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  Godzilla and Mothra: Battle for the Earth pollution does some funny things to Japan
Year: 1992
Director: Takao Okawara
Stars: Tetsuya Bessho, Satomi Kobayashi, Akira Takarada, Keiko Imamura, Sayaka Osawa, Shoji Kobayashi, Takehiro Murata, Makoto Otake, Megumi Odaka, Shiori Yonezawa
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A giant meteorite crashes into the Ogasawara Sea and unearths a massive egg on mystical Infant Island. The explosion also rouses a dark, creepy-crawly monster called Battra from hibernation in Siberia, as well as our old pal Godzilla. Environmental Planning Board Chief Joji Minamino (series veteran Akira Takarada) and psychic girl, Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka, a reoccurring character in the Nineties’ Godzilla series) gaze concernedly at their monitor screens. Elsewhere, the Marumoto Corporation spring Indiana Jones-type treasure hunter, Takuya Fujita (Tetsuya Bessho - sporting an Indy outfit and Rambo mullet. A lethal combo!) from a Thai jail and team him with his ex-wife, Masako (Satomi Kobayashi) - still angry about alimony payments - and jittery executive Kenji Ando (Takehiro Murata) to explore their latest acquisition: Infant Island.

The explorers discover the giant Mothra egg, protected by tiny fairies the Cosmos (Keiko Imamura and Sayaka Osawa), last survivors of an alien race. Long ago, environmental tampering angered Battra and the Cosmos sent Mothra to stop him wiping out mankind. This doesn’t impress Takeshi Tomokane (Makoto Otake), Marumoto president, environmental rapist and all-round ranting corporate bastard (“Destroy the city! I’ll build it again, ha-ha!”). He duly hauls the Cosmos and Mothra’s egg across the sea, leaving everyone vulnerable to a sudden Godzilla attack! Battra joins in too and, after Mothra hatches, Japan finds itself hosting a three-way monster battle, with Takuya, Masako and daughter Midori (Shiori Yonezawa) caught in the middle.

Godzilla’s nineteenth adventure became Toho’s biggest box office hit of the nineties, despite a shapeless storyline bogged down in eco-sermonising. The series is no stranger to pro-environmentalist messages and they’re certainly no bad thing, but are delivered here with little substance and even less subtlety. Even before trouble starts, monster movie icon Akira Takarada mutters: “There have been some terrible troubles with the environment lately. Mankind is destroying the world where they live.” Screenwriter Kazuki Omori directed two of the best Heisei era films: Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), but he’s no Hayao Miyazaki. His messy, inconsistent screenplay nonsensically switches Battra from alien menace to world-saving hero. The big twist has Mothra save her mortal enemy and together they take on Godzilla. Since Battra is established as a threat, and slaughters hundreds when he ploughs through Tokyo, the logical thing might be for Mothra and Godzilla to team up and fight him. But…

In the nineties Toho were trying to please everybody. Hardcore fans wanted a dark, edgy killing machine. Children and family audiences, who paid money to see these films as opposed to whining on the internet (uh, hey wait a minute!), wanted a hero they could cheer on. The end result was a dark, edgy killing machine cheered on by adoring children, leaving an emotional void in these movies with everybody wondering who we’re supposed to root for. When Battra crushes Godzilla beneath a skyscraper, Miki cries out in alarm. Megumi Odaka’s psychic heroine became a stand-in for Godzilla lovers everywhere, constantly defending his right to live despite screenplays that never explain why. Another fixture of the nineties’ Godzilla movies were references to Hollywood movies. Here, it’s a number of fun, cheeky nods to Indiana Jones, including Takuya’s opening theft of a golden idol lifted from Raiders from the Lost Ark (1981) and a rickety bridge that snaps in two, as in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).

While their bickering occasionally proves tiresome, Tetsuya Bessho and Satomi Kobayashi prove a feisty, appealing twosome with a more interesting relationship than most G-movie protagonists. But once the monsters reach Japan, the human characters are reduced to gawping at monitor screens - something that afflicts all of Okawara’s Godzilla movies. A former second unit director, Okawara became the John Glen of nineties Godzilla movies, helming three out of the next four entries. His films are strangely popular among English speaking G-fans despite, or perhaps because, he reduced them to a series of rubber monster wrestling matches.

Faults aside, it isn’t too hard to see why audiences flocked to this movie. A slick, beautifully designed production, it features some of the series’ most ingenious special effects, gorgeous cinematography in fairytale hues, and arguably Akira Ifukube’s finest ever score. His Mothra themes, sung by Keiko Imamura and Sayaka Osawa (worthy successors to the Peanuts, these sunny, likeable performers gained their own series, beginning with Rebirth of Mothra (1996)) are truly beautiful and won a Japanese Academy Award. Effects-wise, Godzilla’s underwater duel with Battra and the fairground finale are highlights, while Mothra fans are in for a treat. Not only does effects supervisor Koichi Kawakita deliver a moth puppet that puts most CG to shame, but Mothra emerging from her cocoon in a shower of fairy-dust is a magical sight. The last-minute announcement of Battra’s world-saving mission baffles in light off all we’ve seen, but the closing scene where Mothra flies into space evokes some cosmic awe.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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