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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS (1999)

Forging ahead through our big list of movies ...

Today's is Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (aka Gamera 3: The Awakening of Irys; 1999).

My son, James, will go first:
Well, this one is a scary one, starring Slender Kaiju (Iris) and Good & Evil Gamera. The part that creeped me out was when Iris started to grow and Iris needed to "eat" something.  Iris, in my book, needs an award for Creepest Movie Villain. But, this movie was awesome too. Like when Gamera fired a fireball, You got to see all the people flying from the flame! 
So, rating wise, i'l say 3.8 out of 5 Atomic Screams of Fearfulness!!! D: 
My turn:
"Gamera is a friend to children." 
We heard that so much in the Shōwa series that it became a joke.  An excuse for kids to be inserted however preposterously into the film's goings on. 
In the Heisei era, that thought still exists, but in a different way.  Kids are involved in the plot, but there is more meaning to it than ever before.  In the Shōwa movies, the kids were there to, presumably, give the target audience characters with whom to connect.  In this trilogy, the few kids we see are integral to the plots.  Asagi was once connected to Gamera and now Ayana is instrumental in Gamera's near destruction. 
If there could be a second subtitle to this movie, I would suggest "Collateral Damage." 
Rarely in kaiju films does the camera focus on the "little people."  We're typically fixated on a scientist/reporter/military leader and their immediate family.  We see monsters stomp about all the time.  Buildings tumble and fall.  Fireballs engulf whole city blocks.  We don't see the impact, though. 
We do in this film. 
Between stomping feet, collapsing debris and explosive fireballs, we actually see dozens of people being killed.   
The battle in Tokyo is insane.  Yes, Gamera is killing Gyaos, but the collateral damage is massive.  Thousands and thousands die.  It looks like the kind of thing that probably happens all of the time, but we've never seen it before at the street level. 
The scene comes in the middle of a devastating sandwich of nightmares/flashbacks.  When we're introduced to Ayana, she's having a dream of her last memory with her parents.  That just happens to be during the course of the first movie in the trilogy with Gamera's inadvertent destruction of an apartment building.  She is a walking and talking personification of collateral damage.  And thanks to Ayana's tainted memory, Gamera takes on an evil (almost GMK) visage: 
I could go on and on about this movie.  The suits are outstanding.  The model work is amazing (the Kyoto station alone is staggering).  The look of Iris is both alien and lovely; and properly devastating when it needs to be: 

Is there anything that doesn't work? 
Some of the CGI gets dodgy, particularly at Gamera's first appearance.  That's nitpicky, though.   
The biggest offenders are the two weirdo government advisers who fancy the idea that Iris and Gyaos are supposed to wipe the Earth clean of both humans and Gamera.  The guy, in particular, is worthy of an eyeroll or three.  Their presence is unnecessary.  They distract from the true evil of the movie.  Excepting Iris, that evil is found inside a young girl. 
As another downside, I'm tempted to mention that Gamera doesn't appear in the movie for much of the first part of the running time.  I think this was a brilliant move, though, on the part of the filmmakers.  By keeping Gamera at a remove for so long, it somewhat alienates the viewer from the character.  It helps our sympathy for Ayana and what she's been through. 
Then, at the end, Gamera shows up in Kyoto and all hell breaks loose. 
A magnificent model gets smashed, Gamera gets impaled and then partially crucified.  And then, in a supreme moment of badassery, our favorite turtle blasts off his own trapped hand, lets Iris cauterize his wound with the enemy's own fire, and then Gamera thrusts his plasma-laden limb through his opponent. 
Iris is destroyed and Ayana is able to see Gamera for the hero he is, because he pulled her limp body from Iris before she could be absorbed.  The moment when she broke down is devastating and genuinely choked me up. 
Some complain about the ending as we see thousands of Gyaos descending toward Japan.  Gamera stands in the ruins of Kyoto, screaming.  Waiting.  And then credits.  Look, I would have liked to see that battle, too.  But it would have been anticlimatic after the emotional payoff of Iris' destruction.  And, like the end of Angel, it shows that the battle never ends.  Like Mayumi said, the last of the species will never give up. 
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris ... perhaps the greatest kaiju film ever made and within the greatest series of kaiju films.  4.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Next, Reptilian.

(GIFs from tokumonster)

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