You know, this series always gets a bad rap. On many levels, it is comparable to that of the Godzilla series. The difference is that most people think of them as all being bad- a fact that is not helped by most of the early films being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000! Of course, there are more films than just those ones, including the great Gamera series from the Heisei Era (1985-1999). Most recently, an attempt to restore the series one more time was made in 2006. Of course, given the past history of the series, America was in no rush to bring this one over to us. In fact, since I don't live in New York or Los Angeles, this film only played at an out of the way theater for one day last year. Waiting for the DVD to finally be available took months and I finally got to saw it, only to forget to review it until now. Let's make up for a lot of lost time, shall we? This is...this turtle fights them more than Godzilla fights the military! Anyhow, the giant turtle exerts all of his energy in the battle and explodes. The End.
No, not really. Instead, the movie jumps ahead thirty years and sets up the real story. A young boy witnessed this event and grew up to be a chef. Times are tough, however, as he lost his wife earlier that year and his kid is depressed. While out on the beach with his friends, the boy discovers a tiny egg that glows. Maybe you should not frequent 3 Mile Island Beach! This actually turns out to be housing a young turtle, who the boy decides to keep. Of course, given the title of the movie, we all know where this is going. The movie does not waste our time either, as the little beast begins to hover and shoot tiny fireballs. Oh and the dad does not want him to have a pet, leading to some *wacky* comedy moments. These are not bad, mind you, but are they what you expected? The turtle eventually grows too large for the home and a new dwelling must be set-up. Of course, that does not last too long and the turtle vanishes. Oh well, it's not like the situation is going to get worse.
Apparently, I was wrong. You see, a giant lizard monster named Zedus shows up and begins to smash things to hell. Given that this is Japan, I should have seen that coming. As the people flee in terror, the monster eats some people and just generally wreaks havoc. He actually manages to corner our heroes, but our titular hero returns- now in giant form. Finally, some real kaiju action! Unfortunately, the sides are not quite matched just yet and our heroic terrapin must flee. He gets some aid from our other heroes, but it is still not enough. Thanks to a sub-plot involving the neighbor girl, the magical stone that he must re-absorb to return to full power is not with him. This leads to one of the most oddly-melodramatic moments ever put on celluloid. The girl passes the stone off to another girl, who runs like a character from a Nike commercial. She gets stopped, however, leading to several children carrying the stone. It gets back to our hero, who goes up the building that Gamera is stuck in to give him its power. The deus ex machina works and the monster is defeated. The day now saved, Gamera does not have to self-destruct and flies off into the night. The End.
Yeah, this movie was not quite what I expected. It feels oddly put together the first time you watch it, but makes sense in retrospect. The idea of starting out with a big action scene is surprising, especially one where the main character dies! You realize that the reason for this scene is to both set-up the drama for later and satiate any action fans for the long haul. That's not to say that the action is bad. Far from it, in fact. It is just that you have to wait a long while for any of it to show up again for a while. As a fan of kaiju films, I was not disappointed by the film in any way. Some of these movies dare to take risks- see Godzilla: Final Wars- and many of them pay off. If you can accept that this movie was made for an all-ages market and is not as gory as Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys. It is a curious piece of film that will ultimately stand the test of time better than most Gamera films as a good movie.
*Up next, a forgotten fantasy film from the 1980s. It does not feature the bravado of Conan or the silliness of Beastmaster. What does it feature? How about special effects stolen from Superman II? Stay tuned...