In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the Monster-verse is expanding with three kaiju brethren joining Godzilla and King Kong. Among them is Mothra, one of the more famous of Toho's monsters, and an old friend of Godzilla's. Starring in Warner Bros. and Legendary's blockbuster sequel means a lot of new eyes on the oversized bug, but the creature has been a pillar of the kaiju genre for quite some time.
Indeed, Mothra's history in the realm of giant beasts stomping all over the world is decades old, and a lot of it is tied directly to Godzilla itself. What's more, Mothra is one of the more interesting additions to the overall roster, having a pronounced quasi-supernatural element and being a more direct representation of the wonder of Mother Earth.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters will be a defining chapter in the ethereal creation's existence, being the biggest stage and, likely, audience she's ever had. Here's a look back at Mothra and Godzilla's time together so far.
- This Page: Mothra And Godzilla's Previous Encounters
- Page 2: What Mothra's History Tells Us About King of the Monsters
Mothra And Godzilla's Previous Encounters
Mothra's first big screen appearance came in a movie of the same name in 1961. Directed by Ishiro Honda and written for the screen by Shin'ichi Sekizawa, Mothra is an adaptation of the serialized novel The Luminous Fairies and Mothra by Takehiko Fukanaga, Shinichiro Nakamura, and Yoshie Hotta. Intended as a change from the norm of Toho's monster pictures to date, Mothra is a giant bug instead of a dinosaur or dragon, and she's always been explicitly female.
Her origin is essentially a riff on King Kong; the egg that will hatch the giant moth is worshiped as a god by a population who live on an isolated tropical island (known as Infant Island), and interference from greedy travelers causes the creature to lash out and nearly level a city. But where it differs from King Kong is an explicitly magical element that includes telepathy and two fairy keepers (12” tall creatures that Mothra responds to called the Shobijin), and the overarching backdrop of radiation from nuclear tests that Rodan and Godzilla also already used.
A mainstay of the Showa period of the 1960s, Mothra made several appearances throughout the decade. Her return after her titular outing was 1964's Mothra Vs. Godzilla, wherein the bug is tasked with protecting the city of Nagoya from the rampaging lizard. Here, it's clarified that Mothra can reproduce through laying eggs, and that as the movies go on, there will be new generations of the Monster Goddess. The original Mothra, already dying of old age, is killed by Godzilla's atomic breath, but an egg of hers hatches to spawn a pair of massive larvae who manage to ward off the big G, sending them back into the ocean.
That picture preceded Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster in December 1964, the central inspiration for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There, Mothra is the one pure protagonist of the four beasts, trying to get everyone together to stop Ghidorah destroying earth. Godzilla and Rodan are too caught up in their own feud and destruction to care, forcing the larval Mothra to take on Ghidorah herself and lose. The other two, inspired to see a greater good through Mothra's sacrifice, come together and the three see Ghidorah off in magnanimous fashion, the larva riding Rodan's back to plant the multi-headed monstrosity with her webbing ability.
In 1966, a fully-grown Mothra assists Godzilla in battling the deep-sea monster Ebirah in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, before most of the kaiju roster to date would star in 1968's Destroy All Monsters, one of the defining and final works of the Showa era. A new larval Mothra attacks Beijing as part of the international onslaught the monsters of Monster Island inflict while under the control of the alien race the Kilaaks, eventually helping to take down both Ghidorah and the Kilaaks' Fire Dragon in the climactic battle.
Mothra would remain dormant for over two years before returning in 1992's Godzilla Vs. Mothra. The Heisei period of the mid-eighties through the nineties brought a new canon to Toho's franchise, and Mothra's origin was now as a guardian of an ancient race of people on earth who battle and defeated Battra, the black Mothra. This movie features another Mothra born from an egg and details the cocoon stage on-screen, seeing the larva growing to become the giant, wondrous moth. Joining forces with the back-from-the-dead Battra, the two defeat Godzilla, who had been rebooted to be more villainous.
She then got her own trilogy beginning with 1996's Return of Mothra that establishes its own continuity. Here, the hero is known as Mothra Leo, in a story spanning two time periods, modern day and the Cretaceous period. Mothra Leo defeats classic kaiju Desghidorah, newer pollution-based beast Dagahra and, finally, King Ghidorah in a self-sacrificing end to the arc. Mothra features prominently in the Millenium era too, most notably defeating Gigan in the explosive Godzilla: Final Wars, the 2004 blockbuster that celebrated 50 years of the Godzilla franchise.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) release date: May 31, 2019
- Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020