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Gamerathon: Gamera: Guardian Of The Universe



  • In the making of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, director Shusuke Kaneko turned to the Godzilla films directed by Ishiro Honda. He mentioned when he was a child, he felt that Honda's films were much more sophisticated than other monster movies. He considered Honda's films as textbooks that he can turn to for inspiration when figuring out how to film certain scenes.

 
  • Gyaos was performed by suit actress Yuhmi Kaneyama so the monster would convey more feminine like behavior. This was the first time a monster was performed by a woman in a feature film.

 
  • Before making Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Kaneko originally approached Toho Co. to direct Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth. However, Toho declined and was later approached by Daiei to bring back Gamera. Toho producer Shogo Tomiyama commented that Toho Co. was actually jealous of Kaneko's critical success, which then prompted Toho to allow Kaneko to direct Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack.

 
  • Despite the movie being produced by Daiei Co., Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was theatrically distributed in Japan by none other than Toho Co., the parent studio for Godzilla.


Review:

When an ornithologist was assigned to a case of attacks from an unknown species of bird-like monsters, a girl was gifted a jewel that was found on a mysterious atoll. As soon as these monstrous birds started to attack more heavily populated areas of Japan, the atoll is revealed to be an ancient guardian called Gamera and has made a bond with the girl holding the jewel.


After Gamera: Super Monster flopped in Japanese box-office, the monster would be hiatus for fifteen years. Daiei originally wanted to revive the "Daimajin" series, but opted for Gamera due to discovering a rise in interest in the property. They turned to Shusuke Kaneko to direct the movie and gave him creative freedom with the monster as long as it worked around a small budget. With his love of Godzilla films made by Ishiro Honda, he would turn to those films for inspiration while making Gamera. What this movie did was similar to how Godzilla started the Heisei series by rebooting the series by going back to the series's original roots of the original film with a more serious story. When it comes to Gamera movies, this was actually my first Gamera movie that I watched when I was kid and how I first learned about Gamera. To this day, the movie still holds up as one of my favorite monster movies from the 90's as well as being my first Gamera movie that I was ever exposed to when I was a kid.


The story is centered around four characters: Mayumi Nagamine, Yoshinari Yonemori, Naoyo Kusanagi, and Asagi Kusanagi. Nagamine was assigned to investigate sightings of a large bird that has been attacking a small village and after her first hand experience in seeing these birds for herself she was brought in by a special research team formed by the JSDF to capture the birds that is later named Gyaos. Yonemori was one of the crew members on the cargo ship that was hauling plutonium when the ship collided with a floating atoll. He volunteered himself to join the coast guard with Naoya to look for the atoll, which later reveals to be Gamera. The girl, Asagi Kusanagi, was given a jewel by Yonemori that he found on what he originally thought was an atoll. Kusanagi wears this jewel on a necklace, yet learns that this jewel has a special power that has her mind and body connected directly to Gamera. So whatever pain Gamera feels, Kusanagi will feel it and sustain the same injuries. All of them play a more active role to the story that I feel makes more sense than previous Gamera movies with annoying children being the center of attention. They actually acted natural when it came to these monsters existing in this world. At the same time, the characters also take into consideration realistic views just on how destructive these monsters are despite even after knowing Gamera is the good monster trying to protect everyone.


One of the things that I liked about the story was how it takes Gamera's origin from the original film of him being from Atlantis and ties it in with this movie. The Showa era never really explored that side of Gamera other than the original movie. For Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe, the characters explain a lot on Gamera's and Gyaos's origins, but they explain them from research that is backed up on the discoveries by these characters of the curved jewels and an ancient stone tablet foretelling of Gamera's battle with Gyaos. It gives Gamera's role a more broad motivation. Rather than being the friend of all children, he was programmed by this ancient civilization to protect the next civilization from the Gyaos, which were also made by the Atlanteans yet had turned against their masters. So I like how Gamera's Atlantean origin was re-established in this movie and it gets explored a little more in each movie. In fact, Gamera as a protector in these movies is what really inspired Godzilla's motivation in the Monsterverse. If you watch this movie, Gamera 2, and Gamera 3 you can find a lot to compare with the Monsterverse Godzilla. Both are benevolent most of the time, but are also destructive, stories have some what realistic views on how these monsters affect the humans negatively and positively, and both only have a motive to maintain a balance to protect the planet. That is what Gamera in this movie and other movies that came after sort of had. If you are a fan of the Monsterverse movies, you may want to check out this and the other two I have mentioned.


