Thursday, 13 March 2014

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe lacks the pomp and circumstance of similar Godzilla cycles. For a start the title character isn't regarded with paralysing religious awe. Despite clearly acting in mankind's best interests, Gamera is treated as an irritant by Japan's political elite and their Self-Defense Force. When large reptilian birds named Gyaos are discovered on a remote island, the fleeting opportunity to trap them and make some theme park money is scuppered by the arrival of the titular jet-propelled turtle. It's not until the Gyaos begin cannibalising each other to create an alpha example that Japan gets on board with its half-shell hero.

Shusuke Kaneko keeps this Gamera clipped and crisp. Basic unstoppable force machinations are flavoured with short, shocking calamity. Aside from a mid-air action finale, the stand out sequence is the attempt to capture the infant Gyaos. Cattle carcasses are piled up to lure them to an empty baseball stadium. Once the birds begin their feast, the military plan to close the retractable roof and tranquillise them. It's an elegant solution to more modestly sized, and budgeted, monsters. Gamera doesn't need to fabricate fantastical sci-fi gun platforms to challenge these new threats, its world instead has a reasonable, but realistically fallible response. Shinji Higuchi's special effects landscapes are also scaled smaller than the Godzilla films of the period, better able to stress the idea that something horrible and alien has infected this environment rather than simply trampled it.

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