|GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE
|Copyright 1995 Daiei Studios
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 29 June 2003
- Gamera - A huge turtle created to protect mankind from other monsters. Acts like a bull in a china shop at times.
- Gaos - Huge flying beasts. Their mortal enemies are Gamera and the paparazzi. Blasted to smithereens (all of them).
- Asagi - Steven Seagal's daughter! She looks like Sadako, if the malevolent girl had combed her hair and received eye correction surgery. Hmmm, maybe being linked to a spinning turtle is not healthy.
- Dr. Nagamine - The leading expert on huge, man-eating birdlike monsters. It is a niche, but Japan needs her expertise.
- Mr. Yonemori - Lonely naval officer, probably on account of a tendency to present melons to his prospective dates.
- Mr. Kusanagi - Scientist (I think, he may just be an administrator) and Asagi's father.
- Inspector Oosake - Policeman who needs to reduce his stress level.
- Commissioner Saito - Stupid government official. He has greasy hair and wears birth control glasses.
|"Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla" (1993) had truly impressed me as a giant monster movie and there are some fantastic scenes in "Godzilla vs. Mothra" (1992). Meanwhile, the Gamera movies were always silly stories that lent themselves to ridicule. So, it was a surprising experience the first time I watched this movie. The tape ended and I thought to myself, "That might be the best giant monster movie ever!" I knew that the folks at Daiei had thrown down a challenge, one that took many years for Toho to satisfactorily answer.
The story begins with a mystery, as a plutonium transport ship runs aground on a strange atoll. Even more unfathomable is that the misplaced rock outcropping (they are in water over 3000 meters deep) suddenly moves away. The ship's crew is relieved to find that the collision did not cause a radiation leak (pucker factor was high), but Yonemori becomes obsessed with learning more about the wandering atoll. Elsewhere, a research team disappears on Himegami Island. The scientists were investigating reports of a giant bird and, when we see two fleeing island residents, it is obvious they are eaten by something that can fly.
Part of the movie's success is the mystery built up at the beginning. It really works if you show it to younger giant monster fans, without letting them see the box.
Dr. Nagamine's help is solicited by Oosake. There is no trace of anyone left aboard Himegami Island and most of the structures have sustained severe damage. She is almost hostile in her denial that a bird could have caused the destruction. Until, that is, the female egghead sees a giant pile of droppings. The group goes for a hike to reconnoiter the island and spots a flying monster. Oosake wants to flee, but Nagamine forces him to pursue the "giant bird" in a helicopter. Listen to them telling the air traffic controller that the one contact is a huge bird! And people wonder why controllers have nervous breakdowns. Then two more airborne terrors are spotted.
Some distance away, Mr. Kusanagi's team is searching for the floating atoll (Yonemori too, he begged his way along). You might imagine that tracking a slow moving island would be boring and I agree. The film is kind enough to gloss over most of the dreck and take us directly to its discovery. Yonemori and the other searchers unearth a obelisk on the small mound of rocks. The most interesting find is that the atoll is covered with strange metal objects. The items look like either a comma, half of a Ying&Yang symbol, or a human embryo at a very early point in the first trimester. Anyway, investigation stops when the obelisk crumbles and the fickle island speeds away. During the evacuation, the slumming navy officer falls into the water. He watches in awe, because he can see that the mound of rock covers the body of a huge creature.
Despite Nagamine's objections, Commissioner Saito insists that the flying monsters must be taken alive. A trap is set in the huge baseball stadium, complete with a pile of beef and soldiers armed with tranquilizer guns. The capture operation goes fairly well and two of the "birds" are sedated, but the third escapes before the dome can be sealed. The fleeing Gaos (oops, you now know the "birds" are called Gaos) runs smack into Gamera. The huge turtle erupts from the harbor and swats the much smaller creature out of the air. Unfortunately, it crashes into an oil refinery; an explosion results. Nothing compared to the destruction caused as Gamera marches through the city, intent only on obliterating the other two Gaos. The trapped monsters wake up just in time to use their sonic beams and escape. No Gaos al'Orange for Gamera. The sad turtle turns into a spinning disk before flying away. I know it sounds silly. It is better than later on, when he flies straight up like some sort of ludicrous model rocket.
