The fourth film in the Godzilla franchise, Mothra vs. Godzilla (initially released in the states as Godzilla vs. The Thing) marked a brief snap-back in the franchise. While the previous film went on to become the highest grossing entry of all time, it was more of an action adventure film with some comedic touches more prominent in the Japanese version. Mothra vs. Godzilla brings back a scarier, antagonistic Godzilla, who terrorizes Japan, with the only hope being another Toho superstar: Mothra. Known as Mosura tai Gojira in Japan.
It is the first movie in the franchise to have been brought overseas to the U.S. without excessive re-editing, remaining mostly intact other than a few cuts here and there and the obvious title change, in addition to the inclusion a scene cut from the Japanese release, intended only for export.
The film also marked actor Akira Takarada's first return to the franchise since the orignal Godzilla (1954). He would later appear in Invasion of Astro-Monster, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, the film's '90s remake, and Godzilla: Final Wars.
One of the most beloved entries among fans and critics and often a gateway to the franchise. Currently has a 89 percent out of nine reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Followed by Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
The film provides examples of:
- American Kirby Is Hardcore: The original American marketing for Mothra vs. Godzilla renamed the movie to Godzilla vs. The Thing, teased on posters as a tentacled monstrosity so horrifically obscene it had to be censored for the sake of the faint-hearted. But more likely, the distributors didn't want to admit Godzilla's opponents were a bunch of giant moths (which are actually peaceful and not even slightly scary) in the actual film. Later home video releases re-instated the original title.
- Asshole Victim: Torahata and Kumayama, about midway through the film, once the human plot is mostly done and the kaiju plot is taking center stage.
- Beam Spam: How Godzilla eventually overpowers and kills the adult Mothra.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Kumayama and Torahata initially form a Big Bad Duumvirate, while Godzilla shows up later and also shares the role of the main antagonist. Eventually though, Kumayama and Torahata are both killed half-way through the film (the latter of which is killed by Godzilla himself), leaving Godzilla as the sole antagonist.
- Big Budget Beef-Up: While the previous film was this to Godzilla Raids Again, Mothra vs. Godzilla continues to up the level of craftsmanship present in miniatures, optical compositing, character design, and the overall scope of the production. It's certainly the best looking of Toho's three 1964 sci-fi flicks.
- Bystander Syndrome: Originally, when the protagonists go to Infant Island to beg Mothra and the fairies to intervene, the natives aren't willing to help. After all, they point out, the people of Japan just refused to aid them in their hour of need. However, Junko's speech at the top of the page shames them into giving aid, and ultimately both sides get what they want: a dead (or at least pacified) Godzilla, and a saved egg whose children are back where they belong.
- Chekhov's Gun: The young reporter is first shown eating hard-boiled eggs.
- Continuity Nod: Godzilla's weakness to electricity from King Kong vs. Godzilla carries over to this film.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Torahata uses Kumayama as his pawn and later brushes off their financial partnership as if nothing happened, coveting Kumayama's money and not giving him even a promised cent. When an angry Kumayama confronts him, Torahata murders him with a bullet to the head and tries to use Godzilla's appearance as a getaway, but he is too late.
- Covers Always Lie: The US marketing campaign and poster art depicted Mothra as an entirely different, tentacled monster that towers over Godzilla called "The Thing", a monster so terrifying that the art of it had to be censored—quite the opposite of Mothra herself, who is a good monster who isn't remotely terrifying.
- Crisis Cross Over: Toho's monster movies began linking here.
- Curbstomp Battle: Mothra holds herself against Godzilla fairly well, subduing him with poisonous pollen, until Godzilla completely changes the tides when he finally scores a hit with his heat-ray.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Mothra's poison dust. Like a real lepidopteran, Mothra cannot live for long after the dust leaves its wings, and it perishes next to its egg shortly after leaving Godzilla in a heap on the ground. Godzilla gets back up, but quickly makes a beeline away from the egg.
- Darker and Edgier: While humor is juxtaposed in a very similar fashion to the previous film, King Kong vs. Godzilla didn't have an onscreen murder.
- The plight of the Infant Islanders is a far cry from the comic relief interactions with the Faro Islanders.
- Dark Reprise: Of Mothra's Song from the original Mothra.
- Da Editor: Sakai's editor Maruta, played by Toho sci-fi regular Jun Tazaki.Nakamura: I'm not as afraid of Godzilla as I am of the editor. He's meaner.
