Gamera: Guardian of the Universe- Review


Cam Wade, Staff Writer

Giant monsters have persisted within popular culture ever since an overgrown gorilla was shot off the Empire State Building back during the great depression. Perhaps the most famous of these creatures is Godzilla, the giant nuclear allegory who’s been treating Tokyo as his personal boxing ring ever since 1954. When Godzilla was first released in theaters, it was a massive hit with audiences, grossing just over two million dollars, which was a lot back then. With every success, however, there must always be competitors. 

Daiei Studios had seen the immense popularity of Godzilla, and as such, had released their own creature feature with Gamera: the Giant Monster in 1965. While not as big of a success, the film was so easy to produce that the studio had decided to make seven more of them, culminating in the cinematic bag of turtle droppings that is Gamera: Super Monster in 1980, a film so awful, the title monster had only appeared via stock footage.  This film had under-performed so unbelievably horrible, that Daiei had almost gone bankrupt. So after that, the Gamera series really had nowhere to go but up, and up he did. 

In 1997, director Shuzsuke Kaneko, with a budget of four and a half million dollars, released Gamera: Guardian of the Universe in theaters. The film had brought our favorite titanic terrapin from the incredibly campy, child friendly tone of the sixties movies, to a more mature, action heavy style of storytelling. The film is actually notable for finally giving Gamera a backstory, having him be created by Atlantis centuries ago to stop a race of vampire bat-like reptiles dubbed Gyaos. One of the many pros I can give this movie is, despite the breaks between the monster action being fairly long, The film never took the attention away from the monsters, with the characters always talking about what Gamera is doing or how to stop the Gyaos and what not. 

Talking about the monsters themselves, they look phenomenal. Gamera’s design is a welcomed update of the suit made in the sixties, with him still sharing the same general silhouette, but giving him tortoise like skin and a more expressive face. When it comes to the Gyaos, they turned them from a singular being, to an entire race of prehistoric sky vermin. With a more reddish color and a face making them look deranged, these things used to give me nightmares when I was a kid. 

Unfortunately, this movie isn’t perfect, and I do have to bring up a few flaws to have this be a fair review. The final ground battle between the sky-scraper sized snapper and the large Super Gyaos is fairly underwhelming, to the point where it’s kind of immersion breaking. The human characters in this movie are also not very fleshed out, with them basically just being vessels to get the story going, but I suppose that’s true with pretty much every giant monster movie.

This movie is an excellent example of giant monster movies done right. The special effects are fantastic, the action is amazing, and the shot composition really helps to sell the immense scale of these creatures. It has always been a favorite of mine ever since I first watched it on cable as a kid, and I don’t see that changing for a long time. I implore you to find any way to watch this movie, whether that be buying the blu-ray, or using more illegal means if you have to. I give this film a rating of four and a half Atlantean bio-weapons out of five.