Kaiju Appreciations; Death Ghidorah

Got another Kaiju Appreciation up over the weekend, this one for Mothra Leo’s first opponent, Death Ghidorah.

So, Death Ghidorah heralds from the first of the Rebirth of Mothra trilogy, which spun off Mothra in a whole different direction. The twin fairies are now an older and younger sister duo, with a third, evil sister working against them. The older, female Mothra dies half way through the first film and is replaced for the rest of the trilogy with her son, Mothra Leo (the first definitely male version of Mothra), and the series focuses primarily on child protagonists, evironmental messages, and a procession of different dragons for Mothra to fight.

The first of these is Death Ghidorah, who is apparently some kind of relative of King Ghidorah, though far less powerful (King Ghidorah himself makes a triumphant return as the villain of the third film of the trilogy). According to the film, he both wiped out life on Mars and killed the dinosaurs before the Mothras of that era succeeded in sealing him away. Belvera, the evil third sister, lets him out again in a bid to wipe out humanity and rule the world (this is her goal in the first two films, which is pretty funny given that she stands about eight-inches tall).

Anyway, the film itself is pretty lackluster, with very irritating child protagonists and a thuddingly heavy-handed environmentalist message (which, bizarrely, ends with the parents ascribing themselves the blame for the devastation wrought by Death Ghidorah), and monster fights that, like many of this era, rely too heavily on animated beam weapons. However, Death Ghidorah himself is a pretty solid monster with a very impressive design, being a quadrupedal, black-and-gray variant of Ghidorah with fire-based powers. He drains energy from living things around him, in this case the forests of Hokkaido (there’s no building destruction here, save for a dam) and proves a pretty brutal opponent for Mothra and her son. Unfortunately, his sound design isn’t as successful, as his roars are just a slightly distorted elephant.

(Another point in the film’s favor, by the way, is Mothra’s death scene, which is honestly heartbreaking.)

You know, watching over the monster scenes while making this video, I wondered at how effective I found them. The kaiju don’t look at all ‘real’ in the sense of convincing, but even trying to get myself to laugh at the effects and enter into that sort of mindset I couldn’t do it. I think it goes back to the idea of puppetry. At the end of the day, the suitimation kaiju are essentially puppets, but the thing about a puppet is that you often stop really thinking about it as an artificial effect and simply accept it as a character. Because people are very good at anthropomorphizing and ascribing personality to things – whether animals or objects – and this is just an extension of that. Mothra’s design here isn’t the best (both she and her son look too much like plush toys), but she’s still there, a real, tangible object on screen. That, I usually find, makes a big difference in accepting a special effect.

Besides which, the imagery of ‘giant moth vs. dragon’ is so primal and potent that I couldn’t help getting swept up in it. This, honestly, feels more mythic in tone and presentation than modern CG monsters ever do; there’s something of archaic art about it, where questions of scale and proportion and verisimilitude simply don’t enter into it. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s something there.

Anyway, digression aside, for this video I decided to go with Rob Zombie’s Dragula. I’d intended to use that for some monster or other, and the line “conquering the worm” made it necessary to use one of Mothra’s enemies. I debated a bit whether to use this for Death Ghidorah or Dagharah (or even King Ghidorah himself), but the main motifs of the song are fire and death / undeath / gothic, so I finally decided it would be a perfect fit for Death Ghidorah.


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