Mothra vs Godzilla is the second major crossover in the series, and the first with another Toho property. Having made her debut in the 1961 film, Mothra, the titular monster returns to save earth from the menace of Godzilla. This also marks the first in the Showa Trilogy. The entire Showa series of films are loosely connected continuity wise, but Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, and Invasion of Astro Monster are the only films in the Showa series to have a narrative through line. Akira Takarada returns to lead along side Hiroshi Koizumi as Professor Miura, one of the few recurring characters in the franchise besides the monsters.
Another couple of recurring characters are the Shobijin, portrayed by Japanese pop duo, The Peanuts. They are tiny female fairies that are the handlers of the guardian of Earth, Mothra. They plead for the safe return of Mothra’s egg. Mothra is dying, and like the phoenix, when she dies she gives birth to a new Mothra. Furthermore, it’s important that egg be returned because the normally benevolent Mothra larvae, once it’s hatched, may unknowingly cause destruction looking for food.
However some unscrupulous businessmen have claimed the eggs as their property and plan to charge admission to see it. Ishiro Honda always tries to inject some message into the films he directs, and this time the theme is about the greed of corporate business and it’s effect on the environment. The Shobijin and Mothra are momentarily disillusioned with the human race after the villains refuse to return, but the main characters go to their home, Infant Island, to convince them that humanity despite it’s flaws, is worth saving. Also, the message from the first first film makes a minor return, but with a more pessimistic and defeatist attitude. When the main characters show up to once beautiful Infant Island, they find it desolated by years of nuclear testing. It is mentioned that you no longer see many demonstrations against such things anymore, and the world seems to have forgotten about such things. It’s probably no coincidence that the following films would completely leave behind the message that was essentially it’s foundation.
All of that goes by the wayside when Godzilla rises from the ground and starts up his path of destruction, but this film sees a shift in Godzilla being portrayed as a more misunderstood menace than a malevolent creature. Even the first film, in which you could argue that Godzilla was a victim to man’s aggression, he was still systematically destroying the city of Tokyo in retaliation. Here though, all of the destruction caused by Godzilla is either caused by him on accident or when he’s defending himself against attack. This would be the first step in transforming Godzilla into a hero by the end of the Showa series. Still, Godzilla is wreaking havoc, and it’s up to Mothra to save the day. Then when she dies, it’s up to the twin larvae that hatch from the egg to finish the job in the climatic scene.
This is often regarded as one of the very best of all the Godzilla films, and it’s hard not to see why. There is plenty of great moments and entertaining action, and the story is actually pretty good. The Godzilla suit in this film is probably one of the most iconic, having gained his canine like features in the face that he would retain throughout most of the series. He’s still imposing without some of the goofy and cuter aspects added to later suits. This film exists in that same middle ground. It takes itself seriously enough, but it isn’t afraid to be a little goofy a well. As we move forward, the Showa series will get progressively sillier, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.