After producing numerous Godzilla films, Toho decided to try something a little different and different it was with the release of Mothra – a movie influenced more from fantasy than it was science-fiction. It would end up being a refreshing change of pace, not to mention turning out to be a lot of fun while still keeping the wanton destruction caused by the kaiju extremely high. Directed by Ishiro Honda and starring Frankie Sakai, Kyoko Kagawa, Hiroshi Koizumi, Ken Uehara and Jerry Ito, Mothra would usher in a different kind of monster movie for the studio, proving that they were simply not a one-trick pony.
The film would introduce the audience to Infant Island that has been the subject of atomic testing and a place where all sorts of strange people and creatures live with two in particular called the Shobijin, twin fairies that are connected to an ancient monster called Mothra. These Shobijin enchant Jerry Ito’s character Clark Nelson who sees them as a means to make a lot of money and when his first attempt to capture them goes awry, he comes back later with those loyal to him and does just that. Fukuda played by Sakai does not like Nelson in the least and tries to expose him through his newspaper whenever he gets the chance, especially after learning that Nelson has the Shobijin. With some help from his photographer Michi Hanamura and Chūjō, they learn that the hostages have been calling to Mothra to come and save them and soon enough, Mothra in all her forms is heading to aid the Shobijin, destroying everything in her wake.
Overall, the film is visually beautiful, from its cinematography by Hajime Koizumi to the creature design to the special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Whether it is the lush jungle of Infant Island or the spectacular shots of destruction caused by Mothra’s travels, the film captures the eye like no other. Mothra herself is a marvel to behold, especially as she transforms from egg to larva and finally to the giant flying monster that everyone soon becomes familiar with worldwide. Like Godzilla before her, Mothra is invulnerable to every attack, making the army essentially useless in any sort of offensive maneuver. One of the more iconic scenes in the movie is when Mothra takes a break from it all and builds herself a cocoon and while she might seem helpless, there is still nothing that can be done no matter what is tried.
Also setting this film apart from the Godzilla movies that preceded it is the light-hearted tone it takes. Sure, Nelson is a bad man and Mothra might be smashing through everything in her way, but there is still time for a little humour and a bit of drama. There is nothing in the way of horror as the creature is just a giant moth, not to mention the film being bright and colourful and that only lends to the charm of it all. While it is a far cry from the more serious tone of the Godzilla films, the two would soon meet and Mothra would become a recurring character in his series over the years.
One can safely say that Mothra is not your standard kaiju film and that is a good thing. The creature does not intentionally set out to harm anyone, only trying to rescue the Shobijin and knowing that they are in trouble. Though a lot of chaos ensued during her travels, Mothra is a creature of peace and it is nice to see a Toho picture with a happy ending instead of one where humanity gets a simple reprieve from the giant monsters threatening them. At the end of the day, Mothra is movie that is not only exciting, but truly wonderful from start to finish.
4.5 out of 5