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Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1998)
Not Rated

Starring: Ayako Fujitani, Hirotaro Honda, and Yukijiro Hotaru

Rating:
***
out of
*****

I've admitted in the past to having a fondness for Godzilla movies. (Real Godzilla movies, that is, not the mutated iguana of the recent Hollywood version.) Gamera was another movie monster I had a fondness for, but I always thought of him as a lesser quality replacement for Godzilla. When I was a child, if a Saturday morning TV horror movie show had a Gamera movie showing rather than a Godzilla movie, I'd watch it, but not be as wrapped up in it. Well, Gamera has recently returned to the big screen. Actually, he was on the big screen in Japan in 1995, with the Americanized version coming to U.S. home video just this year.

Gamera is a giant turtle who can fly. In his original incarnation, from the 1960's, he was considered a friend to the children of the Earth, saving them from evil aliens and other giant monsters. Like the Godzilla series had done in the mid-1980's, the makers of the Gamera series have decided to start from scratch with this new film. Gamera is now an ancient guardian of the Earth that is awakened when evil threatens.

The evil in this film is a species of giant bird-like creatures called the Gyaos, who have awakened and threaten to eat humanity. Gamera, who first appears encased in a rock-like substance and floating in the Pacific Ocean, also awakens and an inevitable battle occurs between the two giant creatures. Of course, the humans have to figure out that Gamera is a good creature, and that provides the "tension" in the film. Of course, with a plot like this, the script never really provides much doubt that Gamera will eventually be vindicated.

Of course, like every movie that puts a man in a rubber suit and asks the audience to believe it's a giant monster, the effects are mostly less-than-spectacular. However, this movie does have some surprisingly good effects sequences. It's a nice change of pace to see real military hardware moving into position instead of the usual models used in the 1960's.

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe is a guilty pleasure movie. It's nothing more, nothing less. It's mindless fun and that's something Hollywood can't seem to find its heart to make when it comes to giant monster movies. The 1998 Godzilla remained mindless without the fun. Even this film has a stronger script than the current Godzilla flick.

Trivia: Ayoko Fujitani is Steven Seagal's daughter. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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