Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

Rating: C-

Dir: Shuseke Kaneko
Star: Shinobu Nakayama, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Akira Onodera, Ayako Fujitani

“Rated PG for mild violence”. How we howled when we saw that because, of course, there’s nothing mild about the violence here. It is a frickin’ Japanese monster movie, after all: violence will be widespread and wholesale. Buildings will be pulverised; trains used as toothpicks; unfortunately-located oil refineries explode. The entire point of these is carnage on at least a citywide, if not larger, scale. Every time a particularly meaty piece of destruction ensued, Chris and I would turn to each other and say, as one, “Mild violence!”. Gamera remains, however, nothing but a Godzilla knockoff, and this film is no different. After fifteen years layoff for Gamera, this re-invents the monster from scratch, and deserves some credit for being the first kaiju eiga, in 1995, to use CGI to enhance the rubber-suited mayhem.

That aspect is executed pretty well, even when toppling into the ridiculous, such as when Gamera suddenly spouts rocket jets and takes off like a giant flying saucer, as he chases down the Gyaos, giant reptilian birds from Atlantis who are the latest threat to mankind – or, at least, Tokyo. The problem is the utterly bland, colourless humans. Even the little girl (Fujitani – Steven Seagal’s daughter) with a psychic link to Gamera is a pointless sideline, adding nothing of significance to the film, and that’s also true for the obligatory social commentary, which is handled in a clumsy and uninteresting fashion. When the creatures aren’t around, you’ll want to fast-forward, for this is nothing more than monster porn – a lot of thrashing around with absolutely no emotional involvement.