mothra

Mothra (1996, Yoneda Okihiro)

Mothra has the arguably unlikely problem of having way too many good ideas at once. For over an hour, director Yoneda is able to keep all the balls in the air. Sure, things fall apart in the third act, but the pieces are still glorious and the first two acts are stupendous.

It’s a kids movie with giant monster fights. Suetani Masumi’s script acknowledges a handful of kaiju standards, but doesn’t try to fit them in. Even with a giant monster fight taking up the entire second half (or eighty-five percent of it), Yoneda and Suetani never get too far away from the kids. Yes, Mothra is the kids movie with the relatable kids having the adventure of their lives.

Only it starts–before the kaiju arrive in force–as this crazy kids movie where Fujisawa Maya gets evil powers and imprisons her mom and attacks her brother. Futami Kazuki plays the brother. He and Fujisawa are effective together, which is what Yoneda worries about more with the kids than good performances. He gets good performances out of their parents, especially mom Takahashi Hitomi. Nashimoto Kenjirô plays the dad. He’s a bit of a doof who works too much, which pisses off Takahashi. She’s got to worry about her family, worry about monsters, rescue her brainwashed husband. She’s got lots to do.

I’ve forgotten to mention the three sister fairies. Two good, one bad. It’s absurd and goofy and sort of wonderful. There are big action sequences with these doll-sized fairies flying around the family’s house having a laser battle. Yoneda is bold with these sequences. He’s not enthusiastic exactly, as he seems too aware of his budgetary constraints, but he’s definitely bold. These action scenes are good. They just have technical problems.

Then there’s Mothra, of course. She gets the hero role starting in the second act, doubling it up because there’s a larva version too. Yoneda goes for iconic with a lot of the Mothra shots, something Watanabe Toshiyuki’s score helps with a lot.

Mothra is a wild time with a weak third act. The narrative closes off far more naturally at the end of the second act, leaving the film scrambling to reestablish itself. It’s finish is rocky, but more successful than not.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Yoneda Okihio; written by Suetani Masumi; director of photography, Sekiguchi Yoshinori; edited by Ogawa Nobuo; music by Watanabe Toshiyuki; produced by Kitayama Hiroaki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Futami Kazuki (Taiki), Fujisawa Maya (Wakaba), Kobayashi Megumi (Moll), Yamaguchi Sayaka (Lora), Takahashi Hitomi (Mrs. Goto), Nashimoto Kenjirô (Mr. Goto), Tanaka Hiroko (Shiraishi) and Hano Aki (Belvera).


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