Here I am, back with the kaiju movies, and this time we return to everyone’s favourite giant fire-breathing, flying murder turtle, Gamera. I’ve already reviewed Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Advent of Legion, and now I review part 3 of the heisei trilogy of film, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris. This movie is the final installment in the 1990s series of Gamera films, released in 1999 and serves as the final send off for the titular turtle kaiju and was the last Gamera movie for 7 years until 2006 with Gamera the Brave. So how does this final movie hold up? Is it the fitting end to an otherwise good series of films? Let’s find out.
Good god this movie is dark and just rolls with it. The other two films had a serious tone but nothing on the level that this movie did. For one we see the ramifications of Gamera’s duty as the protector of Earth and not Humanity. This creates the big conflict in the movie, that being between Gamera and a girl named Ayana. This is an angle you very rarely see in these kinds of movies, a human bent on revenge against a kaiju is a welcome story to be sure. Not to mention this movie carries a lot of emotional baggage in the form of Ayana’s conflict and her relationship with the movies main villain Iris. Recurring characters also return for this movie, including Asagi from the last two, Mayumi and Osaka from Guardian of the Universe along with one or two side characters. The movie is also well paced, having progression between scenes that works pretty well and is carried by the characters. This movie does what a good sequel does, and that is acknowledge previous installments. Advent of Legion barely references Guardian of the Universe except in the form of Asagi, while this movie references GOTU and Advent of Legion. This movie also ties up a lot of loose ends, explaining the ending of Advent of Legion and even expanding on Gamera’s lore a bit by showing a graveyard of Gamera’s that adds to the sheer scale of the beast considering he is the end result of hundreds if not thousands of failed attempts. One thing I don’t like about the story is that its kickstarted in a very stupid way, and that being that Ayana is basically forced to find Iris by complete accident because of some bullies. So while the plot is good it just kinda happens and there’s no real setup to it other than Ayana’s initial detests for Gamera. I also find it weird that the world still considers Gamera their worst enemy and try to kill him, even though he saved the world twice and it’s only up until this movie that he actually began disregarding people. Not to mention the ending, while left ambiguous, is hopelessly unresolved and not to mention Ayana has a fake out death after being revived by Gamera, but even that isn’t really explained. So in conclusion, the story has little actual setup and a weird ending, but it is beautifully crafted and has a lot of conflict in its characters and works as a satisfying end to the trilogy.
Of all the movies in the heisei trilogy, this one is the most character driven in terms of its story. One problem I have with some of the characters is that many of them are pointless and contribute barely anything to the plot. Of the 7 characters I’m going to talk about, at least 3 of them are essentially meaningless in the movie. But that said they do all have something of note to talk about, so let’s get into them.
- Ayana Hiraska: Ayana serves as both a protagonist and antagonist. She is the driving force of the story and acts as a conduit for the monster Iris and is the reason for its rage and anger towards Gamera. Her story arc is dreadfully grim, having witnessed her parents die during Gamera’s fight with Gyaos, her hatred for the big Turtle monster is one that is warranted and is actually a conflict that evolves throughout the film. She starts out as a simply deadpan girl, but then turns into a loving carer for Iris but develops a ruthless streak as she plans to use Iris to kill Gamera. When she eventually comes to her senses, she isn’t fully redeemed, since she herself doesn’t know why Gamera ‘saves’ her at the end of the film and blames herself for all this wanton destruction. She is a bit too expressionless and displays very little emotion other than HATE, HATE, HATE! But her conflict is one that you are invested in and you do want her to be free of her own hatred as well as the grip of Iris.
- Mayumi Nagamine: Returning from the first movie, Mayumi is thrust back into the story with the return of Gyaos, and becomes a major player in the film. She is the one we predominantly follow with the exception of Ayana, and she fulfils basically the same role as she did in her previous outing with Gamera. She helps identify the biology of Gyaos and Iris, along with bringing back Inspector Osaka into the mix as well as Asagi. I can’t really think of any stand out moments of hers, but she’s a headstrong character with a pretty likable personality and her involvement doesn’t feel forced like Asagi’s did in the last film.
- Asagi Kusonagi: I talked about Asagi in the last movie and how she was really unnecessary and dragged many of the human elements down for me. But in this movie she is actually a bit more integral to the plot and I’m not really that bothered by her. Since the movie is about spiritual bonds with monster in the form of Ayana and Iris, it makes sense that a character like Asagi who’d previously experienced such a thing would be in the movie. She also doesn’t gab about Gamera nearly as much and is tolerable in my eyes, a nice end to her character in my opinion.
- Inspector Osaka: To be honest, Osaka is kind of pointless in this movie. I do like him, I think he’s a pretty funny comic relief, but he just follows Mayumi around and states obvious things. I like Osaka, but he just doesn’t need to be here and that’s a shame since I have a soft spot for his character.
