Blu-ray Review: Gamera Trilogy



Gamera is a persistent giant mutant turtle. Originally he was scoffed by critics as a Godzilla knock-off. He probably could have just accepted his fate and been lumped in with Yongary and The Salamander That Ate Cleveland. But there’s a strange charm under that shell. His films became sensations in the early ‘90s thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000. He made a cameo on Mad Men. But could he do something new? Kazunori Ito was riding high after his screenplay for Ghost in the Shell. He had his pick of projects. Instead of going for Oscar glory, Ito engineered Gamera’s comeback in a Tarantino-esque way. He created three movies for the ‘70s rubber suit superstar. It was a major risk to the writer’s reputation. Could Gamera handle such pressure after being off the screen for nearly 25 years? His last outing was the cliptastic Gamera: Super Monster so that doesn’t really count. Gamera Trilogy brings all three Heisei series entries onto glory of Blu-ray.

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995 – 103 minutes) reworks the Gamera mythology. Turns out that reptile-bat Gyaos were bred nearly 10,000 years ago to clean up the environment. Like all great fixes, Gyaos became the new problem. Thus Gameras were created to take care of Gyaos. Only one Gamera remained after this housekeeping. He’s there to stomp out any missed Gyaos. Naturally the bird creatures return. The humans think they can handle the mutants by luring them into the Fukuoke Dome. The place has a retractable roof. Seems like an easy cage to catch a bird. But the plan falls short. Luckily Gamera arrives to do his duty. There’s a lot of top notch Tokyo stomping. The monsters take out the Tokyo Tower. This is the best Gamera film since the original Gamera vs. Gyaos.

Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996 – 100 minutes) packs danger on the back of a meteor. The space rock slams a mountain outside Sapporo. Soon after people see odd plants and insect creatures. Turns out they city is being quietly invaded by space aliens. They use the subway system as their means to attack and grow. The insect creatures get so large that only Gamera can stop them. But can he handle so many of them at once? Gamera seems to have a new secret weapon in his shell. The sequel keeps up the entertainment and excitement. There’s no flacking out with the terrapin.

Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys (1999 – 108 minutes) brings back more of the Gyaos. The flying destruction demons are all over the globe destroying landmarks. The twist here is that a girl bitter at Gamera taking out her family in the first film has raised her own Gyaos. The domesticated Gyaos is the Irys in the title. Turns out that like other wild animals, you can’t really train these monsters. It flees it’s cage and goes after Gamera. The two battle around Kyoto. The girl and Irys meld in order for both to get revenge on the turtle. It’s a stunning ending to the trilogy that wouldn’t have been done during the time when Gamera hung out with Kenny.

Gamera Trilogy brings together a well crafted relaunch of the mega-turtle. This isn’t the normal goofy kid stuff. Kazunori Ito didn’t perform a cash grab based on a movie he remembered as a kid. He brings so much more to a giant turtle that can shot rockets out of his shell. These three films are so much better than Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s Godzilla made during this era. What Gamera lacks in budget he more than makes up with a soul beneath the thick shell.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p image is extremely sharp. Little piece of the buildings fly across the screen with the details shining. The audio is Japanese 5.1 DTS HD and 5.1 Dolby Digital. There’s an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Dub and English subtitles. These films have enough of a serious edge that they demand subtitles like other classy imported films.

Deleted Scenes, Camera Test & Special Effects (171 minutes) covers all three movies. The behind the scenes shots expose how they broke out the rubber suits for some of the action. This section also contains Creating the Monsters and the Awakening of Iris Remix. The Japanese soundtrack is subtitled in English.

Gamera Trilogy elevates the mutant turtle series that had turned into kid movies. There is an adult element as he fights off Gyaos and space mutants. The incredible low price for the Blu-ray boxset makes this worth snagging for just the casual viewer of Gamera.

Mill Creek Entertainment presents Gamera Trilogy Starring: Shinobu Nakayama, Ayako Fujitani and Yukijiro Hotaru. Boxset Content: 3 Movies on 2 Blu-rays. Released on DVD: September 27, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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