Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion (1996)
Summer '96 Japan Falls!
After the last time I watched a Gamera movie, I said I really would need to come back and watch more. Well, that time is now, with an aptly named Gamera 2 - even though it's not really the second ever Gamera movie. Gamera did that similar sort of thing as Godzilla, where he goes through all those different "phases" and whatnot, and this one is the direct sequel to the last one I watched, which far as I can tell is the hard-edged teenager Gamera films. So far the turtle is doing pretty well, but can he keep his rocket-powered pace or will he need to get shelved back as "of the children"?
This movie certainly tries to earn all of its genre tags. The beginning is very science fiction movie, complete with space objects crashing to the planet and turning out to be bugs. Before you rally your war cries against Klendathu, take note that this isn't a futuristic Japan we are in but a modern day one - well, for the movies setting. It's pretty obvious that the horror element kicks in as these bugs start getting noticed by killing people, and showing the police forces that they got nothing on bugs, but it really builds it's terror when things escalate to a giant plant that serves as an intergalactic travel boat for the bugs when it comes time for it to blast off - and we go from talking dangerous bugs to enormous city-destroying explosions.
Still not done amongst all of that human race surviving drama and associated scientific mystery as the main human players try and figure everything out, we have to get to our fantastic giant rocket-blasting turtle hero, friend to all children recast as defender of the Earth itself Gamera. The big guy looks just as well off as he did in the last one, although he's picked up a few new moves to use against the bugs. The bugs aren't content to be shown up by a turtle though, and will bust out with larger versions to accompany the little swarming devils. For a giant monster movie plot - or a science fiction movie plot for that matter - it's nothing really stand out but it works. By the first time Gamera shows up in the movie, you actually expect him to not show up until much later as though it's some kind of topping to the escalation - but honestly it is nice that they decided to get the title character some screen time in his own movie after suitable building up of the nemesis for the entry.
In the effects department, things are a real mixed bag. I love me some giant suit monsters, and the suits themselves look real good here. Sometimes though, the effects in which they are used really don't look as hot. A few shots look downright bad. Even when not pertaining to monsters, there's one scene that had me wondering if my DvD was glitching out at first, until realizing that for whatever unknown reason they decided to turn the scene into a cut-ridden clip show. It didn't last long, but it certainly came out of nowhere. There's some small scale human carnage - such as people getting got by the small bugs or the small bugs venting off their pressure when punctured - but what most people would come to a movie like this for is certainly the large scale carnage.
And that carnage is spectacular. As stated before, some of the effects in the shots are pretty dodgy - thousands of small bugs swarming look pretty bad when in motion - and a few look off even though everything in shot isn't necessarily fake. We get a nice wide range of monster attacks here - fire blasts, explosions, electrical beams, various glowing bits - to help liven up the somewhat clunky battles that are staples for two people in suits "attacking" each other. The bugs get plenty of little pincers or legs to move about and add some form of movement to them, although the largest one largely seem to be rather stationary beyond those little details. One of my more amused moments came when I caught on to Gamera getting some flaps on his front arms when flying around in a more controlled way, making him look much more like a giant sea turtle with rocket blasts for legs. Honestly, it doesn't take much to amuse me sometimes.
Actors do a fine enough job. Some performances are better than others, some are super cheesy, and largely nothing will come off as surprising for the genre. I opted for the original audio for this, which meant I was listening to the default Japanese tracks and it all lined up just fine and had the sort of inflections you would expect - although since I don't speak it I probably miss out on some of the more intricate stuff. There was a few moments where an English speaking newscaster would be on screen, and shortly after they had started talking the Japanese over-dub would kick in and it made it rather tricky to follow what either line was saying. Another odd part is with the subtitles - again set to default - where in they would sometimes lag behind when they should pop up, giving that impression that either someone is saying fifty words to really say three or it's not telling you something before quickly and shortly displaying the one sub and switching to the following line. It's little details that don't matter too much, but considering for that setup I had to read them to know what was being said, it did come off as annoying.
Audio hit the same notes as it usually would, with nothing in particular standing out to me as being exceptional on the soundtrack. I feel that I was more impressed with the last one, but can't be certain with my memory. Balancing is fine, and it's easy enough to hear deliveries despite smashing and explosions and all of that good stuff. The monsters sound nice as well, and expect to hear the "pained shriek" and it's various renditions quite a few times. Gamera is just constantly getting shredded up in these movies - and I'd be almost doing you a disservice if I didn't at least mention that fact that in one scene turtle-zilla is figuratively (or depending on how they did the effect it could actually be literally) hosing the city with his blood as he goes by. Considering the amount of battle damage he takes, I'm actually a little surprised that they didn't make the pained expression sound a little more distressing.
All in all, this three parter in my Gamera Collection is still keeping me entertained throughout it. If your a fan of giant monster movies, you've probably already beaten me to watching this one - but if you haven't you can add it to the checkout list just like the one before it. It's got all the action you'd want, and goes about making Godzilla feel a bit like Power Rangers in levels of violence at times if you want to spruce it up just a bit. The monsters are cool enough, the plot is decent, the humans don't make you want to kill yourself as your watching it, and it's all around not a bad time..