In the summer of 1989, four kids in Tokyo witness the emergence of the turtle kaiju Gamera, who bravely stands up against giant human-eating monsters.
This 1995 entry brings us a complete reboot – the new era gives us a brand new origin for Gamera, as well as a reboot for one of its first enemies. he. While I was disappointed by the choice of Gyaos as a villain (and the first look at them fell flat after a great build), the creature design has improved significantly since the flying kaiju first appeared in 1967. Unfortunately, the strange and lifeless bulging eyes are still a problem for these creatures.
It’s another half hour before we get our first real look at Gamera – and he looks great! He is treated with respect and made to feel like a real threat, his destruction having real and tangible consequences. His rocket-powered flight was certainly an improvement over his previous appearance, but there’s no denying how stupid it was, even though it was filmed and real this time. How good is it? The more creatures we see, the less effective they sadly become – Gamera included.
There’s no denying that this is a film ahead of any Showa Era Gamera film, but it’s by no means perfect. While the old-fashioned suiting techniques are generally well-executed, they are occasionally out of place with the rest of the film, which is beautifully shot, atmospheric and relatively serious, even suggestive a new origin. for Gamera, this further explains his ability to use rockets. There is a new element added with a girl – Atagi – who seems to have a spiritual connection to Gamera, even bleeding when injured.
However, when the creature effects come into play, they really work and are at their best in scenes set at night or underwater. There’s more than one beautiful shot of Gyaos perched upon the ruin Ed Tokyo Tower at sunset too – who’d have thought I’d have anything good to say about Gyaos, after my thoughts on the creature’s first appearance?
Ultimately, the film is undone a little by an over-ambitious and far too old-fashioned climactic kaiju battle; with so much work having gone into making this particular Gamera film feel like a much more competently made and even more plausible film than any that came before it, it’s a shame to have it devolve into a monster smackdown that’s little different to any of the preceding entries.
However, the more serious approach does work for the most part – this mid-90s entry is definitely the best Gamera film by a long shot up until this point. It breaks the curse of the series feeling like a cheap, rushed knock off; whereas all but the first and eighth (!) films were released on an annual basis, the fifteen year gap between films seems to have resulted in a much more thoughtful and carefully produced film, albeit with the very old-fashioned feel of the man-in-suit footage at times.
Though I watched the Japanese version (with subtitles), it’s interesting to note that the UK release – a dub commissioned by Manga Films – featured a completely different techno soundtrack, rather than the orchestral music found in the original film; this had a limited theatrical release in the UK too, but is now more difficult to find. However, like the rest of the series – many of which have had edited versions for release in the US or UK (or both), I decided to watch the unaltered Japanese versions (of course is to have a lower title). You can find my reviews of other Gamera movies here
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