Kaiju Profile: MUTO
Written by Astounding Beyond Belief, The King of the Monsters, Titanollante
Edited, narrated by Titanollante
Hello kaiju fans, it's Titano, here to take a look at some Permian parasites: the MUTOs!
Like many American Godzilla stories before it, Legendary Pictures' 2014 "Godzilla" movie introduced all-new adversaries for the King of the Monsters. The MUTOs were the spawn of and a subspecies to a Titan called Jinshin-Mushi, or MUTO Prime, which laid its spores inside the corpses of the Titans it killed. In 1999, a mining operation in the Philippines stumbled upon spores containing a male and female MUTO, who then grew by absorbing man-made radiation, terrorized Japan and the United States, and were ultimately slain by Godzilla in San Francisco. Their name, an acronym for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, is a catchall term used by the secret organization Monarch for monsters with no proper given name. In the June 20th, 2012 draft of "Godzilla," the "T" in "MUTO" instead stands for "Target," while the two creatures have individual names. The male is called Hokmuto—after the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where he fed on a nuclear power plant—and the female is called Femuto.
In David Callaham's original story for "Godzilla," the King of the Monsters faced the ancient six-legged Rokmutul. Josh Nizzi designed it and a winged monster simply named Pterodactyl in the spring of 2011. When Legendary brought director Gareth Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein aboard the project, they thought up the MUTOs while contemplating the reason why another monster would be Godzilla's natural enemy.
Concept artist Matt Allsopp, working with Edwards, did the majority of the design work on the MUTOs. As was the case for Godzilla, many individual MUTO concepts leaned heavily on a certain type of animal. Influences on the final design included the skin of rhinos and elephants, the markings of praying mantises, beetles, and butterflies, and the wings of bats. The male's wings were also modeled on stealth aircraft, following an earlier design by Allsopp inspired by the X-wing fighters from "Star Wars."
To create the MUTOs' roars, sound designer Erik Aadahl drew from "a very territorial bird," elephants blowing air out of their trunks, and a few more mundane noises. [Erik Aadahl:] "Certain stutter-y vocals and chatters really kind of glued into them and felt right…"
Legendary assigned the animation of "Godzilla"'s creatures to the London-based visual effects house Moving Picture Company, or MPC. Like most modern-day Hollywood monsters, the MUTO seen onscreen are 100% keyframe animation. However, MPC's artists also used movement references from real actors, much like Disney used to. The male's actor wore a set of wings, while the female's actor was equipped with a prosthetic pair of extra legs and used crutches as extensions for his arms in order to allow him to knuckle-walk. TJ Storm played Godzilla, but doesn't recall the names of the MUTO actors he worked with. The film's credits list two people named "Matt Cross" and "Lee Ross" under "performers," below "Performance Capture Consultant" Andy Serkis… even though they leave out Godzilla's actor from here. So... who knows for sure.
MPC VFX supervisor Guillaume Rocheron recalled the myriad inspirations of the MUTOs: "Gareth always kept the MUTOs as very elongated creatures, and early on he talked about insect references, like beetles and spiders. But we were not supposed to take that literally; they're not giant insects. Insect properties defined how weird and strange their features were going to be. I would classify them as mammals, because they have flesh and bone and muscles, but if you look at their silhouette they definitely look like insects. That's a very interesting mix, to take insects to design mammals; that's what makes them look so strange. You can't quite pin down what they are, but they remind you of things you've seen in nature." The MUTOs' resemblance to insects is noted in-universe though, as MUTO Prime is known as the 'Earthquake Beetle or 'Dragon Beetle,' and its alternate name 'Jinshin-Mushi' contains the Japanese word for 'bug.' Also—and this might've been hard to spot due to the murkiness of the home video transfers for the movie—right after Godzilla decapitates the female MUTO, you can briefly see her spinal cord flop around.
[Edwards:] "The MUTOs have evolved as kind of parasites of Godzilla and his species; they need this radioactive carcass and they lay their eggs in it, and that's how they reproduce."
