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Installment #21, and now deep into the increasingly comforting Heisei era. Now with a new familiar face (or whatever it is Mothra has). #21: Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth.

As I have said of the Heisei era already, the special effects are perfect. Godzilla looks better as a man in a costume, and practical effects have – for the last 48 years – been the very heart and soul of Godzilla. Realism is not a concern in Godzilla movies. If a sense of scale is achieved, then you’ve done your job. And a sense of scale can easily be achieved with non-CGI special effects. Compare the ’90s Godzilla films to something like Pacific Rim, which was achieved with mostly CGI. The camera in that film was perhaps a little too dynamic. It swooped and dipped, and lost a lot of cinematic clarity in the process. Monster fights need to be staged like dancing or kung-fu. We need to see the actors from head to toe, on a clear plane, with a sense of who is where, and what is happening to what monster. Also, Godzilla needs to punch a creature.

Since Godzilla is not a noble defender in the Heisei era (in the Showa era, he was kind of like Japan’s bouncer), but the villain of the series, it seems appropriate that we should eventually run across Mothra again as a monster counterpoint. Mothra, if you’ll recall, is the only monster in the Toho canon who is wholly benevolent. Mothra looks cooler this time around, with more colors and bigger wings. This will be the first Godzilla film wherein Mothra will start the film as a little brown larva, and become Mothra during the course of the film. I’m surprised we haven’t seen that before. Mothra still communicates with humans using a pair of twin fairies, this time plays by pop duo The Cosmos (Keiko Imamura and Sayaka Osawa). If Mothra ever appears in an American version of Godzilla, I want the Mothra fairies to be played by Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson from The B-52’s.

Battle for Earth Godzilla

In this film, Godzilla is rampaging for no reason. As is his God-given right. A falling meteor also releases a creature named Battra which is, as The Cosmos explains, a spirit of vengeance sent to destroy all those foolhardy enough to try to change the weather. Battra wasn’t around when mad scientists were trying to do that in Son of Godzilla. Battra is a giant spiny caterpillar that is essentially Mothra’s evil twin. Battra will also cocoon himself and emerge as an evil bat-like moth monster with hyperbeams.

Battra and Godzilla fight in the middle of a big city, because that’s what monsters do. Mothra appears to talk (shriek?) some sense into these two. She is partly successful, eventually convincing Battra to carry Godzilla away from the humans, and leave the puny ones safe from the monster destruction. Although Godzilla manages to nuclear blast the heck out of Battra on the way out to sea, and Battra dies. How tragic. Just when he was learning to be good.

Battle for Earth Battra

Miki (Megumi Odaka, only 20 at time of production) will appear in six of the eight Heisei films, and she will always serve less as a vital plot functionary than a mere witness to the monster mayhem. She has a psychic bond with monsters, so in a way, she is the one giving a human face to the mayhem. I have previously compared her to The Watcher in Marvel Comics.

I like Battle for Earth just fine, although it doesn’t possess the fun craziness of the previous film. In the next film, however, everyone’s favorite mechanical bitchslap will return…

Up next: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)