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Gamera: Guardian of the Universe
Year: 1995
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Producer: Tsutomu Tsuchikawa
SFX: Shinji Higuchi
Cast: Ayako Fujitani, Shinobu Nakayama, Yukijiro Hotaru, Tsuyoshi Ihara
The Skinny: 1960's giant flying turtle monster Gamera gets a facelift in this updated re-telling of the monster's battle with the prehistoric bird Gyaos.

     In 1965 Daiei Studios decided to capitalize on Toho's successful Godzilla film series with their own fire-breathing radioactive star, Gamera the flying turtle. At the time Gamera was "the friend to children" and his films, though entertaining and fun, were largely considered to be inferior to the Toho series of Kaiju Eiga (giant monster films).
     In 1995, after a 15-year retirement, Daiei brought back the shelled one and gave him a new lease on life. The man given the responsibility of transforming Gamera from a low-budget children's monster into a serious contender fell to director Shusuke Kaneko, whose earlier work consisted of several successful horror films and comedies.
     This time out, the Gamera originated from Atlantis. The ancient people created him in response to the threat of man-eating prehistoric birds called Gyaos, who was a favorite foe from the 1960's films. Gamera's intentions to save modern day Japan from the birds are misinterpreted by the Self Defense Force and they attempt to kill him. Instead of making him a friend to children, director Kaneko opts to endow Gamera with a magical jewel that enables him to bond with a teenage girl named Asagi (played by Steven Segal's daughter Ayako Fujitani). Through Asagi, Gamera harnesses the added strength required to defeat the Gyaos in a grand battle that takes place in broad
daylight. This was quite an ambitious undertaking for special effects
director Shinji Higuchi, but his work is seamless with Kaneko's in the finished film.
     Aside from the bigger budget, the film also succeeds at being more dramatic than the original series. Kaneko treats the characters and plot with respect even when there is humor present. More than any other director in the Kaiju Eiga genre, Shusuke Kaneko succeeds at melding humor and horror.
     For those not into movies with guys in suits, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe also succeeds on the same level as the Rocky films. Gamera gets beat up pretty bad early on but comes back with fireballs a-blazin' to kick some serious Gyaos tail feather. Screw all the fancy CGI effects. This is one entertaining flick with as much ambition as you're ever going to see in a movie of this kind. The sequels are even better. (Magicvoice 2002) Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen