Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

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I almost feel bad at times when I tell others about the Gamera 90s trilogy. I mean I have proudly proclaimed in more than one occasion to be a huge Godzilla fan but I can’t help but say that these three movies are the best Kaiju films that came out of the 90s. I just can’t help but want to praise these three films for being a cut above the traditional Kaiju genre.  Especially when you take a moment to look back at the comically campy movies the giant turtle was in during the Showa period. Despite that I have a yearly tradition of watching the trilogy and seeing its flaws and problems repeatedly it still holds up as some of my favorite Kaiju movies. Sorry Godzilla.

The film opens with a Japanese Plutonium ship hitting a mysterious atoll while at almost the same time an entire village is destroyed with only cryptic message that “it’s a bird” over the radio. As investigation teams set out to discover the truth behind these events and only to realize that the atoll is the monster Gamera and the “bird” on the island is the deadly creature Gyaos. Believing the Gyaos to be a lost race that needs protection the humans try to capture them whole exterminating Gamera. Meanwhile young Asagi Kusinagi is given a relic that allows her to connect to Gamera’s heart and feel his pain. Together the two most overcome the government’s efforts to protect the wrong monster and stop the world from falling under Gyaos’ shadow.

The modernization to Gamera makes nods to his origins by presenting him as both a destructive force and a defender all in the same movie. By showcasing that he just happens to destroy everything that’s in his way on his path to kill the Gyaos even though he has the best intentions in mind. A recent fact that has been pointed out about this trilogy us that no one ever calls Gamera a turtle. In fact the director has apparently gone on record saying that the idea us that in the movie universe there are no turtles and that is why he is never referee to as such. Interesting little tidbit there.04gamera3
The star of the movie is young Ayako Fujitani in her first acting role shows a lot of devotion for the giant Kaiju. Her devotion puts her on the list of some of the best females in Kaiju series if not one of the best human characters in all of Giant Monster Movies. Also, another interesting fat, she is Steven Segals daughter.

The Gyaos new look for the trilogy is incredibly more menacing then most other evil Kaiju can be. Sure bad guys like King Ghidora or Megalon will fly around and destroy buildings with their blasts but they isn’t nearly as intimidating as a gluttonous monster who has pieces of its victims falling out of its mouth as it struggles to chew. This cupped with the fact the creature can asexually reproduce much like the 90s Godzilla makes them a force to truly be afraid of.

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Probably one of my favorite moments in this film is the atmospheric reentry struggle between Gamera and Gyaos. The measures that Gyaos takes to escape from his eminent demise is truly impressive. If you can’t tell by now I highly recommend this film and it’s two sequels which I’ll work on writing up the reviews on soon. Basically if you take anything away from this review know that this blog highly endorses that you see these movie s to call yourself a true Kaiju fan.

Rating: A

Godzilla (2014)

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After the previous attempt to bring Godzilla to the states was less than stellar, the American Kaiju community took something of a hit. Not in the fandom overall but Hollywood squashed more giant movies for years to come regulating them to being produced in the low budget straight for DVDs and SyFy channel demographic. There were moments of hope with the release of King Kong and Cloverfield which were entertaining but still had their flaws. The biggest ray of hope came when Pacific Rim was both a commercial and critical success and reminded people how awesome it is to watch giant robot punch giant monsters.
This left fans mixed on what to expect from Godzilla’s second stomp through America’s shores. Especially since the director, Gareth Edwards’ previous film Monsters left fans feeling just as mixed after watching it. Luckily we as fans of Kaiju were rewarded with what they saw. Not with what everyone was expected but was still incredible entertaining.
The human element of this movie is handled by three characters. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) a nuclear scientist who losses his wife to an accident he knows is more than it appears. Joining Joe on his journey is his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a military man who just wants to go home to his wife and son. Finally, Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), a scientist who along with his secret organization Monarch knows the truth behind the incident that took Ford’s wife.

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After digging into the mysterious accident Joe and Ford discover that the accident was actually caused by a creature known as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) a giant monster that eats nuclear energy. Upon further investigation it is revealed there is a second MUTO that could mate and create an army of creatures that will wipe out humanity. As all seems lost, Serizawa says there is a creature of immense power, an unstoppable force of nature and a mighty predator that sees the MUTOs as his enemies. This ancient creature may be humanities last hope and they call him Godzilla.
The initial trailers for this movie presented us with a much different Godzilla then what is actually delivered in the film. The previews fooled us into believing that Godzilla had returned to his origins as being an uncontrollable force of nature that will bring our destruction. Instead it delivers a tribute to the films of the late Showa Era where Godzilla was a defender of a humanity who only wrecks a building or two while smacking around his monster opponents. Depending on if that’s the version of Godzilla you prefer or not may affect how much you enjoy this movie. On a personal level it was a welcomed sight. The “Kiss of Death” scene was a moment of pure Kaiju ecstasy.
Speaking of tributes the movie makes sure to make nods to other great monster movies. The family name Brody is a reference to Chief Brody from Jaws. Dr. Serizawa was the name of the scientist from the original Godzilla movie. The MUTOs appear to get inspiration from Gamera’s villains the Gyaos. There also is a nod to Godzilla’s rival Mothra in the form of a cocoon in an abandoned aquarium with faded letters on the side spelling it out. Go see it again to check. Its little nods like this that showcase the love this film has for the genre.

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The weakest part of this movie is the human factors. Dr. Serizawa and Joe Brody are intriguing scientists which are dedicated their lives to researching the Kaiju and their origins. Sadly we don’t get nearly enough time with them. Instead we spend more time with Ford who is just trying to get back to his wife and son but keeps getting side tracked with giant monsters. He also just happens to be the highly trained specialist that is the only one who can both arm and disarm the nuke they want to use as bait for the monsters. The whole perfect man that is exactly suited to the situation he gets thrown can work but just doesn’t in this movie. Frankly he just seems a little flat compared to the more impassionate scientists that are dedicated to stopping the MUTOs and helping Godzilla. Also Ford’s wife has next to no character moments and it became just a little frustrating anytime the movie pulls away from the giant monsters to focus on them. Almost makes you wish she would have an up close encounter with any of the monsters so we could see more of them in the movie. Almost.
Still the movie does show enough city destruction, monster combat, and goose bump producing Godzilla roars for any jaded Kaiju fan to enjoy this film. It also is very effective way of introducing new fans to the media. So kudos, Edwards, you didn’t mess up. Now get to work on the sequel. More Dr. Serizawa, Monarch, Godzilla, and work on getting more character out of your lead. Especially if he’s helping Godzilla save mankind.

Rating: A-