Gamera the Brave (2006)

Reviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Kaho, Kanji Tsuda, Susumu Terajima, Ryo Tomioka

Directed by Ryuta Tazaki

The new Gamera is a touching story of a boy and his alien turtle, something I’m sure we can all relate to. But if you have a hard time picturing that scenario, just think E.T. by way of giant monster combat.

It’s been seven years since the green one last stomped his way onto the screen, and Kadokawa Shoten has revamped the series, taking it back to its original kid-friendly roots. Sure, it’s not exactly the wisest move and it goes without saying that fans will regard this as a step down from Shusuke Kaneko’s masterfully dark Gamera trilogy. Following on the heels of Revenge of Iris (arguably the greatest kaiju film of all time) certainly doesn’t do it any favors either. But once you get past the lighter approach, Gamera the Brave is still plenty entertaining in its own right.

Our story opens with Gamera once again battling Gyaos, the prehistoric bird creatures from Guardian of the Universe. After sustaining a fatal blow, the giant turtle activates its “self-destruct” shell (say that with a straight face) and blows himself to kingdom come. Thirty years later, an 11-year-old boy named Toru stumbles across a mysterious glowing egg, which hatches and grants him a new pet tortoise. Things take a strange turn when the turtle begins to levitate and spit fire before growing into a giant (if cutesier) second Gamera. Coincidentally, a giant sea monster shows up and begins munching on screaming villagers, so Toru’s giant pet must leap into action.

I have to admit, even I succumbed to the cuteness factor. Little Gamera (played by a real baby turtle with added facial expressions) is just too damned adorable, and the first-act hijinks provide a welcome relief from the usual straight-faced scientist/military babble. It’s a well-known fact that kaiju filler material can be like watching paint dry and that thankfully isn’t the case here. Director Ryuta Tazaki pulls it off with a certain level of class and keeps things moving even during the characters moments.

“Yea, yea … What about the fights?”

This Gamera is light on extended battle sequences, but the moments of carnage we get are choice. In the grand spirit of Japanese monster movies, nary a building is spared as the big baddie brings Armageddon to the populace. The set-pieces of the ruined towns are actually quite impressive, and we see a lot of them during the final half hour, when our kid heroes race through thousands upon thousand of fleeing townsfolk. The FX are top notch too, proving once and for all that the “man in suit” approach reigns supreme.

Series fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Even with its kid-centric approach, Gamera the Brave is guaranteed to please most kaiju enthusiasts, and the new franchise should be enough to fill the empty hole left in Godzilla’s absence.

3 1/2 out of 5

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