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What Are Mothra and Rodan's Roles in Godzilla: King of the Monsters?

This week, the second trailer for next year's eagerly anticipated Godzilla: King of the Monsters premiered, revealing a whole host of kaiju to join in the sequel to 2014's Godzilla reboot. Among the kaiju (called "titans" in the film's fiction) were Mothra and Rodan. The two titans were each teased in promos leading up to the trailer's release, including one that proclaimed the high-flying Mothra to be the "Queen of the Monsters," but their larger roles in the film remain a mystery. Interestingly, while both characters have somewhat heroic backgrounds in the original Godzilla films, the footage seen in the trailer positions them as potentially destructive forces threatening to wipe out humanity.

While fellow titans King Ghidorah and Kumonga, both also briefly seen in the trailer, have traditionally been depicted as irredeemably destructive villains, Mothra has almost always been seen fighting in defense of humanity. This trend appears to continue in the new film, with the winged titan seen emerging from her larval form only to be approached by a group of people nearby, all while the surrounding area is bathed in a soft, luminescent glow. It is also worth pointing out that 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla, the first film to feature a crossover between the two monsters, painted Mothra as the hero of the film, with her offspring ultimately defeating Godzilla and saving Japan.

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More ambiguous still is the role of Rodan, seen in the trailer erupting from a fiery volcano and laying waste to a nearby village. Later sequences show the military attacking the prehistoric beast, though it appears completely unfazed. More of an antihero than Mothra, Rodan is usually depicted as more of a rival to Godzilla, with the two behemoths usually only joining forces to stop a greater threat. 1964's Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster not only featured the debut of King Ghidorah, but also introduced the first crossover with Rodan.

The 1964 film perhaps contains the most clues regarding how King of the Monsters will unfold. The film sees Godzilla and Rodan battle it out for destructive supremacy, only to realize they both run the risk of being overpowered by Ghidorah after it effortlessly defeats Mothra. While Godzilla and Rodan will presumably be at odds over the course of King of the Monsters, Mothra's selfless nobility and Ghidorah's unsurpassed power could lead to a retread of the earlier film, updated for modern sensibilities.

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Audiences have been aware of plans to return Mothra and Rodan to the big screen since images of the two were first shown in promo materials announcing Godzilla: King of the Monsters. An official plot synopsis released at the start of principal photography last year confirmed their involvement, too. Their impending arrival was further teased on screen in the post-credits scene for last year's Kong: Skull Island, which introduced the secret organization Monarch and classified images of the two monsters, along with King Ghidorah.

While the exact nature of Mothra and Rodan's roles remain a mystery for now, audiences only need to look to past films in the iconic franchise to get an idea of how the reintroduced monsters will likely figure into the sequel. Godzilla may be the eponymous king of the monsters, but he'll need all the help he can get if he hopes to defeat King Ghidorah and defend Earth.

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Directed by Michael Dougherty, Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Vera Farmiga, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, Charles Dance, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Aisha Hinds and Zhang Ziyi. The film opens May 31, 2019.

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