Gamera: Revenge of Iris
After setting the bar high with the first two Heisei Gamera films, the outstanding Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) and the equally impressive Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996) Shusuke Kaneko was in a challenging position when it came to crafting the third and final entry in the trilogy. Not only would it be expected to advance beyond the excellence of its predecessors, and continue to push the envelope for the genre, but also worthily conclude a saga which had revolutionised kaiju filmmaking. Gamera 3 does all this, and much more. Kaneko and his crew have triumphed, creating not only a great movie, but a work of art.
With a multilayered script and masterful direction by Kaneko, Gamera 3 fuses the human and kaiju drama together to form a single seamless narrative, infused with a beautifully dark and powerful atmosphere. The pacing moves gracefully from scene to scene, developing the film’s complex plot economically without ever rushing or dragging. The characters, both human and kaiju, are dynamic and brilliantly developed, particularly Ayana, who as well as being the driving force behind the film’s plot, is also one of the rounded and tangible characters in the genre.
While all the actors give quality performances, the best by far is Ai Maeda, whose tortured portrayal of Ayana gives the film its heart.
The kaiju are simply incredible. Not only are they visually stunning, but the amount of personality and presence they bring to the screen is amazing. Gamera, once a cheesy laughing stock, is a respectable and intimidating kaiju with a complex and ambiguous personality, and Iris is not only a great villain with plenty of character, but also the most imaginatively designed kaiju the genre has yet seen.
The Gyaos, given a supporting role this time around, are as sinister as ever, and play their part in the apocalyptic plot perfectly.
Shinji Higuchi’s special effects are superb, bringing the kaiju and their scenes to life with an outstanding arsenal of digital and practical techniques. From the excellent suits to the spectacular pyrotechnics, Gamera 3 is a visual treat. Even the CGI, which is almost always appears half-baked in kaiju films due to limitations time and budget, is expertly rendered here, blending smoothly with the live action footage. What’s more, the effects are not only technically sophisticated, but aesthetically gorgeous as well, with rich colours, elegant art direction, and stunning cinematography. (All three of which extends to the non-special effects scenes as well)
Overall, the special effects in Gamera 3 surpass not only every Godzilla film made to date, but 2006’s Gamera the Brave as well.
From the battle between Gamera and two Gyaos in Tokyo to the final showdown at Kyoto train station, the action sequences are marvellous in their intensity, visual flair, and choreography. No other kaiju film to date has created the illusion of giant creatures fighting as realistically and thrillingly as Gamera 3. While they are not as abundant as in most Godzilla films, this is because the film wisely uses them to serve the plot instead of the other way around. Like its special effects, the kaiju battles in Gamera 3 are the best in the genre to date.
The musical score by Ko Otani is rich, diverse, and powerful, lacking a single bad theme and overflowing with great ones. Several new renditions of Gamera’s theme are used very effectively throughout the film, from the thunderous and majestic version that accompanies his landing in Kyoto, to the haunting, elegiac version that plays at the film’s conclusion. Other musical highlights include the opening cue, which recurs later in the film and has a mournful, mystical tone, the urgent aerial battle theme, and the rousing crescendo which plays at the climax of Gamera and Irys's fight. Also of note is the song that plays over the end credits, “Mo Ichido Oshiete Hoshii,” (Show me again) sung by Juliana Schano and written by Kaneko himself. Not only does its melancholy tone complement the movie nicely, but for those who understand Japanese, its lyrics are quite relevant and touching as well.
All in all, Gamera 3’s score is fantastic, rivalling Akira Ifukube’s very best.
Gamera 3 is a shining monument not only to the genius of its creators, but to the dazzling but rarely seen true potential of the kaiju genre.
Gojira, GMK, and the first two Heisei Gamera entries are excellent movies, yet G3 outdoes them all. It is easily the best kaiju eiga I have seen, as well as a first-class piece of filmmaking.