Now we move on to one of the more controversial eras of Godzilla, the Heisei era.
This would be every movie in the franchise that was made between 1984 and 1995, which spans seven movies, most of which are a mixed bag at best. This was also a series that tried to have an ongoing continuity where each film leads into the next one, though very often the continuity nods were small and often insignificant.
The problem I have with the Heisei series, along with most other Godzilla fans, is that most of these movies have no staying power. You want to watch most of them once and then you are done with them, while we’ll be seeing many films later on in this list that have plenty of rewatchability. The Heisei series focuses far too much on sparkly effects and selling toys and not enough on having quality storytelling or likeable characters.
Case in point, “Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth” is everything despicable about the Heisei series all rolled into one. As a kid, I sorta liked this film, but mostly found myself skipping the human scenes and going straight to the monster fights, a common occurrence to the bad Godzilla movies when I was young. But even back then, I knew this one wasn’t that great. Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, this one just constantly had me shaking my head at the terrible writing and the characters who are even worse.
The film opens up with our “hero” Takuya Fujita (Tesuya Bessho) literally reenacting the first scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He’s infiltrated some ancient temple in search of its hidden treasure, only to run in to a bunch of booby traps, before stumbling upon the treasure, which sets off everything and the temple starts falling apart. He of course makes it out by the skin of his teeth, only to be immediately apprehended by Japanese officers.
Right off the bat, this movie tells you that it lacks shame. It’ll blatantly rip off more successful films in an attempt to make everything seem epic and grand, when in fact its nothing but a poor imitation. Trust me, this will not be the last time this movie does something like that.
After Takuya is taken to prison for…achelology I think, his ex-wife Masako (Satomi Kobayashi) gives him an ultimatum – spend the next fifteen years in prison or go on this dangerous mission with her to a remote island. He chooses the later and he accompanies his wife and the right-hand man to the owner of a company known as Marutomo to their destination of Infant Island.
Upon arriving, they notice how the island looks terrible, with large landslides, empty planes and more Indiana Jones-style traps, this time from “Temple of Doom” when they get stuck on a rope bridge that breaks in half. But these three constantly keep making comments about how terrible man is for causing such destruction. This makes me tilt my head, since the opening of the film establishes that a large typhoon, caused by a huge meteorite that crashed in the south Pacific, was what led to Infant Island looking this way. This wasn’t a man-made tragedy, a goddamn meteor caused this.
But of course, with this being the famous Infant Island, the three eventually run into a giant monster egg and two tiny twin fairies known as the Cosmos, the speakers of Mothra.
I am going to take this opportunity to say that something about these twin fairies has always rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe its because they always seem so happy and will always speak the same words at the same time, often very cryptic words like “Mankind will be punished” or “There’s no need to worry. Mothra will save us.” I always imagine these two laughing on the inside, like they’re aware of all our impending doom and just want to watch us suffer. They’re like if the twin girls in “The Shining” got control of a giant monster.
Anyway, the Cosmos give the three of them Mothra’s backstory – she’s been a protector of the Earth for thousands, if not millions, of years and will take care of anything that threatens all life on the planet. But as our protagonists point out, “anything that threatens the planet” could eventually extend to eliminating humanity if they continue to pollute and destroy the planet. Suddenly, our heroes feel guilty for causing such destruction.
Again, I tilt my head at the claims these guys are making. The film never directly shows us how mankind is ruining the planet, nor do these characters tell us exactly what we are doing that’s hurting the planet. While it is implied that the film is referring to pollution and deforestation, if you’re going to put a “Save the Earth” message in your movie and make claims that we should treat our planet better, then at the very least you should tell us what we’re doing wrong, but this movie dances around that question.
It would be like if I saw you were doing math homework and all I said was, “Goddamn, just answer these questions correctly already!” without saying anything else and walked away.
So remember when I said this movie was full of rip-offs of better movies? Well, after our protagonists consult with the Cosmos, they convince these little hell-spawns to take Mothra’s egg with them back to Japan, where it will be the main attraction at a new theme park. So not only do the Cosmos see no problem giving up their God to be treated about as well as the world’s largest ball of twine, but now we get a plot ripped straight from “Mothra vs. Godzilla.”
Of all the routes to go with involving a giant egg, including scientific research, philosophical curiosity or even religious implications, why did they have to go with the same type of story as a near perfect monster movie? There’s no way they could tell it better than “Mothra vs. Godzilla” did, not when you open your movie ripping off Indiana Jones. Again, no shame.