- Death by Materialism: Kumayama and Torahata. Torahata especially, as he saw Godzilla coming early enough he could've run and saved himself, but stopping to kill Kumayama and escape with the money slowed him down and resulted in his death.
- Defeating the Undefeatable: The Mothra Larvae against Godzilla.
- Dub Name Change: Averted with the U.S. version. While the title does change Mothra's name to "The Thing", the movie itself sort of combines both into a full name, with the characters referring to her as "Mothra, the Thing".
- Eagleland: A solid Type 1 example in the American cut. The American navy not only lends Japan its new Frontier missiles to use on Godzilla, but its leaders urge the Japanese military to take steps to avoid collateral damage from its destructive power. It ultimately proves useless, but it's the thought that counts.
- Hate Sink: Torahata clearly comes across as the most despicable villain of the picture, despite Godzilla's rampage. After all, Godzilla is, ultimately, either just a dumb animal following his instincts, or an angry yet sentient creature lashing out over not being left in peace.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Mothra exhausts herself to death battling Godzilla, but she manages to buy time for her egg to hatch. She also came to fight Godzilla and protect humanity knowing in her old age she was going to die.
- Importation Expansion: Although a few brief shots and scenes were cut from AIP's release, Godzilla vs. The Thing features a deleted scene only present in it and other international releases: Godzilla under fire on the coast from the U.S. Navy's new Frontier class missiles. Are they effective in halting him? Well, you can guess for yourself.
- It Only Works Once: Averted again, though only partially. The military comes very close to actually killing Godzilla with million volt currents of crackling death, but a last minute, extremely poor decision-making lets the trope play itself straight.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Torahata, moments after murdering his "business partner" and trying to abscond with the literally blood-stained cash, is crushed under a collapsing building as Godzilla lumbers past.
- Mama Bear: Mothra is out to save the mainland, but takes it very personally when Godzilla sights her egg and tries to crack it open to eat.
- Mood Whiplash: When the scientists inspect the reclaimed beachfront for signs for radiation, everything becomes quiet. Cue Godzilla popping out of the ground after being buried in the sand, presumably by the typhoon.
- The deaths of Torahata and Kumayama to the rest of the movie, which follow the latter brutally bearing the former up so hard Torahata bleeds profusely from his nose, then the former shooting the latter in cold blood, complete with Pretty Little Headshots.
- Multistage Teleport: The Shobijin travel this way due to the limited distance their teleportation allows. Being little wingless fairies, they have to rely on short-range teleportation to move long distances faster and more safely. For moving across lengthier distances, like from their homeland of Infant Island to Japan and back, they ask the help of humans or Mothra herself.
- No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-Universe, Ichiro laments that every article he writes about Kumayama holding Mothra's egg and refusing to return it only gives him free publicity.
- One-Steve Limit: Averted. Both Nakamura the egg-loving reporter and Torahata the greedy businessman have the first name Jiro.
- Outside-Context Villain: In the beginning it just seems like a straightforward sequel to Mothra and then Godzilla just pops out of the ground and it becomes a Godzilla movie.
- Rearrange the Song: Godzilla's theme has been altered, with a more menacing arrangement for the famous opening portion, and a more focused rewrite of the march segment, which stands in as the JSDF's theme.
- Running Gag: Nakamura's obsession with eggs.
- Self-Disposing Villain: Torahata and Kumayama destroy one another with their greed.
- Shooting Superman: Notable for being one of the few times in the series that the military's plans seem close to working. Once Mothra works herself to death battling Godzilla, the JSDF manages to cover the creature in highly conductive metal nets and set about frying him with massive "artificial lightning" towers. Unfortunately, well, see Tim Taylor Technology.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The film hews towards cynicism due to the military having no way of defeating Godzilla. However, it ends on a rather high note as the Mothra twins manage to subdue him.
- Smug Snake: Torahata and Kumayama aren't nearly as clever as they think they are, and their attempts to double-cross each other end in the deaths of both.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The Shobijin continue to sing Mahara Mothra while Ifukube's discordant Godzilla theme blares over the soundtrack.
- Tim Taylor Technology: The downfall of the otherwise-successful lightning and metal nets plan: an impatient commander urges his men to increase the voltage above the safety limits, leading to a broken town and a free and very angry Godzilla.
- Worf Had the Flu: It's noted that the imago Mothra is already on her death bed before even confronting Godzilla and the Shobijin outright say she'd have died anyway even if she won. As such, while she puts up one heck of a fight, she would've done better if she were in her prime.