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Godzilla Goodness: MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964)

Day five, and Witney Seibold hunkers down with tiny twins and giant moth larvae. #5: Mothra vs. Godzilla.

Mothra is an unusual beast. Mothra is the only monster in the Toho canon that is wholly and entirely benevolent. It’s also the only one that can directly communicate with humans. Usually, the puny humans below – despite their conspiracies and dramas in each film – are ignored by the giant monsters. The monsters will destroy cities, but the humans are usually seen as a teeming mass that runs from the beast, and not a formidable foe that is on the same level. Mothra is the only monster that has any direct humanity or sympathy. Well, there will be an English dub of Godzilla’s voice in a later film, but that hardly counts. Mothra is also the only female monster in the Toho canon.

Mothra is a giant moth that is worshiped on a distant island called Infant Island. She communicates with the human world using a pair of identical twin homunculi (played by Japanese pop duo The Peanuts) who can sing Mothra to life and communicate with her telepathically. Maybe there’s something I don’t know about Japanese folkloric traditions, but this seems really strange to me. I have heard several enthused marijuana consumers declare their love for the miniature twin fairies. It’s that kind of tone. Indeed, after King Kong vs. Godzilla, we’ve entered a new tonal plane, one that tilts between joyous Saturday morning goofiness and weird-ass stoner-ready bonkers fun. Forget slick action spectaculars and CGI-heavy power-fests; As far as I’m concerned, this is where “awesome” lies.

Mothra vs. Godzilla egg

The story is about an evil fishery owner who finds a gigantic egg in his waters, and hauls it ashore, intending to build an amusement park around it. About that same time, Godzilla emerges from the ground wherein King Kong smashed him in the last film. He seems unscathed. As we will soon learns from these movies, Godzilla is pretty much indestructible. Oh sure, he’ll encounter things that can hurt him or trap him, but he always appears pretty much okay in the following sequel.

There are human characters in all of these films, and the drama usually centers on them for the first 30 minutes of the film. Godzilla will then show up and wreak havoc for a bit, allowing the humans to regroup and try fighting both him and whatever ancillary monster appears in that given chapter. The final 30 minutes of Godzilla films will be monster-on-monster action. This is the pattern. It will rarely be deviated from.

Godzilla ends up setting Mothra on fire and stomping her into the ground. It’s just then, however, that her two hatchlings will emerge. Mothra’s hatchlings are long brown larvae that can spit strands of cocoon goo. They cover Godzilla with webbing and push him into the ocean. Godzilla is dead once and for all. Mothra will appear in future films, although she will alternate between being a little brown larva and being a fully-formed moth. Mostly, she’ll be the larva. She will always have her identical twins to help her communicate.

Mothra vs. Godzilla fairies

Although Godzilla is still the villain, he seems a bit more sympathetic somehow. I sense Ishiro Honda began to see Godzilla more as an audience favorite. As such, in the next film, Godzilla will actually serve more as a defender than a villain, taking his rightful place in the monster firmament.

Up next: Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964)

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3 comments

  • Great articles. Each article in the series should be l.linked in a list. Below each new article so that you can easily bounce between. them for reference

  • The nature vs. corporate theme in this one makes it strike a better human chord than the previous two “vs.” films, and I think that makes it one of the best and most memorable of the early showa movies. Plus, Mothra song! (Fun fact about that: IIRC, the song is mostly sung in Malaysian, and that language was chosen simply because it would sound somewhat alien to Japanese ears.)