Saturday, 15 March 2014

Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris

Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris starts incredibly strong. Shusuke Kaneko and Kazunori Ito concoct a first act that functions like the last, confrontational word on the entire kaiju genre. We're not in a fantasy land of last minute evacuations, Gamera doesn't pivot and contort during battle to shield puny humans like he did in Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. When the jet-propelled turtle faces a gang of winged Gyaos over Shibuya there is a human cost. Every step brings calamity. Subways cave in, commuters are vaporised. Even the bubbling mulch of Gamera's vanquished foes ends up flattening a gang of boozed up bystanders.

Gamera is given a makeover to better tally with this imperfection. He's no longer rounded and cute, instead he's spiky. His head is small and brutal like a snapping turtle, his neck ugly and elongated. We're primed for a dour, realistic take on fallibility of gigantic saviour Gods. Unfortunately these thematic ideas don't really inform the ebb and flow of the film. Instead they're consumed to serve the character arc of a sullen little girl. Ayana lost her parents and her cat when Gamera strode through the building they lived in. His actions aren't excused, he isn't thrown into the building by an enemy's attack, he's just, in that moment, oblivious.

Understandably, Ayana detests Gamera. When she discovers the egg of an ancient tentacled God, postulated to be Gamera's opposite, she forms a symbiotic relationship with the creature. This then becomes the film's focus - Gamera and his effect on the world is subordinated to concentrate on two characters whose motives are, at best, remote. Their hatred isn't a burning, maniacal drive, it's a simmering constant expressed through evasive eye contact, ultimately discarded when Ayana finds herself out of her depth. Compounding this disappointment are the numerous asides about Gamera being elsewhere, participating in a more exciting film about an apocalyptic extinction war with armies of prehistoric bats.

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