Discovering the stand alone Mothra trilogy is like finding $20 in your pocket. It’s such an wonderful surprise being treated to something you never expected. That is what Rebirth of Mothra promises for any kaiju fan, with Mothra/Godzilla enthusiasts getting a particular kick out of it.
Director: Okihiro Yoneda
Writers: Masumi Suetani
Run Time: 106 minutes
Japanese Theatrical Release: December 14, 1996; Toho
Any potential turn-off could be the overall tone of the film. Rebirth of Mothra leans more toward family friendly content than Toho’s concurrent Godzilla series. Children serve as the protagonists; they encounter fairies who warn that the logging company their father works for threatens to awaken an ancient monster. Naturally that monster is nonetheless disturbed and it is up to Mothra and her son “Mothra Leo” to save the earth. There is nothing groundbreaking about the story and it delivers the kind of didactic environmental themes one might expect from a kid’s movie. Where Rebirth truly excels, however, is its reinvention of the Mothra legend, expanding the possibilities of the Queen of the Monsters. Mothra Leo, for example, is a revelation. Not only is his creature design slick and colorful, but he is given fighting abilities such as energy beams.
A common (but perhaps misguided) criticism of Mothra is the kaiju’s apparent weakness. She flaps, she flies, she can grab hold of monsters twice her size, but is often defeated in the end. Mothra Leo, however, is an upgrade in this realm; he can clearly go toe-to-toe with any enemy. In Rebirth that enemy is Desghidorah, a more bestial version of King Ghidorah. Like the space dragon, Desghidorah quickly establishes itself as a memorable force to be reckoned with. The fights between it and Mothra Leo are a dazzling spectacle of lasers, rays, and explosions. Grade-A kaiju action. Additionally, however pedestrian the human story may be, it is serviceable; the inclusion of an evil fairy adds substantial conflict and fun camp.
Rebirth of Mothra makes a strong impression for fans of the genre. If you don’t mind the family-friendly tone, then you will enjoy a colorful, campy film that gives Mothra the credit she deserves.
by Vincent S. Hannam