Sunday Matinee: Gamera

sunday-matinee2016 is shaping to be a big battle of the kaijus in Japan. There is a new Godzilla movie Godzilla Resurgence, a new Ultraman movie and a new Gamera movie.

Gamera was Daiei Film’s attempt to jump on the kaiju bandwagon and try to make some of the money that Toho was making from Godzilla. Gamera first appeared on film in 1965 with Gamera, later renamed and English dubbed Gamera The Invincible. There were eight Gamera movies from 1965 to 1980 and they were all pretty terrible.

GameraThe first movie starts with Gamera awakening from his frozen grave in the arctic when a nuclear bomb goes off above him. He quickly decides to travel to Japan and attack the place looking for fossil fuels and nuclear material to feed himself on. Unlike the more dinosaur-like Godzilla, Gamera is a giant turtle that breaths fire and can retract his legs into his shell (like any normal turtle can do) but then he can fly by somehow firing out jet blasts out of where his legs should be. He kind of flies sometimes in a spinning motion.

Gamera isn’t really evil, he’s just misunderstood and actually good. A young boy who is obsessed with turtles thinks that he’s a turtle that he let go free into the wild (he isn’t). While Gamera is attacking a lighthouse that the boy is in, the boy falls and Gamera catches and saves him. The world governments get together and decide to send Gamera to Mars in order to keep the Earth safe.

As silly as all that sounds it gets worse with each new movie. Gamera natuarlly returns and fights monsters that threaten Earth and small boys because Gamera is the friend to all children. The focus for the later movies then becomes a standard child in danger, whether aliens have taken a couple of boy scouts captive in their spaceship to force Gamera to attack Earth (Gamera vs. Viras) or if a couple of boys willingly enter an alien ship and are taken to an alien planet (Gamera vs. Guiron), Gamera is always there to save the children. Maybe the movies are considered great by kids but they are a trial of endurance to watch sometimes. Godzilla movies were often silly but always watchable. Godzilla has nothing (well maybe Son of Godzilla) compared to the dumb downed child friendly Gamera films.

In the 1990’s Gamera was rebooted around the same time Godzilla was with three movies, the first Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was a much darker serious kaiju movie. The trilogy is actually really good and the series success forced the Godzilla filmmakers to up their efforts (Godzilla movies at the time were starting to fall into the cheesy/dumb downed for kids category). There was another reboot in the early 2000s and then nothing until 2016 where it looks like the series has had another reboot and the rubber suits are gone in favour for CGI. It will be interesting to see which of the three giant monster movies is better next year.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.