Mothra Leo goes on a nice tropical island vacation a year after his big fight in the last film, but finds himself up against an ancient civilization’s mutant sea monster. Poor kid can’t catch a break.
Rebirth of Mothra II abandons its predecessor’s anti-logging stance in favor of ocean preservation. It takes place on Ishigaki Island, and two of the bad guys are fishermen. The evil kaiju Dagahra is a sea-monster who consumes pollution and converts it into toxic starfish. Even the Elias sisters get in on the ocean-themed action with their new tropical color scheme. With nods to its theme both big and small, Rebirth II gets its message across much simpler and more coherently than the first.
The film centers around a little girl, Shiori Uranai, and her two bullies/friends from school. While going about their usual precocious business, they run into the cute little Ghogo creature, which leads them on an adventure involving the long lost Mu civilization and the treasure of Nirai Kanai. Naturally, they are assisted by the good Elias sisters, Lora and Moll. Evil Belvera sends two dopey fishermen after the kids to retrieve the treasure for herself. All of this is kicked off when Dagahra wakes up and goes about a slightly aimless rampage before throwing down with our hero, Mothra Leo.
Dagahra’s design doesn’t really sit well with me. His stubby forearms detract from the whole picture. I think he looks best in the shots underwater, where we don’t see much except his head and shoulder cannons. I’m fond of that style of limited reveal. His flight scenes are slightly better, but I can’t stand it when he crawls on the ground. His attacks, like the aforementioned shoulder cannons and the starfish tornado, are pretty cool for the most part.
Mothra Leo is back with all of his old powers and a few new surprises. Fight scenes are usually supposed to be exercises in escalation, with the audience believing that the villain has the upper hand until the hero pulls off a miracle. Rebirth II plays it the other way around. Leo pretty much dominates Dagahra for the most part, until the baddie pulls out the impressive-looking starfish tornado super move. After Leo’s upgrades, including the strange Aqua Mothra form, the fights just get even more one-sided. Because of this structure, I rarely felt invested in the film’s stakes on the kaiju level.
The human plot is your basic kid’s adventure story. I understand how that could turn some people off, but I think that’s like complaining about James Bond being an unrealistic depiction of spy work. Some stuff, in this case kids somehow surviving exploring the deadly ruins, is part and parcel for the genre. The human plot provides a sufficient framework for the kaiju element, but that’s about it.
All together, Rebirth of Mothra II’s does a good job of integrating its theme into every element, and having human characters that don’t clash with what’s going on around them. However, by playing it safe, it settles into mediocrity. None of the humans are distinctive because they’re just going through the motions. The Elias sisters are doing the exact same thing they did in the first, and we learn nothing about their history or relationship with Belvera. It paints by the numbers, and suffers for it.
Film Club Discussion Topic: What’s the best way for a kaiju film to approach the topic of pollution and manage to say something new or important?
Come back in two weeks for Rebirth of Mothra III.