Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)
Prepare for shell shock
I had meant to come back and finish off this branch of Gamera for a while after figuring out that I actually really enjoyed it's two predecessors. Between that and another "large scale" movie looming around the corner that suits similar interests, I figured what better time than now. It's take three, and this time something named Iris is joining the fray for revenge. Will the hero of children mega-turtle be able to hold strong once again?
Let's talk effects. Yeah, it usually doesn't come first, but good heavens I think it should be brought up first. This movie is tagged as family in one of it's genre listings on IMDB (and thus I too have tagged it as thus), but parents should certainly screen this one before their kids get it. I was pretty happy with the previous entry in this numerical three-set, and this one stays right on track with that. The absolute brutality involved with these on screen monsters though, oomph. Dangling eyes, exploded stumps, burning chunks, and even internal bits becoming external with a heaping slathering of blood of all sorts of color, this movie does not pull it's punches. Remember when you watched Godzilla 2014 and witnessed that "eat this" scene towards the end and just thought to yourself "brutal"? This makes that look like a Disney movie. And largely, those effects look darn good. A few moments crop up where you could label it as "passable" - largely in air born moments when things look heavily generated or touched up by computer wizardry - but when it comes time for a solid close up moment the details of these creations are just beyond impressive.
And the battle toll isn't just on the giant creature side either. This movie does not shy away from giving you the true feeling of what it would be like when two unstoppable forces decide to meet up in your city and go ten rounds. Gamera himself probably has a higher death count in collateral damage than most the other monsters in the movie have intentionally all combined. From a viewer standpoint, not only is it fun to watch these huge explosions and see a city-scape ablaze with monsters emerging from the sky-high flames, but it gives you that raw feel that these monsters aren't messing around and how insignificant we little ants are to them while we inconveniently occupy their battle arena. It shows that despite being able to obviously label Gamera as our "hero" we can also fully understand that he's not going out of his way to actually save the human race as much as doing his "job" to keep the planet turning when met with these other monstrous threats.
The human characters run a mix, and this is really when we start entering the first real portions of complaints I have about the movie. It's noticeable in some of the previous entries as well where some of the acting seems rather lackluster. I have a hard time judging for sure in a concrete way - given the difference in cultures and language, tonal implications and body language in general could really be shifted in such a manner that it's actually better than I perceived. Still, there is a lot of stone-faced deliveries throughout the movie, and it can lead a bit to a lot of the characters feeling a bit emotionless - although that very well could have been the intention for all I know. Still, there was time for touching on some reoccurring characters, with my favorite line going to our ex-investigator ex-security guard stating how "this is the best beer he has ever had" proceeding an otherwise earned moment of finally deciding to stop trying to run from all of these monsters and finds his purpose in helping another of the characters. It's one of those lines where after seeing this character so often, even after being as plain as it is it can carry so much of an actual meaning to it that it's a nice touch.
The story itself has a bunch of different folds to it, despite plenty of characters making some rather boneheaded calls across the duration. Our main young lead is set up to be this anti-Gamera version of our psychic Gamera champion girl from the last, complete with finding a fancy stone. She feels quite flat though, as the fact she wants revenge on Gamera (because he stepped on her house and killed her parents when he showed up to fight some of his standard bird-like enemies) blinds her to some things that are otherwise rather obvious to us as viewers. It's not even so much that she hates Gamera, but when the time comes around and her little revenge pet summon start obliterating villages and destroying all manner of buildings as it slides through the city to get to her she doesn't even once question if her revenge against Gamera is merited in juxtaposition of what she's caused. It's almost like they went for a "cursed under magic spell" sort of role with her, but it makes her final character arc turn feel less like a reward and more like a thing they wanted.
By far my largest complaint about the movie is really the combination of these things (plot and actors) on the DVD itself. You see, I don't speak Japanese, and the disc has no dub option, so it's subbed or nothing - which is generally fine, I was in a mood where I didn't mind reading my movie tonight. What gets me though, is throughout the movie the subtitles on this 11-movie collection kept leaving things out. I got most of the movie, but there are times of obvious lines not being displayed, and other times with lines displaying before or after they probably should have. Perhaps the age of Netflix and it's fine example of subtitles on all the Korean movies I've watched lately has spoiled me - but at the very least there is no reason to not have every delivered line displayed on here, so shame on you DVD.
Beyond that, the plot feels like it has some characters that are just there to faff about and fill out some time. The revenge plot is there to facilitate the climactic battle, and the core group of return-players all tie into it in some way, so they all work for the most part as well (although you could argue about the returning Gamera champion from last time, considering she no longer really has a connection to Gamera like she did in the last one). We get two new "evil" human characters whose only real purpose is to spout a line or two about what they think the balance of monsters in the world is, cause the final showdown to be in a big city, and to die and their parts largely in turn feel quite wasted. The movie isn't exactly super long and demanding of cutting it down further, but that doesn't stop moments feeling wasted from feeling like they need to be there. Most of the military action also largely feels as though they just hate Gamera over everything else for no real reason. Yes, he destroys cities in his battles - but largely he ends up saving countless more from the constant flow of other threats as seen in the last two movies, so it just largely feels like the military being incompetent every time they prioritize him over whatever other big and dangerous thing is in the sky.
Overall, I have to admit that this keeps going the trend of the last two Gamera movies I watched well. The carnage and degree of effects impresses, and the scope of horror anytime a monster gets remotely close to a city with the time they take to show collateral on more than just empty miniature buildings is a nice touch, although it also has it's own faltering points. I enjoyed it, but it doesn't necessarily leaving me with a solid "this is my favorite of the three" feeling or anything of that sort. Still, the series might be worth checking out if you want to get a fix before checking out some other giant monster movies coming out soon enough.