But of course, as they transport Mothra’s egg back Japan, they run into a massive fire-breathing problem – Godzilla. It seems that same meteorite landed very close to where Godzilla was hibernating (that’s a happy convinience!), and now he’s pissed off and wants to wreck their ship. At this point, the right-hand man reveals his true intentions and says that he plans to sell both Mothra’s egg and the Cosmos to his company, which Takuya fights him for until Mothra erupts from her egg to fight Godzilla.
Before I go any further, I should briefly mention the third monster in this movie, Battra. The Cosmos describe Battra as an evil Mothra, who sees mankind as the true threat to the planet and will stop at nothing until we’re all eliminated. To me, Battra is a huge waste of potential – an evil-version of Mothra is a great idea in concept, but the film doesn’t do anything with it. If we got to see all of Mothra’s unqiue concepts turned on their heads, like a truly evil version of Mothra’s fairies or a island that worships Battra like a God and hear their philisophy that would have been amazing. But instead, Battra is just another monster for both Mothra and Godzilla to fight and that’s about it.
It also doesn’t help that Toho gave Battra the same roar as another one of their monsters, Rodan. Lame.
After Godzilla and Mothra fight for a while, Battra suddenly shows up and interfers in the fight, going after Godzilla specifically. The two start battling underwater while Mothra uses this opportunity to escape. Eventually, an underwater volcano just so happens to erupt right underneath Godzilla and Battra (that’s a happy convinience!) and the two are swallowed up by the volcano, with everyone assuming the two are dead, even though this particular Godzilla survived five years inside of a volcano already.
Spoiler alert: Godzilla and Battra survived the underwater volcano! Though this does eventually lead to the coolest scene in the movie: Godzilla making Mt. Fuji erupt so he could climb out of it, with the implication being that he swam through molten lava from the south Pacific all the way to Japan. Badass.
Oh wait, I actually said something good about this movie! Let’s balance that out with another movie this one rips off, the original “Mothra.” The right-hand goon ends up stealing the Cosmos away from Takuya and Masako when they’re not looking and he takes them back to his boss. Almost immediately, the Cosmos start singing to Mothra, the sign that she is on her way get the two of them back.
It’s not enough that this film wants to rip off not just one successful Mothra movie, but two. This was the major story focus in the 1961 film – a bunch of greedy selfish assholes steal from Infant Island and Mothra rampages her way through Tokyo to get the fairies back. It gives off the feeling that this movie lacks soul of its own, just bits and pieces borrowed from other films and pieced back together to make it look whole. But if you look in the right places, you see the cracks and how the pieces don’t fit together.
So Mothra waltzes through Tokyo, the military cannot do anything, the selfish assholes realize they messed up and ruined their company by bringing the fairies here, and then Mothra starts her metamorphosis into her adult winged-form. At this point, Godzilla, and Battra show up again, Battra changes into his winged form (with a little less pomp-and-circumstance, unlike Mothra who emerges from a cocoon to a crowd of thousands of stunned on-lookers and the Cosmos singing to her: Battra just flips a switch and boom, he has wings). This all leads to our big showdown in the heart of Yokohama between our three monsters.
The fight scenes here are okay. They’re pretty standard compared to the other Heisei films, with a particular focus on beam and energy weapons that cause lots of sparks and grunts and very little physical contact. Films like this and the next one, “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” are what gave the Heisei series the nickname of “The Beam Wars” or “The Beam Era,” where every monster had an energy-based attack, even ones who didn’t use them before like Mothra. So because every monster is always throwing beams around that leave no visible damage marks on the opponent, it’s often hard to feel invested in these fights when it feels like nothing is being accomplished.
Finally, I didn’t care for a single character in this film. Every single one of them felt like they were too far up their own asses to care about anyone other than themselves. Takyua constantly endangers his wife and daughter, as well as all of Japan, on multiple occassions, while Masako hardly ever shows any emotions towards her husband aside from contempt and regret, taking every opportunity to ridicule him. The right-hand goon gets a lot of screentime and he is all over the map, sometimes feeling bad about what he does and then moments later being fine with selling a God to his boss.
And then you have the glue that holds the Heisei series together, Ms. Miki Saegusa. She appears in six of the seven Heisei films and has little to no personality outside of having psychic powers, and mostly just uses those powers to know that Godzilla has already landed in Japan. As you can probably guess, I don’t like Miki. She is annoying, pointless, and continues to show the wasted potential in the Heisei series by introducing individuals who have psychic powers and yet never doing anything with it. This is her most minimal role, where she can somehow track the Cosmos when they’re lost, but we’ll be seeing a lot more of Miki Saegusa soon.
Overall, if you want to watch “Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth,” save yourself the trouble of watching this terrible movie and just watch the two great ones that this mostly rip-offs, “Mothra” and “Mothra vs. Godzilla.” Otherwise, this is the bottom of the barrell and my pick for the worst Heisei film.