By: Donny Winter
The 90’s Mothra Trilogy are films that have been often overlooked by Godzilla fans in the past because they are aimed more toward young audiences with their whimsical stories and colorful spectacles. However, in recent years, they have received a bit more admiration considering they establish Mothra as one of the only Godzilla-franchise kaiju to star in solo films after having been incorporated in Toho’s Godzilla Cinematic Universe. Considering the upcoming film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), it’s possible that its creators may be paying homage to the underestimated trilogy in other ways: through the MonsterVerse designs and personalities of Mothra and King Ghidorah.
In the introductory film of the trilogy, Mothra (1996), also known as Rebirth of Mothra, kaiju fans are introduced to a sinister “cousin” of King Ghidorah known as Death Ghidorah, or sometimes referred to as Desghidorah. This adversary proves to be one of the most powerful and unique versions of Ghidorah considering its diverse (and deadly) abilities. Additionally, it is quadrupedal, much darker in color, and more rugged in texture.
Despite some of Death Ghidorah’s body-design differences, it’s arguable that its facial design has served as inspiration for MonsterVerse King Ghidorah’s facial structure. It’s known that this new, Americanized King Ghidorah is brought to life with motion capture effects, so each head has slightly different features. Despite this, the wideness of King Ghidorah’s jaws reflect the wideness of Death Ghidorah’s. Dominantly, prior renditions of King Ghidorah have relatively narrow jaws, including the version featured in the final film of the trilogy, Mothra 3 (1998). Complimentarily, this new Ghidorah’s eyes are were designed with a red-tint, just as Death Ghidorah’s. It also appears that at least one of King Ghidorah’s heads (left in the photo above) has horns closely based on Death Ghidorah’s thick, short horns.
The culmination of the similarities between these two may only be revealed on film in the form of their intended personality. Death Ghidorah is depicted as malevolent, almost finding satisfaction in the destruction it creates, along with the harm it inflicts on Mothra. In fact, the same behavioral observation could be made about King Ghidorah’s violent behavior in Mothra 3. Likewise, in Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailers, King Ghidorah is also seen exhibiting similar malicious behavior in the revealed, yet short battle sequences.
Additionally, it’s strongly possible that Mothra’s design in this ever growing MonsterVerse may have been inspired by her diverse appearances throughout the Mothra Trilogy. In Mothra (1996), the audience is introduced to the first Mothra whose design deviates from original: Mothra Leo. This version sports an appearance favoring earth-tones, has thicker antennae, and has slightly slanted eyes. In Mothra 2 (1997) and Mothra (1998), various transformations shift this Mothra’s colors into a bluer-range, also culminating in a sleeker appearance with longer legs in the final film.
Analogous to Mothra 3’s Rainbow Mothra, Legendary’s version of Mothra has wing patterns favoring blues, greens, and reds. Many may draw attention to the difference in shades, but aside from this version of Mothra, no other has favored any shade of blue as heavily as these. Additionally, the slanted eyes, thick antennae, and sleeker legs in MonsterVerse Mothra echo those of Rainbow Mothra as noted in the comparison above. Despite film producers noting the inspiration taken from the original 1961 Mothra, coloring, wing-shape, facial structure, and body design seem to largely favor Rainbow Mothra’s.
Consequently, observing MonsterVerse Mothra’s agile and benevolently aggressive behavior in various TV spots and trailers may also suggest inspiration taken from Mothra 3’s Rainbow Mothra. In the trilogy, Mothra does not exhibit these qualities until facing the Cretaceous version of King Ghidorah after time traveling to a point in history when a younger, less powerful Ghidorah existed. One well-remembered moment of the film is their violent battle during those ancient times, where Mothra uses claws to physically injure Ghidorah in close-quarter combat. This typically uncharacteristic battle moment may have inspired the need for MonsterVerse Mothra to have longer legs and a more instinctively aggressive personality, considering prior forms of Mothra never utilize such battle tactics.
Despite much of this being speculation based in observation, it would be difficult to imagine Michael Dougherty and his team overlooking the adaptations of both iconic kaiju in the 90’s Mothra films. Perhaps these films deserve a second chance seeing as they contain pivotal moments where the kaiju are arguably given more personality, intent, and motivation than prior adaptations. After all these years, perhaps these films are getting the credit they deserve as creative source material fueling the MonsterVerse adaptations of Mothra and King Ghidorah
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