Today’s selection: Gamera the Brave (2006, dir. Ryuta Tazaki)
Available from: Media Blasters
Gamera the Brave is not Gamera 4. I figured I’d start with that, since it had a lot of backlash upon release for just that reason. One of the problems with having a successful but stylistically different reboot, as Gamera did in the 90’s, is that people will come to expect the reboot version to replace the original incarnation for all future works. Gamera the Brave suffers from that predicament; while it’s a great entry in the Gamera series as a whole, it’s most assuredly not the fourth installment in the 1990’s Gamera trilogy. Before watching Gamera the Brave, take a deep breath, remind yourself that this is unrelated to Shusuke Kaneko’s gritty Gamera remake, and that it’s okay to have a giant flying turtle movie that’s kid-friendly once in a while (as most of the franchise was), and you’ll have a much better time.
The movie focuses on an awkward 11-year-old boy, Toru, who adopts a baby turtle, Toto. Toto is a cute, sweet pet, but causes some trouble when it’s revealed that he can fly and breathe fire, and will eventually grow into a Gamera, like the previous one that died fighting Gyaos in 1973 (an odd choice of a year, possibly implying that this is the same timeline as the original 1965-1971 Gamera series, if 1980’s Super Monster Gamera didn’t happen?). Because tension and misunderstandings can be built much more easily if the good monster is blamed for stuff done by a bad monster, there’s also a nemesis for the relatively-cuddly Gamera in the movie: Zedus, a bipedal dinosaur monster that’s done using one of the better suits used in kaiju movie history.
The movie has really nice special effects (though the grown Gamera suit is a little dopey), and is probably the best Japanese monster flick made during Godzilla’s retirement. It does skew to a younger audience than Gamera 3, but at least there’s not stock footage and insert songs that would be the bane of about half of the Showa-era Gamera pictures.