hile the second part of the Gamera trilogy was a rather
disappointing effort, the series bounces back with a spectacular finale. In the
three years that passed between movies, the filmmakers have corrected the flaws
that detracted from the earlier installments. The result is an innovative and
wildly imaginative installment that is also the crown jewel of the series.
The Gyaos are back in full force, this time appearing all
over the world instead of confining themselves to Japan. Gamera dutifully
arrives to exterminate them, but this time something's changed. He no longer
cares about the humans he protects, and destroys the Gyaos mercilessly with a
horrendous amount of collateral damage.
In rural Japan, a young girl whose parents were
accidentally killed by Gamera finds a mysterious infant creature. Calling it
Iris, she raises it with the purpose of exacting revenge on Gamera for her
parent's death. But this beast is far from benevolent, and is actually a
lifeforce-draining entity that could destroy the world if unchecked. It's up to
Gamera to fight off the Gyaos, while at the same time confronting the new threat
of Iris. But most importantly, Gamera must remember whom he's fighting to
protect and re-establish his bond with humanity.
"Gamera 3" is a film that succeeds on numerous
levels. Back for the third time, director Shusuke Kaneko makes the creature
battles no longer just exciting, but now with a realistic brutality to them.
This time around, the creatures act more like animals fighting to the death.
Kaneko also experiments with several ground POV shots, making it appear as if
we're looking up at the monsters. These shots emphasize just how huge these
creatures are, and how frightening it must be to have them in the vicinity and
be powerless to stop them. Kaneko also manages the difficult feat of developing
the human characters while at the same time moving the film along rapidly,
leaving no room for dull moments.
The script by Kazunori Ito and director Kaneko is
innovative and smart enough to focus on Gamera as well as other dramas. It's
also brave enough to depict the harsh realities of having creatures like Gamera
lurking about. When giant monsters brawl, especially in highly populated areas,
innocent people die and lives are destroyed. Never has a kaiju film truly
focused on the consequences of having these creatures around in such a pragmatic
fashion. The script also introduces an interesting explanation as to why Japan
is constantly harassed by monsters, as well as showing a graveyard where past
Gameras were laid to rest.
The special effects are again handled by Shinji Higuchi,
who gives Gamera a sleek, evil looking appearance that turns him into a dark
defender of the Earth. The Gyaos remain largely unchanged in terms of design,
but looks far more realistic in flight than before. But Higuchi really outdoes
himself with the ethereal looking Iris. Whether rendered by gorgeous CGI or a
terrific monster suit, Iris is one of the most fantastic kaiju creations ever to
grace the screen, and puts to shame anything from the "Godzilla"
"Gamera 3" also features strong performances from
the human cast, which manage to avoid being overshadowed by the carnage around
them. Yukijiro Hotaru returns as Osaka, first seen living as a homeless street
vendor trying to escape his traumatic past. Osaka manages to find the courage in
himself to overcome his fears, and redeems himself by joining the team to fight
Iris. No longer just hysterical comic relief, Osaka actually manages to appear
somewhat heroic at times. Ai Maeda is also good as Aiyana, ably conveying her
character's burning desire to avenge the death of her parents. Probably the most
memorable is Hirotada Honda as the eccentric video game designer now in the
employ of the government. His over the top performance steals every scene, and
he offers a welcome dose of dark wit.
Visually impressive and with a terrific script,
"Gamera 3" is probably the best kaiju film to come out of Japan in
several decades. It certainly raises the bar for the genre, and dares the rival
"Godzilla" series to match it. In the five years since the film's
release, the Godzilla filmmakers have yet to do so.