We’re back with the Gamera movies, this time taking a look at the sequel to Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, called Gamera 2: Advent of Legion. As I mentioned before in my review of Gamera: GOTU, Gamera had a trilogy of movies in the 90s that are held in high regard by his fans and just fans of monster movies overall. It’s been a while since I looked at the flying, fire-breathing turtle, so let’s get into it.
For the most part, this movie has a plot very similar in progression to Gamera: GOTU. A collection of monsters are discovered and the military is powerless to stop them. Gamera shows up, gets beaten then comes back and beats the monster in quite glorious fashion. Now I would just leave this section there but that would be a profound analysis so I’ll elaborate further. This movie doesn’t have the same exposition the first movie did, since Gamera is now an established entity and doesn’t need explaining. Also this story does feel heavier and has much more weight to it in terms of tension. The buildup towards Legion, the movies main villain, is quite effective and takes on an almost horroresque aspect. When Gamera shows up, the action arrives along with him, and boy is it great! The movie primarily follows the military and their attempts to kill Legion, similar to GOTU but that movie focused more on the other characters. One thing this movie also has is a lot of consequence, there are a lot of things in this movie that have real weight to them and a lot of real damage is done. The entire city of Sendai is effectively destroyed, and not in a way where it can be rebuilt, I mean completely leveled beyond repair. There is real consequence in this movie and the fact that it was kinda brought on by Gamera does make everyone else seem somewhat useless compared to the monsters. Gamera also suffers a lot in this movie and you really feel for him, the movie makes you care about Gamera and you want him to succeed. However, there are many things in this movie that are left either unexplained. For example we don’t know why Legion even showed up to earth or why does Asagi still have a connection to Gamera after it was severed last film. There’s a scene in which a bunch of children help to revive a near dead Gamera, but it’s never explained how this works, and the way Gamera kills Legion, while awesome to look at, isn’t explained unless you look into it online. Hopefully they explain some of these things in the 3rd and final film Revenge of Iris. One thing I did enjoy was how the cast slowly discovered the biology of Legion and as they did Legion continued to evolve and change, which was a great parallel in my opinion, keeping both the characters and the audience on edge. So while there are a lot of elements from the first movie and some questionable logic here and there, there’s just enough changes for it to not be too stagnant.
The cast for this movie is fine, I enjoyed watching them and found a lot of them to be really fun characters. However, many of them don’t have much to talk about. I won’t be talking about supporting characters in this section, mainly because they don’t do much, even Osaka from the first movie is in 2 mesely scenes and doesn’t do much himself.
- Colonel Watarase: As the male protagonist, Watarase is a great character. He’s selfless and is a very willing character. The lengths he goes to in order to protect his country and those around him is great to watch and he also has some funny moments too.
- Midori Honami: The female lead, Midori is a fine character. She doesn’t really have anything special about her, but on her own she’s still ok. She does pull the plot along, but doesn’t really contribute that much after Legion and Gamera’s first fight. She’s removed from the action with others, and only serves to work off of Asagi in her attempts to resurrect Gamera. It is a shame since I wanted her to do more in the climax, I feel she could have done all she did without the assistance of Asagi. So while she is kinda basic and not really unique, she’s a nice character and I might add that she leads to one of the funniest scenes in the movies involving herself, Watarase and Obitsu.
- Obitsu: This guy is probably my favourite character in the whole movie. Not only does he contribute to the plot in some big ways and is actually quite funny. I enjoyed his scenes and despite him being comic relief, he does have some serious scenes and has bundles of charm. His interactions with Midori are also really fun and their relationship is really pleasant and fun.
- Asagi Kusanagi: Returning from the previous movie, Asagi comes back but if kinda pointless. She only exists to provide segways into Gamera scenes and frankly, a lot of her scenes could happen without her in them. Her bond with Gamera is severed and she no longer feels his pain or senses his emotion, which makes her inclusion here unnecessary to begin with since it was implied the bond was severed already. She just feels like a total waste to me in this movie.
