When “Gamera: Guardian of the Universe”, Gamera’s 1995 comeback, proved to be a critical and commercial hit, the Daiei Company wasted no time in bringing back director Shusuke Kaneko and writer Kazunori Ito for a sequel. The resulting effort is “Gamera 2: Attack of Legion”, released a year after the first film. While the sequel is generally good, it can’t match the quality of the original and is a major fall from grace for Gamera.
During a mysterious meteor shower, a strange object crashes to Earth. Inside the object are alien insect-like creatures with an appetite for glass and a desire for world domination. Dubbed Legion, their nest is destroyed by Gamera with a fiery plasma ball. But that doesn’t completely wipe out the alien invaders, and Gamera must battle the growing infestation as well the Legion Queen. If he fails, the Legion could overrun the world and exterminate mankind.
Helmer Shusuke Kaneko does another fine job with “Gamera 2”. The film is visually impressive, and the monster battles are again well done. Especially suspenseful is the fight between Gamera and the Queen Legion at an airport, with a helicopter full of passengers trapped perilously close to the carnage. Kaneko again demonstrates that he knows how to keep a film moving quickly, but in this case he seems to be doing it to hide the film’s glaring problems.
Problems like the special effects in “Gamera 2”, which have an uneven quality to them. The Queen Legion, in all her giant spiky glory, looks appropriately menacing and deadly. Gamera’s own looks continue to evolve, and he now looks angrier and fiercer than ever before; exactly the creature you want on your side when aliens arrive to invade the planet. But the Legion drones don’t fare quite as well, mostly looking like poorly thought out concepts made into models. The stop motion animation used to make them move further enhances their artificial look, and their motions look stiff and unconvincing. They definitely do not look as threatening as the film makes them out to be.
But the film’s main problem is the script by the usually reliable Kazunori Ito. While Ito wisely gives the film a noir-ish “X-Files” type feel, he bogs the story down with conspiracies, biblical references, alien invasions, and pseudo-scientific babble. Even worse, he shorts Gamera on screen time, and the star of the film never really becomes a factor in the movie until the third act. Most of the film seems devoted to the Legion creatures, explaining what they are and their physiology. That’s mildly interesting, but who cares? We want to see Gamera in action, not an alien biology lecture. Perhaps if the aliens had communicated with the cast, they would have developed a more malevolent personality, and been more fun to watch. But they remain mute and Gamera is relegated to the sidelines, and the film suffers for it.
As in most kaiju films, the cast in “Gamera 2” tends to take a back seat to whatever monster is onscreen. The main cast never really delivers any memorable performances, and mostly serves to narrate what’s going on and fills in when the monsters are off screen. Yukiro Hotaru is funny in a cameo appearance as Osaka; now a security guard, the hysterical former cop finds he still can’t get away from monsters and again falls to pieces. Ayako Fujianti is also good as the girl with the telepathic connection to Gamera, but bulky winter clothing that covers her from head to toe hampers her screen presence.
“Gamera 2” is a good film, but a letdown for fans of the giant turtle. Maybe if the filmmakers had taken more time to work out the bugs in the script, they could have turned “Gamera 2” into a movie comparable to its predecessor. While viewers will be entertained, its too bad more time wasn’t taken to make a good movie instead of just producing a product.
Shusuke Kaneko (director) / Kazunori Ito (screenplay)
CAST: Toshiyuki Nagashima …. Colonel Watarase
Miki Mizuno …. Midori Honami
Tamotsu Ishibashi …. Hanatani
Mitsuru Fukikoshi …. Obitsu