Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe (1995)

Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe is one of the best Kaiju films in the last 20 years. Directed by Shûsuke Kaneko (GMK: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) this film flat out moves. The pacing and editing are terrific, and it’s a rare film that effectively combines men in suits effects with CGI, traditional animation, miniatures and rod-puppets in creating one action-packed monster flick. This film screams b-movie, but the production values are high. The film is perfect afternoon entertainment. Who would’ve thought this modern re-boot of the flying turtle would be so fun?

GGOTU was the first gamera film since Daiei’s rock-bottom Gamera Super Monster (1980), and the first of four modern gamera films produced by Daiei, NTV Network and Hakuhodo. The original Daiei (American titled) films, included:

  • Gamera, The Giant Monster (1965)
  • Gamera vs. Barugon (1965) – A chameleon-like monster
  • Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967) – A giant flying fox with laser mouth
  • Gamera vs. Viras (1968) – A squid-like monster
  • Gamera vs. Guiron (1969) – A knife-headed creature
  • Gamera vs. Jiger (1970) – Another lizard-like creature
  • Gamera vs. Zigra (1971) – A shark monster, and
  • Gamera Super Monster (1980)
The first six films have been re-issued by the Shout Factory in original Japanese language and widescreen and are worth a look. I especially like the first three which are decent sci-fi films. Stay clear of the last two! These new Gamera films are entirely different, but retain some of the mythos of the original films (e.g. gamera being friends to kids and having cosmic origins).

In GGOTU, the plutonium transport vessel Kairyu-Maru is escorted by the Marine Safety Agency patrol boat Nojima. The Kairyu-Maru carries enough plutonium to make 100 Nagasaki type atomic bombs. The ship strikes an atoll and is grounded (yeah right). A huge elliptical blip is seen on sonar. The Marine Safety Agency investigates and finds no radiation leakage. One skeptic wants to further investigate the anomalous sonar signature.

Meanwhile, at the Fukuoka Municipal Zoo, a young female ornithologist Dr. Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama) is recruited to Himegami Island, Goto Archipelago (western coast of Kyushu) to investigate sightings of a mysterious giant bird. In a scene reminiscent of Jurassic Park (1993), two shady characters are killed by “a bird” while trying to escape from the island, and the ornithologist digs through a huge pile of white “bird pellet” glop and finds her colleague’s eye glasses and a pen. A giant bird ate him.

The Marine Safety Agency tracks a mysterious floating mass, while a dormant prehistoric flying “bird” terrorizes Himegami Island. The creature Gyaos looks more bat than bird-like, but also has reptilian features. Gyaos has scales and teeth. Gyaos is huge with a wing-span over 15 meters in width. Dr. Nagamine fears if the flying creature can’t find food on Goto it will attack Japan. Fair enough.

Gyaos attacks a nearby village on Himegami and a helicopter. Our ornithologist friend discovers Gyaos dislikes bright flashy camera strobe lights. The Japanese Self-Defense Force sends out two combat jets. We learn that there are three Gyaos. The JSDF monitors Gyaos activity on Himegami.

The atoll is sixty meters long by fourty-five meters wide. The Marine Safety Team investigates the surface of the mass. A strange obelisk with runic-like symbols is found partially buried in the surface of the atoll. Several Yin and Yang-shaped objects are found nearby on the surface of the atoll. What is the significance of these objects and this sea turtle shaped atoll?

GGOTU is a lot of fun and takes obvious inspiration from the successful Jurassic Park. I like the flying sequences of Gyaos, which remind me of the dragon Vermithrax Pejorative from Dragonslayer (1981). This was allegedly the first Kaiju film to star a female actor (Yuhmi Kaneyama) in the role of a giant monster, Gyaos. The creature moves differently and I love the design. Gyaos retains a few new surprises in keeping in spirit with Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967). Check out the teeth on this mug.

Gyaos awaits the morning dawn, roosting on the remains of Tokyo Tower. Why is Gyaos roosting?

In a spectacular sequence, Gyaos and Gamera grapple in mid-flight and plumage in a free-fall to Earth.

Who will win the battle of the Kaiju? Gamera: Guardian of the Universe?

This film is available on DVD, Blu-ray and on iTunes as direct download or streaming. The direct download looks superb on my iPad. Once you watch this, you’ll be ready for the next three films…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotō_Islands

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