Thursday, 1 April 2010
Director: Ishiro Honda
Staring: Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa, Ken Uehara, Emi Ito, Yumi Ito, Jerry Ito
Rating: 4 / 5
Plot: A group of shipwrecked survivors are found on Infant Island, which had previously been used for nuclear testing. Believing that they were protected from the radiation by a juice given to them by the local natives, it sparks a return expedition to the island, were upon the expedition leader Nelson (Jerry Ito) finds a pair of foot high twins, which he then kidnaps with plans of putting them into a vaudeville show, unaware that their singing is actually a cry for help to Mothra, a gigantic moth worshiped by the natives.
Review: Okay I might aswell start with pointing out that I have never really liked Mothra, who I’ve always considered one of the weaker members of the Toho monster back catalogue, especially seeing how threatening can a giant moth really be?
Still it hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the best loved characters in the Godzilla series, especially by Japanese women, which also explains why she has clocked up to date more appearances in the series than any other monster in the series, while also spawning her own series of films. Still it was this film which first introduced the world to the horror of well….um a giant moth.
Honda who is once again on directing duties here for this first appearance, which is unsurprising especially when you consider that he was responsible for bringing to the screen so many of the memorable Toho creations on their debut outing including Rodan, King Ghidorah and Mantango. Honestly I was relived to see this, especially seeing how Honda knows how to properly introduce new monsters and here it is no different, even to the point were he makes even a long time Mothra hater like myself reconsider my standpoint, though perhaps this is because this time Mothra is not getting caught up in a monster rumble, but instead appearing as a creature of terror and destruction, something else that Honda really knows how to do, especially when you consider he was the one calling the shots, the first time Godzilla stomped through Tokyo in 1954. Mothra’s debut is also helped by a script written by Shinichi Sekizawa who would later go on to write further scripts for Godzilla as well as the Ultraman series, bringing an element of fun to his scripts, which is present here as well, largely coming from Sakai’s performance as the Journalist Senichiro, whose comedy timing is flawless here and never reaches a point of being irritating thankfully.
For anyone who has seen more than a couple of kaiju films will know exactly were the plot is heading, quite early on into this film, especially from the moment we see Nelson kidnapping the twins, from Infant island which it would seem shares that same trait as the island seen in “Gamera Vs. Barugon” (1966) in that it is an island once again populated by blacked up Japanese actors, who also provide their own soundtrack whenever they appear, by banging together the rocks they constantly carry with them. Still for myself the plot brought back memories especially of the British Godzilla “Gorgo” (1961) which coincidently was also released the same year.
Mothra is not normally one of the monsters that is associated with large scale destruction, usually because she is the monster of peace. Yet in this film she certainly gives even the heavy hitters of the Toyko wrecking crew like Godzilla a run for their money, as cars and trucks are tossed around like leaves in a gale. Still at it’s heart this is not a film about the horror of a giant creature attacking Tokyo, especially seeing how the damage being caused to the city is purely a by product of her search for the Shobijin, whose song draws her to them.
Still it is not just random destruction seen in this film, especially seeing how some of her city trashing moments, standout even more just because of the context they have been shot in, such as her cocoon, which she forms against the Tokyo tower, as part of her change from Larval Mothra to adult Mothra, who is her more recognisable giant moth form.
I’m still undecided whether this film was so more effective than other Mothra appearances, because of the fact that Mothra is the sole monster in the film and hence avoiding any clumsy looking fight sequences, which she tends to get involved in the Godzilla series, especially seeing how unlike so many of the other monsters, her powers of attack have never been anything spectacular, much like her fellow flying monster Rodan (that confused looking eagle creation). These powers usually appearing on screen like she is either spraying them with silly string or showering them with pixie dust, depending on which form she is in at the time, all of which is thankfully absent here, with Mothra being given a clear objective of rescuing the Shobijin from Nelson, while the majority of the storyline is filled in by the human cast, which certainly makes her a much more imposing creation to watch, even if I’m not fully convinced that a giant moth is the scariest creation, but at the same time proves to be quite the double edged sword, as you still want a creature that you could justify travelling hundreds of miles to rescue the Shobijin, which some monstrous looking creation won’t exactly work.
Although I might not exactly enjoy Mothra’s appearances in the Godzilla series, she proves more than capable of providing enough entertainment value, to justify getting her own movie. The plotting makes for a change than the usual by the numbers city trashing, giving Mothra more of a purpose than an unjustifiable thirst for vengeance, against a major city, while the human involvement in the plot, provides more than filler between the scenes of destruction and chaos.
In all she might still not be my favourite monster in the Toho catalogue, but Mothra still manages to pull off an enjoyable first entry in her own series, even for the non fans like myself.