- Tatsunari Moribe: Tatsunari is a fine character, He’s not that great and is a bit of a wuss at times, but his characters so inoffensive and simple that you can really like him or hate him. He does have an impact on the climax…sort of, but other than that he’s nothing special.
- Mito Asakura/Shinya Kurata: I’m putting these two together because I just don’t like them. Mito is this needlessly sadistic and insane woman who has no purpose in the movie and Shinya is just that stereotypical ‘madman who spouts philosophical nonsense and you with would meet his maker’. These two are not necessary and I feel that you could remove them from the plot entirely and all elements connected to them and practically nothing of value would be lost.
As the finale in the trilogy, this one has some of the best presentation. Given that this movie came out 3 years after Advent of Legion, a weird occurrence since many monster movie sequel are released annually after one another, they had more time to work on the monster designs and special effects. This movie has more CGI than the previous films, and while some of it is beyond dated to the point where my PS4 can look more convincing, it does offer some much more interesting shots and visual storytelling. The scenes of Gamera and Iris battling in the sky are CGI, but they look good under the darkness of night as opposed to a scene with Iris and Ayana which takes place in broad daylight. Wide angle shots are used everywhere in this movie and it really sells you on the size of these monsters. We also get more human/monster shots, by this I mean we see humans alongside the monsters which accentuates the size of these beasts. The combat is also good, the final fight having a lot of destruction and a finishing move from Gamera that just leaves you punching the air with amazement. It’s kinda like a mix between Saitama’s punch, the Captain Falcon’s Falcon Punch and Goku’s Dragon Fist all rolled into an attack that makes United States of Smash look like a love tap, and that’s no easy feat to say the least. The monster designs are also spectacular, especially Gamera. I mentioned in my review of GOTU that I wished Gamera’s eyes were smaller since that would really sell me on the fear aspect of him. Then in Advent of legion his eyes did get smaller but not to the point where he looked scary. In this movie, Gamera receives yet another updated look, and OH BOY THEY DID IT! Gamera now has tiny eyes and a much sharper design. He looks awesome and to this date is now my favourite Gamera design. Iris also looks good, it’s design is a little bit busy but the combination of CGI and puppetry really sells me on this monster, not to mention its emotional connection to Ayana adds to the mysticism and dread of the beast. So overall, great camera angles, decent use of CGI and some absolutely belting monster designs, Gamera 3; Revenge of Iris is a visual treat.
- Gamera: Gamera is awesome in this movie. His screenstime is once again limited but this is balanced out by the human characters and when he does arrive it’s a satisfying pay off. This Gamera is vicious and is most certainly not a ‘good’ guy, killing innocents in order to fulfill his goal of eliminating the Gyaos. I also like how there have been multiple Gamera and that each one died after being unable to maintain the mantle. His abilities are deadly, his dedication is frightening, and the fact that he blames himself for the Gyaos’ appearance as a result of his actions from Advent of Legion really adds to his character. Also as state before he was one of the coolest villain kills in any kaiju movie, cooler than the MUTO decapitation in Godzilla 2014, cooler than Keizer Ghidorah’s death in Godzilla Final Wars Gamera may have started as a joke in the showa period, but this movie makes him no laughing matter.
- Iris: The big bad and the final new villain Gamera would face until Zedus in Gamera the Brave (2006). Iris maintains the trend of monsters evolving in this trilogy, and each of its forms is wonderfully creepy. It’s baby form is endearing but has a lot of creepiness to it. It’s second form, while having very little screentime, is cool looking and a nice transition into the final form. Speaking of the final form, it is complex looking but the long tentacles, the sharp features and amazing CGI shots makes for a great looking monster. Iris’ connection to Ayama also makes it an interesting beast, giving it this personality sculpted by the actions of the characters, and therefore makes Iris a somewhat poetic monster s a representation of Ayana’s resentment and hatred. It may have started as an evolved Gyaos, but Iris certainly stands out as a villain. *quick note. I know Gyaos appears in this movie, but it’s hardly enough to warrant a point being made about it.
- Story: 4/5 – There’s a lot of conflict in this film and it is taken full advantage off, leaving us with a rich story that you get invested in. The human conflict is especially interesting and leaves you wishing for a resolution for these characters.
- Characters: 3/5 – With the exception of the more important characters, most of the main cast is needlessly forced and has very little impact on the plot. The human antagonists are particularly frustrating in how outright unnecessary they are.
- Presentation: 4/5 – Great suitmation and puppetry, some good but dated CGI and good establishing shots, this presentation is very high quality.
- Genre Representation: 4/5 – The monster action does take time, but it’s got good build up and when it happens it’s pretty awesome to watch.
- (Unique Grade) Monster…ness: 4/5 – Like I said above, great monster action, the designs look amazing and there’s the amazing kill that Gamera scores against Iris.
- Final Grade: 4/5 – Overall this is a fitting end to the trilogy, it’s got great atmosphere, great story, some good characters and some great monster moments. As a temporary send of for the big turtle kaiju, this was a satisfying end and one that Gamera would be proud of.
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