Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I have weaknesses people. I’m weak for skinny women with bad attitudes, fruity jellybeans, potato chips with sour cream and onion dip, Peanut Butter Captain Crunch drowned in Half and Half and monster movies. And the monster I’ve loved the most since I was a little boy is Gamera. The reason for my love for Gamera was simplicity itself. I had a pet turtle as a boy and Gamera is a turtle. A turtle who can fly with jet propulsion and belch fireballs. Awesome. I’ve told this story before but I’m old enough now that I can repeat myself over and over again just like my dad does and if I hear my old man tell that story about how baby Christopher stole those two strips of bacon off of Grandpa’s plate one more time… I’m going to pretend like its first time he’s ever told it. Anyway, it’s 1997 and I’m working some job and observe that this dude, who coincidentally was Japanese, with a flyer for the Detroit Institute of Arts film schedule. Perusing it I saw that for one night only, this evening in particular, they were showing ‘Gamera: Guardian of the Universe’. I almost choked on my own vomit I was so excited. All of the Gamera movies that I saw and loved as a child were made even before I was born but now you’re telling me that there’s a brand spanking new Gamera flick out there? So I frantically call the bride, we drop the newborn off at her crack addicted uncle’s house (may he rest in peace) hoping he wouldn’t sell him while we were away and off we journeyed to the DIA to watch some Gamera goodness. And the nectar was sweet. Since I got my box set not too long ago, including the recently released ‘Gamera the Brave’ I’m going to revisit these movies and report back to you on what Gamera means to me. Sounds like a fifth grade term paper.

A ship carrying high grade plutonium runs ashore, which seems mighty odd since they’re in the middle of the Pacific, but it’s not land that they ran up on but a huge, somewhat radioactive floating atoll. Fortunately nothing happened to the lethal cargo but what is this thing and why is it here? More on that later but it is related to the sudden disappearance of a group of researches on a small island. The very skittish Inspector Sato (Yukijiro Hotaru) working with Dr. Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu

Nakayama) who is the worlds cutest Ornithologist and colleague to these missing researchers are curious about that since the report is that the islanders were attacked by a giant bird. Dr. Nagamine has her doubts about this considering the damage that was done, but when she finds the two foot pile of bird dookey filled with indigestible items, she begins to rethink things. Then they see one these birds flying above. Now Dr. Nagamine begins to question why she’s even being consulted in this matter considering that these can’t be birds since birds don’t have teeth and birds generally don’t eat people. That’s why she’s a doctor.

Back to the atoll. Navy officer Yoshinari Yonemuri (Tsuyoshi Ihara) working with archeologist Naoya Kusangi (Akira Onodera) are curious about this small floating island and are researching it, at least until it comes to life revealing itself as a sixty meters tall giant turtle. Why, pray tell, is there a giant turtle floating in Pacific Ocean in the middle of Japan? As the prophecy has foretold, the appearance of Gamera has coincided with reemergence of the reign of evil known as Gyaos, our flying birds who can and will end civilization if given the chance. Again. Unfortunately our wacky bureaucrats have chosen to attack Gamera, reason being that he’s bigger, at least for the time being, even though he hasn’t tried to eat anybody yet. Well that was a mistake. Gamera managed to eliminate two of the three with extreme prejudice but the third one… well he / she is a bit more trouble and it’s looking real bad for Gamera and humanity with the only hope for all us being wrapped inside the faith of one little Eurasian teenager (Ayako Fujitani).

I am clearly biased here so there’s really not a lot that this movie, helmed by future ‘Death Note’ director Shusuke Kaneko, could’ve done anything except get high praise from me. The story is about as simple as Kaiju gets. Big monster must stop bigger meaner monster. But I like to think, bias aside, that ‘Guardian of the Universe’ would work for anybody who likes exciting action movies even if they are not a particular fan of Gamera or monster movies in general. The film just has a nice, smooth logical flow about it, as logical as a movie about a giant flying turtle can be, and in 1997, considering what we were used to as far as special effects go in these kinds of movies, were simply extraordinary. On the DVD extras you get a very good sense in what was involved in creating these special effects through interviews with the FX director Shinji Higuchi, which alone is worth the price of the disc.

There were some things that were odd about the story in that I don’t know if they ever made it clear why this ancient civilization created this self replicating, man eating, indestructible bird monster and I’m still not fully certain about this link between Gamera and our girl Asagi. But that’s just silly nitpicking. Gyaos is one of the ugliest most unsavory monsters ever and Gamera has a big old heart and is about as heroic as any thing ever in movie history. That’s why we love it so. This particular movie is fourteen years old as of this writing but it still holds up quite well under scrutiny even today, and if you haven’t seen it yet then you owe it to yourself experience Gamera in his return, and then proceed from there to the others.

Real Time Web Analytics