MUTO Prime infected a Titan, designated Species 5146_Adam by Monarch, with its parasitic eggs during the 11th century, B.C. While the Titan skeleton was initially unidentified, it was later determined to be a member of Godzilla's species. Furthermore, Dr. Emma Russell theorized that this individual was once revered by the ancient Phoenicians as Dagon and by the ancient Japanese as Raijin. Implanted into its stomach lining, they broke down the hemoglobin in its blood to feed on the nuclear radiation. After Dagon died due to being unable to replenish its nuclear energy, the spores continued to grow within its carcass, which was eventually buried deep within an underground cavern in the Philippines.
Godzilla (2014): In 1999, a mining company discovered a potential uranium mine in the Philippines. Before they could exploit it though, their equipment caused the valley floor to collapse. Monarch sent Dr. Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham to examine the site. Inside the cave, they discovered the bones of Dagon, along with the spores of two MUTOs, one of which had already emerged, catalyzed by exposure to the atmosphere. This male larva soon attacked the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, where he released an electromagnetic pulse and fed on the reactors, entering a cocoon-like state. Nuclear regulations consultant Sandra Brody led a team which stopped a radiation leak from reaching the rest of the city, giving their lives in the process. To conceal the monster's existence, the Japanese government evacuated Janjira, which became a quarantine zone, while Monarch began to study the cocoon in earnest. Trying to kill the MUTO seemed more dangerous than letting him live, as his death would allow the reactors to spread radiation throughout Japan. The second, seemingly dormant spore was highly radioactive, so the United States stored it in the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada.
Sandra's husband, nuclear physicist Joe Brody, had detected the male MUTO's echolocation prior to his attack, and dedicated his life to finding out the true cause of the plant's destruction. In 2014, he picked up the same frequency again and infiltrated the Q-Zone with his son Ford, a Navy EOD specialist. After they discovered that the city was free of radiation, Monarch arrested them and brought them to the former power plant. As the male MUTO drained the reactors and began releasing more electromagnetic pulses, a regretful Serizawa gave the order to kill him. Electrical currents released from surrounding cables destroyed the cocoon, but the monster survived, crushing countless Monarch agents and fatally wounding Joe before flying away. The U.S. Navy, under the command of Admiral William Stenz, pursued the MUTO as he crossed the Pacific Ocean. Unbeknownst to them, Godzilla had detected his ancient enemy's emergence as well. The male MUTO made landfall outside Honolulu, Hawaii, where he dragged a Russian nuclear sub ashore to feed on its armaments. Just before a pair of fighter jets could attack him, he downed them with an EMP, then proceeded to the Honolulu International Airport, where Godzilla stopped him in his tracks. After a fierce if imperfectly-documented battle, the male MUTO retreated, with Godzilla hot on his heels.
Meanwhile, Serizawa and Graham theorized that the male MUTO's echolocation frequencies were meant not for Godzilla, but the spore in Nevada. By the time the military arrived at the site, this larger, female MUTO had already broken loose. She terrorized Las Vegas on her way to the male, their paths projected to meet in San Francisco. The military was able to steer the MUTO away from other population centers on the way, but all conventional weapons failed to stop her. Despite the Monarch scientists' protests, a plan to lure both MUTOs and Godzilla out to sea with a nuclear warhead, then detonate it to kill all three, received presidential approval.
Two ICBMs were transported via train, but the female MUTO intercepted them in the California wilderness, killing all aboard except for Ford Brody and eating one of the warheads. The other warhead was airlifted to San Francisco Bay, where it was armed and promptly abducted by the male MUTO, who presented it to the female. She built a nest in Chinatown and laid her eggs around the warhead so they could feed off its radiation. The male did his best to hold off Godzilla, who had broken through the Golden Gate Bridge and come ashore. Eventually, Godzilla reached the nest and took on both MUTOs at once, while an extraction team including Ford arrived to prevent the armed warhead from wiping out San Francisco. After they removed the missile from the nest, Ford ignited a gas explosion to destroy the MUTOs' eggs, gaining their attention. The female was stricken with grief and prepared to squash Ford. Before she could do so, Godzilla emerged from behind her and unleashed his atomic breath. The male attacked Godzilla from behind, allowing the female to pursue Ford and his team as they attempted to take the bomb out to sea via boat. When the male charged at Godzilla head-on, the King of the Monsters clobbered him with his tail, impaling him on a building and killing him.
