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2 reviews, 8 user ratings

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Gamera 3
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by Jay Seaver

"Turtle power."
3 stars

Shusuke Kaneko realizes something that a lot of other kaiju directors often ignore: Giant monsters kill. And not just other giant monsters, either - those buildings they knock over on their way to fight other monsters are occupied. Where most movies portray a kaiju rampage as mostly a tragedy to historic preservationists and insurance companies (but a boon to the Japanese construction industry!), a skyscraper-sized flying turtle plowing through the city is going to leave widows and orphans.

Such is the message at the beginning of the movie, where pretty scientist Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama) is investigating a Gyaos attack in a remote Micronesian village. Gamera had foiled the Gyaos four years earlier, destroying a good deal of Tokyo in the process - with the fatalities including (then) eight-year-old Ayana's mother and father. Now living with cousins in the country, Ayana (Ai Maeda) doesn't have much patience for those who say Gamera is their friend. As it would happen, her classmate Tatsunari Moribe (Yuu Koyama) has been given the responsibility to guard a rocky egg by his grandfather. No worries - this egg hasn't done anything in centuries; no-one can move it. Except, apparently, Ayana. It hatches, Ayana names it "Iris" after her cat that Gamera killed, and they bond over their mutual dislike of the giant turtle. Those who don't anticipate a Gamera-Iris smackdown clearly entered the theater without noting the name of the movie.

Shusuke Kaneko is the architect of Daiei's 1990s Gamera revival, directing the two previous films which lead up to this one. He would later direct Toho's Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All Out Attack!, one of the better recent entries in that series, and one which also shows kaiju attacks having a high body count. What's interesting about this is that Gamera is supposedly a protector of children, and kids play a large role in this story. Ayana finds Lily's egg while carrying out a dare to keep other girls from picking on her little brother, and both her naïve believe that she can raise and control a giant monster and Moribe's crush on her feel perfectly genuine. These kids come across as genuine tween-agers, normal kids thrown into extraordinary circumstances.

Just because the movie is about kids and at least partly made with them in mind doesn't mean it gets all G-rated or makes the adults look like fools. It's got some pretty effective horror elements, such as Iris enveloping Ayana in a nasty-looking cocoon, and Moribe falls on his face a little trying to rescue her. The government team looking to contain Gamera recruits from the previous movies, teaming Ms. Nagamine with a former policeman (Yukijiro Hotaru) and a girl who had a psychic link with Gamera and was previously able to partially control him (Asagi Kusanagi, who busts out no aikido despite being Steven Seagal's daughter). They're a capable team who act neither stupidly nor in a patronizing manner toward the kids.

The thing about this movie that disappoints is that as much as Ayana's story is well-told and well-acted, it's not all that's going on. There's all those Gyaos (Gyaoses?) that lured Gamera back to Japan; as the movie continues, we hear news reports of Gyaos attacks all around the world. Early on, a submersible mapping the ocean floor finds a whole field of Gamera shells, suggesting some kind of past epic battle and just generally opening up the possibility that there could be more than one of these monsters running around at once. It's like Kaneko and his co-writer (Kazunori Ito) recognized the need for a sequel to be larger in scale than its predecessors, but had Ayana and Iris as the story they really wanted to tell, so the world-wide implications were added to goose the scale a little. Given the way the movie just sort of stops at the end, it could also be that they were originally planning a fourth movie that was never made.

Which is all right. Shusuke Kaneko is certainly proving himself to be an action filmmaker to watch - aside from the [i}Gamera trilogy and GMK, he's also directed Azumi 2 and is working on the adaptation of popular manga Death Note. He's got a real knack for infusing tension into concepts that would seem to naturally drift toward camp. He and his special effects guys - whether they be working with costumes, CGI, or miniatures - do well enough, although some visuals look goofy (Gamera apparently has rockets in his legs or something). It looks better than kaiju films have looked, while still embracing the essential unreality which makes that kind of film so much fun.

"Gamera 3" gets the job done, and does so better than most recent "Godzilla" movies (GMK and "Final Wars" being the exceptions). I get the feeling I may have liked it more with a bigger or different crowd, especially one that included kids.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6208&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/03/06 09:10:50
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User Comments

9/03/07 Max The best kaiju film to date, and just a great film. 5 stars
4/21/06 Cabiria The vast majority of kaiju films are awful. But not the 90's Gamera trilogy. 5 stars
9/12/05 jeff I liked it. Good fun and lots of nice effects. Good ol' Gamera. 4 stars
8/28/05 Mark Radburn The Greatest Monster Movie Of All-time alongside Godzilla (1954) 5 stars
2/04/04 prince6 This Turtule Rocks! 5 stars
7/13/03 Christian Harding Better than other 2 Heisei Gamera films 4 stars
6/13/03 Christian Harding Best Gamera Movie Ever! Also One Of The Best Monster Movies Too! 5 stars
1/05/03 Astro Monster The "Blade Runner" of Japanese monster movies. 5 stars
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