Yonemori spends a great deal of time with Mr. Kusanagi and eventually gives one of the weird metal commas to Asagi. The artifact creates a bond between the owner and Gamera. Perhaps passing knowledge in addition to life force. Additionally, Asagi's person reflects serious harm done to Gamera, as later evidenced by her bandaged hand. Back on Himegami Island, Nagamine's further searching reveals a cave full of Gaos eggs. The eggs had hibernated for 10,000 years (egad, and I thought 100 year old eggs were bad) before hatching, then the young fell to eating each other to survive; only three lived through the cannibalism.
The maddening problem with the military is that they still want to capture Gaos. Conversely, the huge turtle is marked for destruction. All of this flies in the face of reason, because the Gaos continue eating people. Gamera goes out of his way to kill the winged horrors, which are growing larger, and he also develops better situational awareness (not walking on the fleeing populace).
The commissioner has a few lines that make me burst out laughing every time. A memorable rant is during the continuing argument in reference to capturing the Gaos. "A Tyrannosaurus Rex is also a carnivore. If one showed up in Tokyo and started eating people, they would still want us to take it alive." (He says something to that effect.) Hahaha! I could never be a federal official in Japan; they have to worry about some crazy stuff. Although, having ulcers named after Godzilla, Gamera, Gappa, a T-Rex, and Gaos might be unique.
Gamera is ambushed by surface-to-air missiles and tanks near Mount Fuji. Seriously wounded, the monster is in danger of being killed when Gaos arrives to finish him off. Fortunately, Asagi had found an insane taxi driver. She wills Gamera to run away and the injured defender wisely complies. He submerges in the sea to recover.
Without the ferocious turtle to keep it in check, the Gaos has the run of Japan. It settles down in Tokyo, nesting atop the ruined Tokyo Tower (accidentally destroyed by SAMs while engaging the monster) and lays a clutch of eggs. Gamera arrives just in time to blast the nest. A good old drag down, knock out kaiju fight ensues as the two behemoths let fly with plasma, rays, tooth, and claw. The fate of the world rests on the outcome.
Computer generated special effects are used effectively in this movie. Gamera's balls of plasma, the Gaos' sonic beam, and streaking missiles are all realized with CGI. The human portions of the story are not boring; nor are they colorful as those found in "Godzilla vs. Monster Zero." I really appreciated the care that went into constructing the suits too. Perhaps my only complaint is the hokey "resurrection by love and fire" scene near the end. Otherwise, truly a superior giant monster movie.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Mariners use blue M&Ms when charting a course.
- Defending the city from a rampaging giant turtle requires government filing of a declaration of war (the short form is acceptable in cases of extreme urgency).
- Kaiju are detrimental to the affordability of seafood.
- Japan needs to improve the targeting system on its main battle tank.
- Giant monsters think that passenger trains are like sardine cans.
- Turtles are closely related to gophers.
- During reentry, you do not want to be the one on bottom.
- The legendary phoenix was not a bird; it was a turtle.
- 2 mins - Oops, something went wrong.
- 12 mins - Nagamine really needs some longer gloves, like up to her elbows.
- 17 mins - Imagine how big the peach was!
- 30 mins - The Gaos is going to have one heck of a hangover.
- 52 mins - A Kenny is born.
- 69 mins - Sony Walkman: you will die before it does.
- 80 mins - Yay! Omelets for everybody!
- 82 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST AN APARTMENT BUILDING!
- 87 mins - Maybe if you all start clapping your hands together...
- News Anchor: "With the monster making landfall at Hakata bay, the government is urging the residents of the central and west wards to evacuate. If you live within these areas, designated shelters will be assigned shortly."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Saito: "A giant monster?" |
Yonemori: "It's crazy, I know, but it is coming right at us!"
Nagamine: "Just how big is this thing?"
Yonemori: "It's over sixty meters long."
Saito: "We've already got three fifteen-meter monsters!"
||Yonemori: "Why did those idiots all take off without telling us?" |
Mr. Kusanagi: "'Cause they're the bird specialists. We're just the giant turtle patrol."
||Mr. Kusanagi: "Why must you share Gamera's suffering? Is it because of this damn thing?" |
Asagi: "Gamera needs my strength to keep fighting for all of us! He needs me!"
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|A Gaos was about to eat Nagamine and Yonemori (along with a useless kid), but Gamera blasts the creature out of the sky. Two down and one to go.
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