Today I watched Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999)
Following the events of the last two Gamera films, the governments of Earth have become wary of Gamera and the massive amounts of collateral damage he causes. But at the same time it seems that more Gyaos creatures are appearing, which Gamera must fight, creating further devastation and loss of human life. One victim of all the damage is a young girl named Ayane whose parents were killed during a giant monster brawl. Now she lives in a countryside town with an adopted family but she harbours a powerful belief that Gamera is evil and a burning desire for revenge. One day the school bullies make her go into a cave to look for a stone but the stone she finds seems to be some form of egg. Once this egg hatches Ayane finds herself face to face with a baby monster she names Iris and who bonds with her, taking on her hatred of Gamera and Desire for revenge. Iris is not what it seems though, it attacks people and drains them of their life essence While growing at a prodigious rate. Before long Iris is huge and on a rampage, it targets Gamera and the two begin an epic duel for the fate of the Earth.
Gamera, as a heroic giant monster, is a rather naive character in principle, something this film seeks to address. As much as Gamera may be touted as a guardian of the universe and friend of the children, he is still a giant, building crushing giant monster, and there were probably people in those buildings. Along with this is an environmental message that gets hammered into a few scenes in rather brutish fashion, the film asks, who are the real monster? Everyone, everyone is the real monster, which is not the most interesting takeaway I think they could have come up with, if it was even intentional. With the increased focus on theme comes a much needed depth of character for the humans. Ayane in particular is an intriguing person to follow, consumed by trauma and anger, she humanizes the faceless victims behind all the exploding buildings throughout these films.
The special effects this time around use a lot of CGI instead of suitmation, but in their defense they serve to facilitate action sequences that would be impossible with other techniques. The big aerial sequence may not be up to snuff technology wise with Hollywood films of the time, but it is still quite impressive because of how smartly put together it all is. This is one of the earlier instances that I can think of of using a shaky camera to hide imperfections with CGI, like any use of shaky camera this can go very wrong is one cant follow the action but I was on board the whole way with it here, it had the requisite clarity. Of course the suits do come out now and again, and when they do they are awesome. With this solid action, the thematic depth, and the focus on character, Revenge of Iris may be one of the best and most watchable Gamera films there is. 5/5