Japanese monster movies are fucking confusing. I don’t mean the movies themselves, I mean the entire genre as a whole. Seemingly every monster has their own series, and each of those series usually has at least one set of remakes. Then every monster that every monster fights spins off into another series and the whole thing is kind of baffling.
With the release of Pacific Rim on bluray this week (which you need to run out and buy like right now), I decided for today’s movie to be a classic monster movie from the fifties. It just so happened that I had recently purchased the Gamera Trilogy on bluray for cheap so I decided that would be the way to go. I fired the movie up and was immediately thrown off that it was in full colour. I was pretty sure Gamera was black and white. Was I watching the wrong movie? Nobody even mentions Gamera’s name until about 20 minutes in so I was starting to think something was really wrong.
Here’s how it apparently works. Gamera had an initial run of I think five movies, maybe six, back in the fifties. Those ones were indeed in black and white. Then he took a long break before coming back with a relaunch in 1995, which is the movie I was actually watching. Then it had two sequels. Then apparently a few years later they relaunched Gamera again! So he’s had three separate series, as well as cameos in other series.
You see, fucking confusing.
So what is Gamera you ask? Well naturally he is a giant turtle who can spit fireballs and has rocket legs that he can use to propel himself around in shell form. Also apparently kids love him and he has his own theme song, but I believe that is more prevalent in the original movies than here. This one definitely has a more serious tone, or at least as serious a tone a movie can have when it’s about a flying rocket turtle fighting a giant pterodactyl monster.
This goes without saying probably but if you’re not into the idea of two guys in rubber suits running into each and smashing a bunch of miniature sets, this is not the movie for you. Me on the other hand, I respect the hell out of that so I was pretty into this movie.
There is a plot and it’s surprisingly complicated as it involves ancient advanced civilizations, stone slab inscriptions, and a magical amulet that forms a bond between a young girl and Gamera, allowing her to read his thoughts but also feel all his pain. There’s a lot going on, but what it really comes down to is a giant bird that needs to be killed by a giant turtle. The human stuff that falls between those moments is indeed quite slow at times, but the monster fights do make up for it.
The battle scenes look far better than I ever could have imagined considering it really is two guys in large, no doubt clunky suits, fighting within miniaturized sets of Japan. However these may be the best miniature (I’m having a lot of trouble spelling that word right) sets I’ve ever seen, definitely in the top tier at least. They look fantastic, and I can’t even imagine how big a pain in the ass these things must be to put together. Yes there is pretty fake CGI used to enhance a few of the scenes, but for the most part everything is done practically which is great to see. These October marathons always remind me how much I prefer practical effects over computer ones so kudos to you Gamera people, you done right by me.
You know, I really don’t think I have anything more to say about this one. I hadn’t seen a Gamera movie prior to this one and apparently this was a good place to start. The story and characters are not terribly interesting, but the monsters and battle scenes make this worth a watch. The sets and suits make it charming as all hell and I had fun with this. It wouldn’t call it a good movie really, just an entertaining one. Unless you don’t care about rubber suit monsters, in which case stay away.