I had no clue that Toho had remade Mothra and then added a couple of sequels until I discovered that double feature DVD Sony put out back in 2000. Yeah, I bought it, and then wished I hadn’t after I started watching the first one. It was the direction they took with it that destroyed my interest. They made it for kids. I’m not sure it all the way through. I think I may have done a lot of fast forwarding, but I do remember putting on the second, thinking for some reason it would be better. It wasn’t. It was the same tone, and I remember doing a lot of fast forwarding on it too.
Initially I had no plans at all to review these movies, and asked my contact to just send me the other two Godzilla blues Sony had recently transferred to blu, but he sent the Mothra trilogy to me anyway and in the end I’m actually glad he did.
Taking a look at the trailers included I suddenly didn’t feel as much animosity towards them as I once had. Again this is yet another case of having seen a movie once and hating it and then not seeing it again until roughly a decade and some years later and realizing something has changed. This happened to me recently with Leviathan (1989), which I just reviewed, and now I adore that film.
I can’t totally say I now adore Toho’s Mothra trilogy, but I can certainly say I like the first and last installments now and can easily imagine myself watching them again at some point in the future, and being able to do that is the main criteria for adding any movie to my vast and growing library of “physical media.” Something I know the studios want to halt dead in their tracks but that’s another conversation for another time.
Mothra (US title, Rebirth Of Mothra) is pretty much a remake of the Mothra mythos. The basics are kept, the island the moth lives on; the tiny human sisters that are basically it’s emissary; the egg it always lays; the offspring that bursts out and fights once the mother is killed in combat, the song that’s song to summon Mothra, all that is intact. What’s different is that the emissaries, now called the Elias, are not actually twins as they generally appeared and/or tried to appear in other movies, here they are simply sisters who can easily be told apart in visage and in clothing. And this time they have an older sister who walks on the darkside.
Her name is Belvera and while the younger two, Lora and Moll, ride a Fairy Mothra, she rides what appears to be a small dragon-like creature that’s oddly revealed to be a robotic construction at the very end after it gets destroyed.
The monster villain of this movie is something called, Desghidorah (aka Death Ghidorah) and it looks like what its name implies. Not a carbon copy of King Ghidorah, but more like a relative, for this one moves on four legs. And like Ghidorah it’s a space monster, one that arrived 62 million years ago on earth when the world was full of tiny humans and a lot of Mothras. It was defeated and imprisoned in this mountain. Cut to present day 1996 and the father of our two main children heroes unknowingly releases it by pulling off the magical seal.
Mothra, now looking like a plush toy (it’s a kids movie don’t forget), shows up to do battle with it. She’s killed and replaced in combat by her larva (only one per egg this time) and this caterpillar is now equipped with an energy ray all it’s own. Does every monster in the Toho universe have to be equipped with an energy ray? So, now, we’re equipping even the young with them?
More changes to the mythos happen when the larva cocoons itself to become the new Mothra. When it hatches a whole lot of “energy moths” flutter out and form the new Mothra. This new creature can also become a swarm of “energy moths” as a weapon. I found the overall new design to be pretty good improvement. And, yes, it also comes with energy rays, three new ones that shoot from its forehead.
The only real problem I had with the movie is that three key scenes go on for far too long: the scene at the house when the sisters are flying around attacking each other and causing wanton destruction; the reveal of Death Ghidorah as the mountain just keeps exploding, first to form a huge new rock formation then it just keep exploding, cutting to other scenes, and then exploding some more. For the love of God, just reveal the creature already, and the very ending, which keeps making you think the credits are just about to happen, but don’t. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a Kaiju movie where I thought it could use some more editing.
Overall, however, those key scenes not withstanding, for a kids kaiju flick, it wasn’t bad. I must also say they made the larva in this flick slimier than he normally is. In just about every scene he wore a coat of fresh ooze. I liked that.
Mothra 2: The Undersea Battle (US title, Rebirth Of Mothra II) is the weakest of the three movies. I even had to fast forward the last 20 minutes. All three Elias sisters are back with evil sister Belvera still trying to take over the world. The heroes of this entry are 3 children this time, all unrelated. This whole thing involves some kind of Atlantis-like lost civilization who’s temple rises up out of the ocean; a huge creature called, Dagahra, that’s the weakest of the Toho monster designs; these weird, mutant starfish that pose a threat to mankind; and the need for these kids to find some kind of lost treasure within this temple.
The only thing I enjoyed was the new form this shape-shifting Mothra takes on to battle Dagahra. Yes, you will believe a giant moth can breath underwater. It’s some kind of insect-fish form. The less said about this entry the better, I think.
Mothra 3: King Ghidorah Attacks (US title, Rebirth Of Mothra III) is the most mature flick of this trilogy. It starts off making you believe the heroes are three kids again, this time all related, but as the movie goes on it’s focus is on the thirteen year old boy, while the other two have been kidnapped by a more insidious version of King Ghidorah. Yes, the villain is Ghidorah but a Ghidorah with a plan. Generally in past movies Ghidorah is basically an intergalactic thug for some nasty alien race, or his origin has been remade, this version Ghidorah was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, now he’s come back to take out mankind, doing it by flying around and teleporting any child he can find into this giant, veiny globule.
As usual it’s up to Mothra to kick his ass off the planet and in this one you will believe a giant moth can time travel. In the meantime the Elias and their once evil sister, Belvera, are back, but Belvera is no longer the evil one.
This was a much better film than the previous two. That being said I will still recommend the first one, just not the second, the most juvenile of the bunch.
As I mentioned before the first two movies have been long available on DVD, while the third never has. Though, it’s been run on cable many times. This past September 9th, Sony has decided to release the entire Mothra trilogy on blu-ray. The first gets it’s own disc while the following two share one.
It’s funny how a really good transfer of any movie can soften your view of it, if it’s something you’ve never liked. I was most impressed by the 1080p 1.85:1 high definition transfer of the first and the third, not so much with the second, but it did look good, just not as pristine in my view than the others.
You get two audio options: the English dubbed 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio or the original Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Choosing the latter, for those who don’t speak Japanese, you can use the English, English SDH, and/or the French subtitles.
In the extras department each movie comes with 3-4 teasers and the full-length theatrical trailer. That’s all.
Not the most memorable series of movies Toho has created, but if I were a kid, I would have certainly loved each and every one, and I recommend finding the kid within if you want to enjoy them fully, as I had to do. Though, the last one does not require that.