Meanwhile, the female MUTO easily slaughtered the rest of Ford's team, leaving him as the only survivor once again. Unable to defuse the missile, he started the boat in an attempt to take it out over the bay before it could detonate. However, the female's EMP shut it down, leaving Ford face-to-face with her. Suddenly, Godzilla pried open her jaws and fired his atomic breath down her throat, decapitating her. With her EMP dissipated, Ford was able to steer the boat out to sea and was rescued by a military helicopter just before the missile exploded.
Godzilla: Aftershock: Shortly after the MUTOs were defeated, another, larger one emerged from underground at a U.S. military base in Guam. Godzilla arrived to fight it, but the creature departed after stunning Godzilla with a punch. Monarch's Dr. Emma Russell traced the new MUTO's path from an earthquake originating in Kyushu, Japan, experts having mistaken its movements as mere aftershocks. Emma arrived at the origin point of the earthquake near a Shinto shrine in Kyushu, and explored the crater only for the monster to reveal itself and nearly kill her. After her escape, Emma was informed by the shrine's priest that this MUTO was the ancient being known as Jinshin-Mushi; the Dragon-Beetle. The monster's next encounter with Godzilla took place underwater in the Barents Sea, but ended just like their first battle. The Titans met again at the Athena II Nuclear Power Plant in France. Jinshin-Mushi subdued Godzilla and nearly stabbed him with its tentacle-like ovipositors before he forced it off with his claws. It retreated again, leaving Godzilla visibly injured from the encounter.
After further study, Monarch concluded that Jinshin-Mushi was the parent superspecies to the two MUTOs Godzilla fought previously, dubbing it "MUTO Prime." Ancient tablets found in Japan and inscribed in Phoenician indicated that this Titan had battled a Godzilla-like creature, known to the Phoenicians as Dagon and to the Japanese as Raijin, during the 11th century, B.C. It used its ovipositors to implant its parasitic young within Dagon's body, who subsequently died from the infection; his body becoming entombed in a cavern in the southern Philippines. The two spores with which he was infected became the very MUTOs Monarch discovered in 1999. Monarch's concern was now that MUTO Prime aimed to infect Godzilla, potentially leading to a new MUTO brood overrunning the world. Emma attempted to trick MUTO Prime into becoming pacified by mimicking the sonic pulse its eggs would emit when safely implanted inside a host. Her first attempt at this in the Azores failed and led to the monster killing most of the personnel carrying out the plan.
MUTO Prime's next target was a repository for decommissioned nuclear submarine cores in Montana, where it aimed to lure Godzilla and finally infect him. Emma traveled to the location with her prototype sonar device ORCA in an attempt to successfully amplify the sonic pulse from underground. Godzilla arrived and they battled once more, but the creature shattered his dorsal fins with a sonic roar and pinned him to the ground. As MUTO Prime prepared to stab its ovipositors into Godzilla's flesh, the ORCA emitted a sonic pulse, pacifying it just long enough for Godzilla to react. He lifted the monster onto his back and fired a powerful stream of concentrated atomic energy from his shattered dorsal fins, launching his foe into the air and sending it crashing to the ground. As MUTO Prime lay wounded on its back, Godzilla took the opportunity to fatally stomp on its head.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters: By 2019, Monarch had brought the female MUTO's severed head to its underwater base in Bermuda. Also, a new, slightly different-looking MUTO was among the Titans awoken by Ghidorah's call, rampaging through a city before traveling to Boston alongside Methuselah, Scylla, and Behemoth and bowing before the new alpha Titan: Godzilla.
Both MUTOs could harness the radiation they fed on to release electromagnetic pulses which disabled all electronics around them for a considerable distance, even those aboard EMP-hardened fighter jets. In the novelization by Greg Keyes, this EMP could also prevent Godzilla from using his atomic breath, as it required a "bioelectric spark" to fire.
