Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996)
What better way to start a second Daikaiju week than revisiting a series of which I only looked at the first episode last time. That being said you don’t need to see the previous one to enjoy this one, all you need to know is that a year ago Japan was a battleground where a monstrous bird like entity named Gaos battled a giant nuclear turtle named Gamera, and that Gamera was the good guy. Now, one year later, NASA detects a number of asteroids that will hit Earth in the north-western hemisphere conveniently close to Japan. But when one of the rocks strikes down in northern Japan near the city of Sapporo, scientists fail to find any evidence of the asteroid itself. Electromagnetic disturbances are noticed all across the city and before long giant space bugs are found in the subways and a giant alien plant begins to consume the downtown core. Enter Gamera, friend of the children, who hates to see anything threaten the life of Earth, but during the first battle he proves ineffective against the swarms of smaller enemies. Gamera is easily defeated by the new monsters, collectively referred to as Legion, and now a giant Legion monster is leading the swarm towards Tokyo. Will Gamera be able to recover and stop this extraterrestrial threat? Can the Japanese Defense Force hold the line? Will the world be saved? well this is the second part of a trilogy, so take that as you will.
Like the vast majority of Daikaiju movies, this film really doesn’t develop it’s human characters very much. It at least offers the basic procedure of experts trying to solve a huge problem, the basic elements of the disaster films that this sub-genre is at heart. It does dodge one of the major roadblocks that many of this kind of monster vs. monster Daikaiju films often run into, it actually gives the humans something heroic to do in the climax. Fat too often these kinds of films just allow the monster mash to dominate the finale, despite the film having made us spend all this time with characters who can actually deliver dialogue. Now I would love to see the monster vs. monster movie in which there are no humans and it is all just suitmation pantomime, but I am a special case. In the absence of that type of movie this film does the next best thing, because Legion is not just a single super monster and is also a horde of human sized bugs, it creates a need for the humans to support Gamera and keep the swarm off his back while he handles the big guy.
Of course this is a genre driven by special effects and known the world over for a very specific technique of practical suitmation and here is some of the finest examples of that tried and true craft. The large Legion leader is my favorite monster suit of all time and it is probably one of the most ambitious designs I have ever seen. While it is noticeably a suit and one can see where the operator must reside, it is completely inhuman, which is incredibly impressive. If you are a fan of this genre it is likely, at least in part, because of an appreciation of the creativity of special effects and designs like this so that makes this an unmissable entry into the genre. If you like your monster suits outrageous and excellent, go no further, this is the film you should be watching. 4/5