Mothra 3: Invasion of King Ghidorah (1998) Movie Review

For the final film in the “Mothra” trilogy, Toho Co. decided to use fan favorite monster King Ghidorah to end the series with a flourish. Sadly, this film doesn’t live up to anyone”˜s expectations. With a confusing storyline and poor special effects, the movie ends the series with a whimper instead of a bang.

The film begins with a fiery meteorite crashing to Earth, carrying King Ghidorah within it. We are told that Ghidorah was responsible for the mass extinction of the dinosaurs on Earth millions of years ago, and has now returned in the present day with the same fate in mind for humanity. As Earth’s defender, Mothra arrives to fight King Ghidorah, but is easily defeated. In order to defeat his foe, Mothra must journey back to prehistoric times and destroy that first — and less powerful — incarnation of King Ghidorah.

What truly stands out are the monster suits sculpted for this film. King Ghidorah is given a fantastic and evil design, truly a cruel and malevolent work of art. The prehistoric version of Ghidorah is equally as impressive, as well as being impressively detailed. Both incarnations of the villain display a wicked magnificence that personifies him as pure villainy. Mothra also looks better for her final solo outing. Her wings move more convincingly and the suit looks more textured and realistic. Her armored form in the finale is fiercely sleek and the best she has ever looked in any film. All Mothra and King Ghidorah need is a good movie to go with their good looks.

Unfortunately the script is frequently illogical, with plot holes large enough to march a parade through. When King Ghidorah is rampaging through cities, the armed forces are never called out to stop him. Watching the film, you get the impression that aside from the main characters, no one else is terribly concerned about King Ghidorah and impending extinction. The film tries to insert a message about individuality, but that is soon abandoned. Mothra’s journey to the past is also quite confusing; it is never really explained how she could journey millions of years back and forth through time. When King Ghidorah regenerates from a small piece of his tail, it makes the previous battle pointless and Mothra’s efforts futile. The film tells us that King Ghidorah derives his power from innocent children, but if so where did he get his power in the age of the dinosaurs? How does Ghidorah manage to reappear minutes after his modern counterpart disappears? Some careful script doctoring could have salvaged this film into a decent movie, but it’s a shame no one bothered to do so.

While the monster suits are fantastic, the rest of the special effects are anything but. The computer generated effects mesh poorly with the live action footage, appearing cartoonish and superimposed. Mothra’s computer generated trip to the past looks more animated than realistic. The prehistoric scenes are laughably bad; especially the foolish looking dinosaur puppets and the toy Tyrannosaurus Ghidorah eats. A film like this needs realistic looking special effects to help the audience suspend disbelief and be drawn into the story. “Mothra 3” lacks that, much to the movie’s detriment. If the monster onscreen doesn’t look real, how is the audience suppose to believe it is real?

A good musical score would have helped, but that’s lacking as well. Occasionally, the score lends atmosphere to scenes, but for the most part it’s ineffectual. This is especially evident when King Ghidorah is onscreen; there are no dark and ominous music accompanying his appearances, as there should have been. His menace is entirely visual, with no music to accentuate his evil. The editing is poorly done, and occasionally causes continuity errors to occur. The crux of these problems is the limited resources invested in the production. Toho Co. obviously put less of an effort into the film than they did their recent “Godzilla” films. “Mothra 3” has the feel of being hurried, and it shows.

It’s a shame to go into a film with high hopes, only to have them dashed, but that’s what happens with “Mothra 3”. What could have been a fine kaiju film instead became a quick fix for “Godzilla” fans in-between sequels. Mothra and King Ghidorah deserved a lot better.

Okihiro Yoneda (director) / Masumi Suetani (screenplay)
CAST: Megumi Kobayashi …. Moll
Misato Tate …. Lora
Aki Hano …. Belvera
Atsushi Onita

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