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Friday, April 11, 2014


Our trek down the big list (HERE) continues.

Today's is the first in the Heisei Gamera trilogy, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995).

I'll go first:
Finally we've come to it.  The series of films that validate Gamera, in my mind.  When you look at what came before, you will see naught but silliness and camp.  As you might expect, that's all forgotten here.  Thankfully.  
Instead of being a prehistoric beast awakened by a nuclear blast, Gamera is now a twelve-millennia-old, artificially created creature made to fight off other artificially made creatures.  The Gyaos.  They were made to eat up the pollution created by that ancient civilization. 
That's all backstory.  We get a few Gyaos near the beginning who attack humans.  Then Gamera shows up ... as an island.  Then he's on land and fighting the smaller-than-expected bat-monsters.  In fact, they're wonky-eyed hand puppets for the first half of the movie: 
It's good stuff and even the humans are pretty good (with one exception). 
We get a taste of the good ol' Gamera formula when he's wounded in battle and goes off to recover for a while.  But here's how they've made it work and made it mean something, too.  When the Gamera "atoll" was found, they also found dozens of magatama (comma-shaped amulets).  One of them was given to a scientist's daughter and she formed a psychic link with the turtle.   
(Side note: I would love to buy a magatama like the one in the movie.  Why can't I?) 
She gives Gamera strength and when he's wounded, she's wounded, too.  (With exceptions.  See below.) 
Eventually, the Gyaos merge and become bigger, nesting in the ruins of Tokyo Tower.  Luckily, Gamera awakens before the eggs hatch and blasts them.  The battle is rather great: 

The tone of the movie is serious without being dire.  There are some moments of fun and the action is always good.  This might be the first film wherein computer-generated effects are so frequently inserted into the action scenes.  And it works.  Gamera's suit?  Looks great and gets even better as the trilogy progresses. 
There are a few shots that are downright beautiful.  The ones that most immediately come to mind are the ones near the end in which Gamera and Gyaos grapple high above the Earth: 
What are the exceptions I mentioned above? 
First, the exception to the well-done human characters?  The main government official, Saito.  I enjoyed hearing about the government's hand wringing over using the JSDF against a threat (after all, post-WWII, their military is supposed to be self defense only; thus the "SD" in "JSDF").  I even understand the initial desire to capture the Gyaos.  But Saito seems dead-set to kill Gamera as soon as he shows up.  Even after Gyaos escapes and kills more people, he still wants to capture them and kill Gamera, even though the turtle is obviously trying to help humans.  It's not until near the end of the film that Saito turns around on the situation and this stretches credulity. 
The other exception is related to the teen girl and the magatama connection to Gamera.  Specifically, she gets cut when Gamera gets cut.  Happens a few times.  So how come she doesn't get a concussion (or worse) whenever Gamera falls from an incredible height, as he often does?  Right after Gamera falls to Earth with a great plume of debris, she's just standing there, clutching the amulet. 
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe ... I believe in Gamera.  4.25 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's my 11-year-old son, James:
Well, this one is Gamera vs Gyaos all-over again, but with three Gyaos' . But, this one is the second one on the list with the claw jewel of power. (Like in Orochi.)   
So, rating wise, 3.4 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
Here's the trailer:

Up next, Zarkorr! The Invader.

(GIFs by Tokumonster.)

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