mag·nif·i·cent/magˈnifəsənt/ (adj.)

1. Impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking.
2. Very good; excellent.

Synonyms: splendid - gorgeous - grand - superb - glorious

WARNING: Some spoilers may be bound but I try to keep them light.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

       "He wants to turn that egg into the golden egg."

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) (モスラ対ゴジラ), also known as Godzilla vs. the Thing, is a Japanese kaiju film directed by Ishiro Honda. This film is a sequel to both Mothra (1961) and Godzilla vs. King Kong (1962) and is the first time Toho tried pitting one of its previously stand-alone kaiju against Godzilla, a trend that would continue quite a bit after this and often lead to some of the most popular fan-favorites of the kaiju films.

When a typhoon washes a giant egg ashore, the capitalist heads of Happy Corporation decide to turn it into a giant tourist attraction. A group of reporters investigating discover Mothra's twin fairies who beg them to help return the egg to it's home on Infant Island. But when the capitalists refuse, and Godzilla was also re-awakened by the typhoon Japan finds itself right in the middle of a giant monster battle.

[Note: this review is referencing the original Japanese version of the film.]

The moral tale in this film works really well, it may be a little heavy handed in the end but it's the key that ties the human protagonists story together with that of Mothra's story.

This film's story is basically a remake of the original Mothra (and to a lesser extent King Kong vs. Godzilla too) but what I liked about it is that each of these films isn't a direct remake and it really feels like Ishiro Honda (who directed all three) is experimenting with each one and trying something new, which in this case works out because he takes the plot of Mothra and the better protagonist story from King Kong vs. Godzilla and incorporates Godzilla into the story also and it is in my opinion the best of the trio. I also really liked the twist toward the end involving the egg. It's a clever way to catch even your big kaiju-fans on their toes and keep everyone interested in the film!

Despite being a little jarring at first, I actually thought the super-cartoonish portrayal of the capitalists actually works really well, and quickly helps you to root against these guys. I just don't understand why they get killed off so early? Maybe Honda just got tired with this particular storyline as it's the third time he's done it?

I also felt the endangered school children on the island at the end was a little over dramatic for my tastes but it really did help up the ante and provide more drama and suspense for the final battle of the film.

The special effects and use of models here are better than they've been in the last few films actually. It feels like Honda really took the time to shoot each of what works best on it's separate medium (models, costumes, live-action) and incorporate them as best as possible.

This is the first in the series they didn't even try to explain a lot of things (for example the origin of the first Mothra and Godzilla) this isn't necessarily a bad thing as the film works more or less on its own, and I feel like it was bound to happen with this being the fourth Godzilla film and probably the eight or so kaiju film Toho had made up until this point. I already thought the film rushes a bit in the beginning to set up everything but you're going to feel extra rushed if you haven't already had an intro to Godzilla or Mothra before this film.

I feel like this film is a prime example of a movie that could use a better structure. It seems like the film speeds up just to slow down in parts and we lose track of our human protagonists during giant monster battles that seem unfocused and there's large parts of the film that just go needlessly on for a bit too long.

Also maybe this was the result of a technical issue with scale or the models or something but the first battle with Mothra is WAY too close for some reason? There's a tone of super-close up shots during this battle that quickly cut to each other and make the otherwise very cool monster fight pretty hard to watch.

I really love the human protagonists in this film! They're probably the first ones since the original Gojira (1954) that actually made the human element of the film really worthwhile. They're a bit pure and idealized but their goodness plays into helping the kaiju in the story really well so it works for the film.

Also super note-worth is this is the first Godzilla film in a while where they actually took the time to show the destructive nature of Godzilla and how he affected people on the ground level on screen. Also this film cleverly incorporates his radioactivity into the story and ties nuclear testing on Infant Island into the theme and plot without over doing it very masterfully.

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) is a very enjoyable kaiju film, one of the good ones where the humans' story works really well with giant battling monsters' story.

4/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

I'm tackling most of the early Toho Studios' Godzilla and Kaiju films in honor of the newest Godzilla (2014)

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