Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

Gamera starred in seven films between 1965 and 1971 but then - other than a 'clip show' style release in 1980 - he took a kaiju-sized break from the big screen.

Now I've reviewed a couple of the original films, and 'pretty dreadful' would be an accurate summation of their quality.  So when I learned that everyone's favorite rocket-powered, sabre-toothed turtle monster had received a mid-90s reboot, well ... my morbid curiosity senses started tingling.  When I discovered I could get both sets of films in one sub-$20 boxed set, my fate was sealed.

Now, I will watch and review the remaining 'original' films one day, but I bought this set for the 90s reboot, and it was the first of those three movies that I slotted into the DVD player this afternoon.  And - as you may have guessed if you've looked at the tags on this post - it was a pleasant surprise.

I don't know if you saw the 2014 Godzilla film, but in that movie a pair of ancient monsters come out of hibernation.  Just the two of them cause a swathe of destruction, and the great danger is that they will mate and breed, spawning many more of their kind.  When a third creature - big G himself - appears, it is feared that another danger has emerged, but he turns out to be hunting the original monsters, instead.

I mention all this because, although many of the details are different, that's pretty much exactly the same outline as the plot of this film.  And honestly - though I quite liked the recent Godzilla and will probably check out the sequel - I liked this movie better.

Now sure, this film isn't anywhere near as slick.  Gamera's obviously a guy in a suit, the enemy monsters (Gyaos) are equally obviously puppets whenever they're not fighting him, and the dialogue includes gems like "Someday, I'll show you around monster-free Tokyo.".  But for all the hokum, it is fun.  The human cast mercifully includes no 'cute' children, making them far more tolerable than in previous Gamera films I've seen, and the various battles are full of fast-paced action.  Most importantly, it manages the fine balancing act of taking itself just seriously enough to present the Gyaos as a genuine threat, while never becoming turgid and grim.

If you can't stand kaiju, you won't like this, but if you have any affection at all for the giant lunks, this is a good outing.

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