Oceanside combat highlights this passable, if tired, Mothra follow-up
Rebirth of Mothra II is a simple and soft follow-up, recasting human characters and placing them in the midst of a rampage by a cantankerous water beast known as Dagahara. A change in locale to a mystical lost island spawns harmlessly energetic Saturday morning entertainment but without the stamina to carry it through. Mothra’s perkiness can only go so far.
Shiori (Hikari Mitsushima) leads a cast of children in a treasure hunt through colorful production design to spur on this limited adventure. With her is Gorgo, a cheapie puppet designed for maximum adorableness. It’s not as if kids will be bothered by Gorgo’s lack of animatronics as it hops around to comedic effect anyway.
Eventually, Mothra II begins a course of inventiveness, bringing in mystical princesses and false history to bulk up the legitimacy of a gargantuan moth spitting lasers at an angry flying lizard. This Mothra excursion, the final production of Godzilla mastermind Tomoyuki Tanaka, is fond of simplicity – simple enough to be speaking down to most kids in its age demographic.
Despite some surprising levels of bloodshed, few twists await. Mothra II casts its villains broadly, and no one is going to mistake the city smashing, pollution munching Dagahara as a heroic critter. It’s pre-chewed to all be digestible.
Masumi Suetani returns with scripting duties, all of his work eventually superseded by an exchange of rumbling kaiju as they devastate an ancient underwater artifact. But, it’s pleasing compared to the first Rebirth which was seemingly handcuffed to repetitious forests. Dagahara is allowed to leave the ocean’s crevice for some Okinawan vacationing via some sharp analog compositing. The intended audience will see one of their schools smashed in miniature, which would probably make the unwieldy monster more of their hero.
By its end, the feature is chaotically doing whatever it wants to do. Fantasy allows such leeway. Mothra II goes so far as to mimic Hollywood’s 70mm splendor with a parting of the ocean, and then transforms the title insect into an aquatic bug – because it can. Actors enter stand by as Mothra enacts her world saving heroism by firing off beam weapons of unknown origins, but at least it’s colorfully explosive.
Behind-the-scenes complexities or not, what’s on screen appears too roped off from any deep metaphors. A sliver of ecological-based hand slapping seems forgotten in the torrent of endless water splashes. Mothra II is the non-distinctive middle child of this small trilogy.
Sony debuts the film on Blu-ray by doubling up, sticking Mothra II on the same disc with its sequel, obviously called Mothra III. Space should not be a concern; after all, Rebirth of Mothra may have had its own disc, but it was only a BD-25 and length here is identical. However, in execution, the encode does feel a touch pinched by space. Grain feels stuffy without being cleanly resolved.
The film is a definite challenge given the wealth of special effects. A notable softness will carry through to every scene featuring any composites or other post production effect. In addition, resolution is not particularly high in the first place. Mastering work is tepid, which is likely the counter effect of dated mastering. No processing has been added. That’s a clear bonus.
Colors have aged with the print, carrying a hint of fading as primaries lack zest. Gamma levels seem low outside of the dazzling brightness put out by the beam weapons. Contrast thus feels week. Black levels have few opportunities to dazzle as Mothra II is predominately constructed from brighter or natural lighting schemes, although opening moments in space do feature a perfect, dense level of black.
Despite the mistakes, fidelity is the key loss. Outside of a few close-ups, the fuzzy nature of the print appears unguided by modern scanning techniques, Mothra II is likely to have carried a purposeful lack of sharpness to appeal to the hazy magical quality. Even still, that effect does not translate.
Questionable mastering carries into audio work, burying many of the sound effects to the point where they often don’t exist. A swelling of fire after an explosion, which begins a chase through a hallway, is hardly noticeable on the Japanese track. Switching to the dub, there is some sound evident yet still without power.
Both the original language and dub mixes are DTS-HD 2.0, with a touch of stereo channel split. Some dialog travels into the sides pleasantly and action will use the channels as needed. While hardly considered dynamic, there is a touch of energy to be found here and clarity is exceptional. Toshiyuki Watanabe’s bright score is the stand out.
Four trailers, three teasers and a final, are included specifically for Mothra II and become the only bonuses.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.