Flight: The male MUTO was an agile flier, although his top speed is unknown.
Adept Swimmer: Though only shown briefly underwater in San Francisco, the male MUTO covered some of the considerable distance between the Philippines and Japan by swimming, and also dove deep enough to attack a Russian submarine.
Physical Capabilities: The male MUTO had enough raw strength to bring a roughly 8,000-ton Akula-class submarine ashore and drag the 90,000-ton Godzilla several hundred feet. The parasites fought Godzilla primarily with their long, curved claws, striking him hard enough to draw blood. Though no match for Godzilla individually, the MUTOs overwhelmed him by working together, and could very well have killed him if Ford hadn't destroyed their nest.
Larger than either of its children, MUTO Prime demonstrated formidable physical combat capabilities. It used its massive forelimbs to strike Godzilla, with one blow sufficient to stun and even floor him. Godzilla was completely at MUTO Prime's mercy in their final battle before Emma Russell intervened.
Durability: Thanks to his EMP, the male MUTO avoided the military's heavier weapons, while they merely annoyed the female. Both held up well in combat against Godzilla, with two precise, powerful attacks required to kill them. MUTO Prime is similarly difficult to injure, and even demonstrated resistance to a blast of Godzilla's atomic breath. It was only able to be killed by a desperate one-time attack from the Big G followed by a stomp directly to the head.
MUTO Prime emitted a devastating sonic roar in its final battle with Godzilla which completely shattered his dorsal fins.
The greatest danger posed by the MUTOs was their potential to reproduce, after which their progeny could overwhelm not only Godzilla but the rest of mankind. MUTO Prime was able to reproduce by using its arrow-tipped ovipositors to implant its parasitic young inside the stomach lining of a Titan host. These spores would leech off of the host's internal atomic energy until it finally died, then incubate for centuries before hatching into a male and female MUTO which would themselves reproduce. Shortly after the MUTOs met in San Francisco, the female had already laid countless eggs which were attached to the nuclear warhead her mate had secured for her, a danger Godzilla was well aware of. According to Emma Russell, hundreds of unfertilized eggs were found inside the female MUTO's ovaries after her death, and had she successfully laid all of them, a colossal brood of MUTOs would've been the result. Emma believed that a MUTO brood acted as an invasive species that completely destroyed existing ecosystemes, and was responsible in the past for mass extinctions.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters - The Official Movie Novelization: While only the female's severed head is seen in "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," the film's novelization details that the carcasses of both the male MUTO and MUTO Prime are present within Monarch's Castle Bravo base for dissection as well. It also refers to the new MUTO as "a six-legged, hunchbacked MUTO" despite it having eight limbs onscreen, like the female from the previous film.
Yucca Mountain: The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository that housed the female MUTO doesn't really exist, but it might one day. In 1987, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act selected Yucca Mountain as the site for the permanent disposal of all the United States' nuclear waste. After years of study and fierce opposition in Nevada, federal funding for the project ended in 2011 and it remains indefinitely on hold. In the MonsterVerse's reality, the discovery of the female MUTO spore was probably a major factor in the repository's construction.
They Came to Smash: The MUTOs' sole video game appearance at the time of recording this is "Godzilla Smash3," formerly available on Android and iOS devices. The male confronts Godzilla as a boss in the Tokyo stage, while both fight him in San Francisco.
Subliminal Cameos: In "Skull Island: The Birth of Kong" #1, Houston Brooks has a photo of the cocooned male MUTO on a board above his desk. More interestingly, in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"—also directed by Gareth Edwards—the set designers for the Catacombs of Cadera included paintings of Godzilla, the MUTOs, and the aliens from his first film, "Monsters." [Edwards: "I didn't ask for it, it's just… they did it as a joke."] It's unclear whether they're actually in the film itself; certainly the camera doesn't call attention to them. A MUTO skull also made a split-second appearance on a monitor in "Pacific Rim Uprising," along with a heap of familiar kaiju from other studios.
That is all we have for the MUTOs up to this point. Thank you all for watching, as always!