After a much needed hiatus (I won’t say hibernation because Gamera isn’t a Blue Peter tortoise) Japan’s favourite giant, sabretoothed turtle was brought back, like Godzilla, for his own Heisei series in the mid-nineties. To be fair, the franchice’s disappearance of the arse end of the planet since 1980 was pretty much the studio’s own doing. Rampant budget cutting and chronic reuse of old footage had buried the character as deep as an impacting meteor so an almost total reboot was in order: enter Shusuke Kaneko (who would go on to direct Godzilla high point GMK: Giant Monsters All Out Attack and the live action Death Note) who took a tired ripoff franchise (let’s be honest here) and proceeded to make on of the greatest Kaiju trilogies in movie history.
The Japanese military investigating a strange atoll floating in the ocean are shocked to find they have awakened a huge monster turtle that breaks free of it’s rocky cocoon and swims off in search of something. Elsewhere, scientists are horrified to find a research team and the townspeople of a small island missing after following reports of a sighting of a “giant bird” when the bird in question is a actually a trio of the carniverous bat creatures known as the Gyaos who have consumed everybody in their hunting patch and literally left their remains lying around in piles of shit (nice). After leaving the island the military and the scientists join forces to capture the Gyaos when they reach a populated area but when Gamera arrives and flattens everything in his path in order to put out a hit on the ugly, flying bastards, the government mark HIM as the major threat.
What we have here is literally one of the best Kaiju films, not just of the 90’s, but probably ever made with the pace and plot moving at a brisk speed (amusingly the American dub persistently plays techno music over the fight scenes). The over-reliance on shrill, screaming children has been greatly (and thankfully) reduced to far more meaningful shots of Gamera actively protecting children from harm or forging a spiritual link with a schoolgirl who carries one of his totems. Plus giving Gamera’s most persistent foe, Gyaos, a funky makeover in both appearance and life cycle from a goofy looking bat made entirely from right angles to a fleshy, mottled, skull-toothed killing machine benefits the movie greatly giving the relentless Gamera a worthy butt to kick. And kick it he does in a series of energetic and very well shot monsters brawls that carry the requisite amount of weight to be tangible but are still nimble enough to thrill.
Alongside a healthy chunk of the Heisei Godzilla flicks and the spinoff Mothra trilogy, Gamera: Guardian Of The Universe and it’s sequel where sort of a 90’s set second golden age for Kaiju movies where the genre was treated to new blood pumping life into these rebooted characters while still remaining true to their basic origins and all remain the go to era for people wanting to dip a giant scaly toe in the waters of Kaiju cinema.