Monday, September 29, 2014

Kaiju Chronology: Gamera- Guardian of the Universe

Can you take something viewed as universally-silly and make it serious?  If you're Japan, you are sure as hell going to try!  That leads us into today's movie- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.  As a refresher course, the Eras of Toho films are separated and named.  In the mid-90s, there was an attempt to revive Franchises not named Godzilla in what is known as the Heisei Era.  This led to the creation of Trilogies for two perennial players- Gamera and Mothra.  Since the Mothra Trilogy is finally available in full in the United States, I got em!  Before I dive something brand new (to me), let me go back to one I know.  A long time ago, I got the Gamera Trilogy on Blu-Ray for a real steal.  I watched them all, but I thought that I should again.  After all, what's the point in buying a film if you never watch it more than once?  The first film came out in 1995 and had to follow a half-dozen super-goofy and over-the-top films in the 1960s and 70s.  The fact that almost all of them were featured in the early days of MST3K is a good sign of that.  This film acts as a Reboot, which is probably the simplest option.  It wouldn't be until 2006 that there would be a real Sequel, but that's a different film altogether.  When mysterious creatures appear, another one does too.  Is it friend or foe?  To find out, read on...
Two different things are happening in Japan that are mysterious and scary.

1. A small island is wrecked and its residents killed.
2. A floating atoll is drifting towards the country.  It is big!
The cause of the first one is the mysterious Gyaos, who are hyper-evolved creatures that live to eat.
They love to eat.  What do they eat, you ask?

Us, of course!
The other thing is, as you probably guessed, Gamera!

In this film, he was created by a long-dead civilization to keep the Gyaos under control.  When the world's environment no longer suited them, they went into hibernation- and so did he.
The problem: Gamera is a giant, angry-looking turtle who will smash up the city to destroy the creatures.  He's not one for subtlety.
The Military, as they do, considers Gamera to be a bigger threat, despite the fact that the Gyaos eat us.

Priorities, folks!
As the military attacks our hero, only a girl with an inexplicable (it has to do with a talisman) psychic link to Gamera can help.
As the creatures battle (shown here in Comic Book form), the city is in trouble.  The Universe is at risk!
In the End (shown here in the form of the Gamera 2000 game for Playstation 1), Gamera wins and the day is saved.  The creature leaves, but will he return when we need him?  The End.

While it is not the greatest thing out there, it is better than it has any right to be.  Seriously, they made a serious Gamera film.  Mind you, the original films weren't actually Comedies, but they got to be just so damn goofy.  At its heart, Gamera himself can be pretty silly.  He's a giant turtle that battles monsters and flies via rocket jets in its shell.  It makes no sense at face value.  This film kind of makes it work.  While Gamera never really emotes (as he is just a big, rubber-type suit), but it looks as real as could be done.  The Gyaos are also much cooler than the original ones were as well.  People don't give Toho enough credit for making monsters like Godzilla, Gamera and Mothra look good through continued design improvements.  They also stuck to their guns with the formula and just improved the technology that accents the suits.  I'm sure that someone wanted them to switch to all digital monsters.  Let's be honest- they would have looked terrible!  As late as their last Godzilla film in 2004, Big G and company (with one exception) were still men in suits.  It is that commitment to their principles that has made Toho such an interesting company.  I got off-topic, didn't I?  While it is nothing more than a good Kaiju film, it is a good Kaiju film.  Did I mention that it got a Comic?  Thanks, Dark Horse!
Next up, the Sequel that ups the ante.  For once, there's a non-religious-themed film that lets me say 'I am Legion!'  Stay tuned...

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