Much like how Godzilla's design got a major overhaul in the Heisei era to look more serious and aggressive, Gamera was given the same treatment with his design. Gamera still has those large eyes that makes him look child-friendly, but his design overall is far different from how he looked in the Showa era that I and many fans actually appreciate. What I love even more is with each movie in the Heisei era Gamera's design changes more and more to capture a more serious and aggressive monster. So for Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera still retains some child-friendly looks while looking more up to date.


Gyaos even gets an updated design for this film looking more menacing and vicious. Instead of being like a vampire that hungers for blood, it is just a carnivorous animal. It hunts anything that moves, but it has a special appetite for humans. I really like the movie confuses them for birds because they really did look more bird like. Yet much like in my review for Gamera vs Gyaos, they still retain that pteranodon design that is similar to Rodan in some aspects. I especially like how the movie explains Gyaos's origin coming from the same lost civilization as Gamera that decided to turn against their masters.


One of the best things with the Heisei Gamera movies is the new kickass theme song for Gamera. The song was composed by Kow Otani, who also worked on composing the music for Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack. It practically rivals Godzilla's theme song as one of the best music pieces for a monster movie. It has a demanding presence that always has me hyped up because once the song starts playing I know instantly that a fight is about to go down. It is very much like how with Godzilla's theme song you instantly know that Godzilla is marching into a battle. The same goes with Gamera's new theme song. It is a well done piece of music that I wish is given more recognition by fans because to be honest I would love to hear this piece of music come back in some form in a future installment. It is just a great piece of music that builds up hype for a fight scene.


One nitpick I do have with the movie is the visuals. There are some scenes that look great, but then not so great in other scenes. Maybe it is just how the movie aged or maybe CGI had spoiled me, yet there are a lot of times where the movie looks too fake. Some shots of a miniature Tokyo or a village in Japan will look great, but others it looks way too obvious and I can't help notice that these are miniature sets. Or it would have to do with the suits of the monsters where in some shots Gamera and Gyaos would look great and believable, yet not so great in certain lighting like at the climax when the monsters are fighting during the day time. It doesn't ruin the experience of the movie for me, but it is a glaringly noticeable and it does make me wish those scenes were better shot with better lighting or angle.


What I will give this movie and the Heisei series credit for, as well, is the fight choreography. One of the main criticisms with the Godzilla movies in the 90's was that most of the fights consisted of beam fights. While I do love a good beam fight with tons of explosions, there was not a lot of physical action going on in those Godzilla movies. This was mainly due to the suits being so heavy to wear that the actors could hardly move. What I love about the fights in this movie is that the beams are used less frequently. The fights look more like a fight with the monsters clawing and biting each other and each punch looks like there is weight to them. So I can imagine the suits for Gamera and Gyaos are lighter so the actors can move around easier and perform the fights. Speaking of beams, Gamera's fire breath is no longer a flame-thrower anymore. They updated it to look more like a fire ball, which becomes a main stay attribute in later installments. I like this change as it gave Gamera more of its own identity and not be just another Godzilla clone like originally intended. I got a lot more enjoyment out of the fights in this movie than I had with most of the Godzilla movies in the 90's and it is definitely worth the watch.


Final Thoughts:


Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe really updates Gamera to a more grounded and serious take on the monster that appeals to both children and adults. I love that it expands the lore behind Gamera further and how it ties in with the rest of the movie to explain the monster's motive. It has good action scenes and a decent cast of characters that all have an active role to play rather than relying on annoying children. Overall, it is an all around fun movie and one that I recommend starting with for anybody that has never watched a Gamera film.


I want to know what your thoughts are on Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. Is this one of your favorite monster movies? Wiould you recommend this movie to anyone that is curious about Gamera? Leave a comment in the comments section of your thoughts on this movie. Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Minds, MeWe, Gab, and TRUTH Social to stay up to date for more news, reviews, and discussions.

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