So, while I prep for my Godzilla Anime themed month, I thought about something. I’ve covered kaiju movies, a lot, but I’ve never given overall thoughts on a specific collection of films or series. Of all my kaiju reviews, my favourites stand as the Gamera Heisei trilogy reviews. These were reviews I worked really hard on and am really proud of overall. So I’ve decided to give a complete overview of the Gamera trilogy, breaking down my favourite parts of the movies, some of the lesser qualities, as well as my overall thoughts on the series as a whole. With that said, let’s dive into it.
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe – As the first in the trilogy, they really do start off strong. This movie is great on so many levels, setting the tone of the trilogy perfectly and providing us with a great new incarnation of the flying super turtle. This movie does admittedly have some dated effects, but the general presentation is very high quality, great suits, great set design and generally a really polished look that already sets it apart from the showa series and their generally cheap looks.
- Final Score: 8/10
- Gamera 2: Advent of Legion – Probably the weakest of the Heisei trilogy for me. Advent of Legion boasts some great monster action and great kaiju designs, but has a weak plot and really takes its time before it gets interesting. Plot threads are either left unexplored or are resolved too quickly. While the Legion enemies look pretty good, and the set piecwes, appearances alone can’t save this movie from being the weakest of the trilogy.
- Final Score: 6/10
- Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris – The trilogy started strong, had a ‘meh’ middle and then they ended on an absolute highnote. Revenge of Iris has the best kaiju designs of the trilogy, a great story, tons of well done monster action and while the ending is ambiguous and doesn’t give any real closure to this universe but in a good way. The human characters do feel at their worst here, but there are still some standouts and they don’t take too much away from the monster action. It’s an explosive, exhilarating experience that deserves its reputation as one of the great kaiju movies.
- Final Score: 9/10
What I Liked
One thing these movies definitely excel at is their presentation. These are some of the best looking suitmation kaiju films. The sense of scale in these movies is definitely felt and very few, if any at all, shots actually ruin the illusion of size. The designs were also great, I loved seeing Gamera’s design change and evolve throughout the movie, seeing him become more and more menacing as each flaw I had with the design was seemingly addressed by the third movie. But Gamera wasn’t the only one worthy of praise in the design department, these villain designs are great. Gyaos, Legion and Iris are all used to full effect in their respective movies, and each one carries with them a spectacular design that encapsulates their sinister styles and personalities.
What I Didn’t Like
I really do feel like I have to stretch for general issues with this trilogy. I suppose the biggest fault with these movies is the humans, but it’s kind of cliché to say that. Honestly in the first movie the human characters really do shine and are the best part of the movie. Their personalities are memorable and their placement in the plot is organic and natural. The second movie sees new characters enter the scene, but they aren’t as memorable and honestly their presence drags the movie down. Revenge of Iris has the worst of the characters, bringing back old ones that were largely unnecessary, and committing the cardinal sin of kaiju films, human villains. The human villains in Revenge of Iris dragged the human aspect of the story down, so much so that they actually confused the plot as well, adding nothing other than a stifled side plot that ends with both villains getting killed by a falling ceiling, good job guys you achieved NOTHING.
So what are my final thoughts on this trilogy? Well I know I sounded pretty negative on the whole character thing, but I really love this trilogy through and through. These movies really are titans of the Kaiju genre, and while I wouldn’t say they’re ‘the best’ I’d definitely call them some of the best. Wonderful presentation, spectacular designs, memorable moments and a whole heaping of awesome kaiju action, this is a trilogy that’s sure to be remembered as stand out examples of the kaiju movie genre.
Bonus: Top 5 Trilogy Moments
5. Legion Flower Explosion: This scene is a really sudden one, and it really does catch you off guard. This is the worst defeat Gamera has suffered in my opinion, as it’s one of the few times where he fails at his attempts to save the day. The Legion flower’s explosion destroys the whole city of Sendai, a truly haunting moment that really comes as a shock. Despite the magnitude of this moment, it goes unaddressed to some extent, and Gamera recovers from it soon after, so much of the magnitude is ultimately lost.
4. Legion’s Torture: This scene isn’t exactly brought up much, but to me it stands as one of the most brutal in the trilogy. After We think Gamera has the upper hand, tearing off Legions horn in violent fashion, Legion proceeds to shoot red plasma whips out of its wound. These whips all strike and impale Gamera, leaving him practically immobilised by pain. This scene is unsettling in how sinister it is, the small whips striking Gamera are downright chilling and their sadistic movements really make for a wonderfully violent scene.
3. Gamera vs. Gyaos: Of all the Gamera fight scenes, this one stands out as one of my favourites. While it does have some of the most dated effects, it’s easily the most exhilarating fight. There’s aerial dogfight style fights, hand to hand fights, ranged attack clashes, and has easily one of the sickest Gamera entrances to date, with him sliding into combat like an anime character. Gyaos is also great, it’s large size making it more than a match for Gamera. A real stand out fight that has a great final kill.
2. Gamera Kills Legion: Taking home the silver today is the death of Legion. After Gamera gets beaten and bruised by the insect monster, he uses his last resort, and decides to end this with a literal bang. Summoning the energy of the earth towards him Gamera fires a colossal beam at Legion, and with that one epic move Legion is vanquished. This moment was a spectacular end to an otherwise lesser movie in the trilogy but stands out as one of the best moments, the likes of Goku and Vegeta would be quaking in their boots at this attack.
1. Gamera Kills Iris: Here it is, the crowning moment of the Gamera Heisei trilogy, the death of Iris. After Gamera is left at his absolute lowest, his strength is gone, his power is useless and his own life-force is slowly being drained by his adversary Iris. With his last drop of strength, Gamera tears off his own arm and absorb the energy launched by Iris, ending with him impaling the evil kaiju and the whole scene going up in a large explosion. This scene is satisfying, brutal and exhilarating, a fitting end to a great villain.
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