Disaster movies are rarely the stuff of inspiration, and the visual effects they use to portray their particular apocalypse hold little attraction beyond that niggling voice in the back of your head telling you to ‘burn it all’.
Despite the anthropormorphised aspect of it, the giant monster films of Japan are essentially disaster films where the hubris of man brings upon its own destruction as atomic fire rains down upon the fleeing populace of Tokyo. The natural conclusion one reaches is that having multiple monsters results in a proportionate amount of destruction. Not having a predilection for these films, comments on my part are meaningless but have no doubt, Godzilla vs Mothra: Battle for Earth contains many a scene where many a model gets ker-sploded.
And it is that little vicious destructive streak hiding in your subconscious that the Godzilla films really appeal to. They may dress it up with metaphors about the need for true acceptance of custodianship of the earth and the insanity inherent in relying upon corporate citizenship to ‘do the right thing’ but in all honesty, if you decided to watch this film of your own free will, you are looking for two rubber monsters stomping through the streets of Tokyo in an effort to try and take each other down.
The filmmakers recognise this by introducing Godzilla with the crashing of the meteor to Earth, simultaneously creating the setup for Mothra’s appearance. And while there is a good half hour to give relevancy to paying money to the human actors (including a 5 minute introduction to the male lead, Takuya with a Indiana Jones-type tomb raid!) and to setup the correct environment for the epic conflict to come, not only do we get Godzilla battling the first two forms of Mothra as an Egg and a Larvae, but we get the involvement of a third monster in Battra, the vicious giant catepillar (no doubt angry at not getting equal billling to his fellow stars). That initial conflict is somewhat lacklustre being fought in the open sea but it takes another mere half hour for true conflict to occur once Mothra is attacked and retreats to become its third form in the form of a giant moth.
And that is essentially the film. Admittedly no details have been revealed as to why Mothra (being a ‘good’ monster) attacks and is attacked, let alone to the relationship between Mothra and Battra and their relationship to the Cosmos, the source of much exposition about the two monsters and the premise through which the passion play against corporate and personal greed is played. It is, however, a complete sideshow to the main event that is the pyrotechnics behind the destruction of model buildings and military hardware that act as the arena to Giant Monsters slugging it out for no other reason than that they can.
In fact there is a certain amount of respect for the blithe willingness to destroy and explode such detailed models that look decent enough, although there is always something off about the light in these shots that make them stand out as not particularly convincing. The use of modeled shots as background to the fleeing hordes of Japanese extras also occassionally feel off because the falling debris fails to interact with the people onscreen just as models of aircraft sometimes bob along to their target before exploding in a ball of fire.
Godzilla vs Mothra: Battle for Earth is hardly a life changing film depite its preachiness but there is respect for its techincal achievements, which have made shows like Power Rangers a phenemenon in their own right. It’s never going to be a must see film for those without a predilection for such things but it pays much service to its fans in bringing two classic monsters together in the one film and contriving a reason for them to fight.