This movie’s presentation is way better that GOTU, focusing more on CGI rather than green-screen and puppetry. From what I saw, Gamera got an updated like, but more on that later, and the actual suitmation is improved and so too was the special effects on the kaiju’s attacks. This movie had a lot of action, but this leads to one of the movies biggest problems, that being that most of the action is based around the japanese military fighting Legion as opposed to Gamera. This leaves a lot of the actual fighting in the movie to become stagnant since it gets redundant overtime. Some of the CGI does look a bit dated, like with the masses of Legion bugs swarming Gamera and the flying form for the Legion Queen, but for the time and type of movie, I think they look fine and since much of these scenes are in the dark it isn’t too glaring or obvious to become a distraction. Not to mention there are a lot of dramatic shots in this film, the giant Legion flowers, the explosion of Sendai, and the despairful imagery of Gamera having nearly died from the explosion, covered in soot and debris just lying there. However this movie does maintain a high level of quality in both its effects and camera work, resulting in a pretty satisfying visual experience.
SO as stated before, the monster action in this film is kinda limited, at least on the part of Gamera, but for what it’s worth the monsters are still awesome and they do have some awesome fight scenes.
- Gamera: Gamera returns and I think they updated his look again. It’s probably my attention span of a potato, but Gamera does look different in this film. I mentioned in my GOTU review that if Gamera’s eyes were s,aller he’d look cooler, and these eyes do look smaller and he looks way more threatening. He can now morph his arms into flippers to help him fly, but they look really dumb and make no sense since he looked perfectly fine flying and spinning around like a lunatic last time. Despite his ‘limited’ screen time, he has some awesome moments, including one of the coolest entrances into a fight in and Kaiju film, and a finishing blow that puts Godzilla’s kill against Kaiser Ghidorah to shame. They didn’t really expand on Gamera’s lore that much in this film, which is a shame because I did really want to learn more about him. Not to mention he does spend a lot of the movie getting beaten really easily, kinda not living up to his title of ‘Gamera the Invincible’. But, that aside, Gamera is awesome in this film, he may be kinda short on screen-time, but his screen time is awesome.
- Legion: The main adversary of the movie, Legion is definitely a unique villain. It’s origins are never explained but the biology behind it is fascinating, and the way they all work as one unit really does bring meaning to their name. Their introduction into the movie is dripping with menace and they are quite threatening for a time, but the little ones are soon replaced by the big one. The big one doesn’t really have a name but I’ll refer to it as Legion, and it looks absolutely awesome. The design is reminiscent of insects but has this really alien look to it that adds to its dread. Legion displays some amazing abilities and lays some absolute agony upon Gamera and you truly feel like this was going to be a fight that Gamera couldn’t win. So while Legion doesn’t really have much rhyme or reason for coming to earth, it’s still a memorable villain with an equally memorable design. I guess you could say there are ‘MANY’ great things about Legion… *I’m sorry for that one.*
- Story: 3/5 – There are a lot of elements from the first film in the trilogy on display here, but there is also some new perspectives added that do keep the plot from being a beat for beat repeat (hey that rhymed).
- Characters: 3/5 – These characters are fine, but the longer you spend with them, the longer you start to realise they don’t really matter that much. They;re likable and you want to support them, but in hindsight many of them don’t really matter.
- Presentation: 4/5 – This movie has improved presentation over GOTU and it does make for a much better visual experience. The camera work is also great and displays the monsters in an effective way.
- Genre Representation: 3/5 – The monster action is lacking for the most part, but when it gets going it’s really fun. Not to mention the stuff with the military is enjoyable if you’re ok with it taking up a large chunk of the film.
- (Unique Grade) Monster…ness: 3/5 – As mentioned before, the monster action is good, but it is lacking and takes some time before it really gets going. If you want a film with non stop monster fighting chaos, you’ll be disappointed.
- Final Grade: 3/5 – This movie for me does feel like a downgrade from Guardian of the Universe in terms of its action and monster factor, but it’s still an enjoyable film to put on and you will get a kick out of it if you’re a fan of monster films. Here’s hoping they step up for Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.
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