Infant Island and uncovers a giant object that had been buried there. Takuya Fujita (Tetsuya Bessho) is arrested in Thailand for stealing ancient artifacts from a temple. A Japanese government official (Shoji Kobayashi), his ex-wife Masako Tezuka (Satomi Kobayashi), and Marutomo company representative Kenji Ando (Takehiro Murata) offer to get Takuya out of jail if he will help explore Infant Island, where the Marutomo company has plans for development.
Takuya, Masako, and Kenji go to Infant Island and find Mothra’s egg and two tiny women, who call themselves the Cosmos (Keiko Imamura, Sayaka Osawa). They say that not only has Mothra been awoken, but Battra, the Black Mothra, may also be awake again. Marutomo decides to bring the egg back to Japan and use it as an attraction. The Battra larva is soon sighted at sea. It lands in Japan and burrows underground, emerging in Nagoya and causing a lot of destruction, before disappearing back underground.
As the egg is being towed back to Japan, Godzilla emerges from the depths and attacks. The egg hatches into a Mothra larva. Godzilla and Mothra fight, but are interrupted by Battra. In the end, Battra and Godzilla disappear into an undersea volcano and Mothra swims back to Infant Island.
Wanting to save his repuation at the company, Kenji steals the Cosmos and presents them to his boss as a replacement for the egg. Takuya steals the Cosmos back, but tries to sell them to an American buyer. Mothra comes to Japan to reclaim the Cosmos, and Takuya realizes his mistake. Confident that the Cosmos are safe, Mothra cocoons itself on the National Diet Building.
Mount Fuji erupts, releasing Godzilla. Godzilla heads toward Yokohama and is confronted by the JSDF, but easily smashes his way through them. Battra also reappears, bursting out of a fissure under the sea and transforming into his adult form.
Mothra hatches from her coccoon and confronts Battra over Yokohama. Battra manages to pin Mothra down at Minato Mirai 21, but before he can finish her off, Godzilla also arrives. Mothra and Battra join forces against Godzilla, but as they carry him out to sea, Godzilla delivers a fatal bite to Battra. Mothra drops Godzilla and the dead Battra in the ocean and puts a magic seal over them. Mothra then heads into space to stop a meteor that will hit Earth in 1999.
Toho had found a lot of success in bringing back a popular Godzilla foe in Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991), and so decided to try again, this time bringing back Mothra. Though Kazuki Omori was brought back to write the film, Takao Okawara was hired to direct this time. Koichi Kawakita remained on special effects.
Akira Ifukube once again wrote the soundtrack, weaving updated versions of his classic Godzilla and Mothra themes in with some wonderful new pieces, such as Battra’s theme. Three classic Mothra songs return: Song of Mothra, originally written by Yūji Koseki for Mothra (1961), as well as Mahara Mosura and Sacred Springs, which Ifukube had originally composed for Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).
Mothra is the star of the show this time around, with Godzilla and Battra largely in supporting roles. Both Battra and Godzilla disappear into a volcano shortly after their first skirmish and don’t re-emerge until the plot requires them to set up the final confrontation. Also, because Battra is sidelined for so long, the monster ends up having to skip its pupal stage, going directly from caterpillar to moth. Still, Mothra is a strong enough character to hold the audience’s attention, so this doesn’t really hurt the film.
Where Godzilla vs Mothra is weakest is perhaps the plot. The movie’s storyline feels a little winding at times, and it just doesn’t seem to come together into a cohesive whole as well as it should. For example, there is a lot of handwringing about what humanity has done to the Earth and how the Earth will get its revenge, but then that’s mostly ignored once Godzilla comes out of Mount Fuji. It would have worked much better if the film ended in a way that brought that message home. Still, the movie remains engaging and fun throughout, and contains a lot of great practical effects work to bring its three giant stars to life.
Godzilla vs. Mothra is sprinkled with homages to earlier films. Mothra coming to Tokyo and cocooning on the National Diet Building is a call-back to Mothra (1961), when she came to Tokyo to save the Shobijin and cocooned on Tokyo Tower. Her battle at sea with the Japanese navy also recalls a similar scene in that film. Battra’s attack on Nagoya is a clear homage to Godzilla’s attack on the same city in Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) as well.
Godzilla vs. Mothra has a lot to say about our destruction of the evironment and the consequences that could arise from it. Unfortunately, much of this messaging is handled in a preachy manner. Despite this lack of subtlety, the thirty years following Godzilla vs Mothra’s release on December 12, 1992 have shown how right the film was about the impact of our disregard for the environment.
Toho had Godzilla vs. Mothra dubbed into English in Hong Kong and the film was released to VHS and DVD in North America in 1998 by Columbia TriStar Home Video as Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth. Both the VHS and DVD offer an English dubbed full screen version of the film that cuts off the end credits, which featured video of the stars after Mothra had flown into space. To make matters worse, the DVD is a double-sided disc with Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), making it difficult to handle and easy to get dirty or damaged.
In 2014, Godzilla vs. Mothra was released to Blu-ray in a double-feature set with Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, again under the title Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth. Fortunately, both films get separate discs this time around, and are presented in widescreen with the original Japanese audio and English dub as audio options, though the end credit video is still truncated. All North American releases of Godzilla vs Mothra are currently out of print.