Blu-ray Review Gamera Trilogy Blu-ray Review

Todd Erwin

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Gamera makes a triumphant return in these modern Japanese classics from the mid to late 1990s. Armed with bigger budgets than their predecessors (even after adjusting for inflation), all three films have impressive production values and visual effects, with fun storylines to boot. These are not your father’s Gamera films!


Gamera Trilogy



Studio: Mill Creek
US DVD Release Date: September 27, 2011
Rated: Not Rated (but suitable for teenagers and up)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe
Original Release Year: 1995
Running Time: 96 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 (Japanese), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English

Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion
Original Release Year: 1996
Running Time: 100 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 (Japanese), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris
Original Release Year: 1999
Running Time: 108 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (Japanese), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Japanese, English)
Subtitles: English


Movie:
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe: 3.5 out of 5
Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion: 2.5 out of 5
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris: 3.5 out of 5
In an attempt to reboot the Gamera franchise, then-40 year old director Shusuke Kaneko was given the opportunity to breathe new life not only into Gamera, but the kaiju (monster) genre as well, and succeeds tremendously.
 

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe marked the return of Japan’s favorite giant turtle to the big screen since the abysmal Gamera: The Super Monster in 1980. The Gyaos have been re-awakened, attacking small villages and eating their human population. This brings Gamera out of hybernation (apparently he’s been afloat in the world’s oceans encased in a large rock littered with comma-shaped amulets), ready to protect Earth. The Japanese government sees the Gyaos as an opportunity to research and profit from the exhibition of these creatures, and Gamera as a threat to both that opportunity and the Japanese public as a whole. Poor Gamera is just misunderstood (and will continue to be misunderstood by the military throughout this three-part series), as all he wants to do is save the Earth from destruction. Seeing the Gyaos as more of a threat than Gamera, the scientific community takes his side, trying to convince the military of a way to  help Gamera destroy the Gyaos, especially since a teenage school girl, Kaneko, is spiritually and psychically linked to Gamera from one of the comma-shaped amulets that was given to her as a gift from a friend of her father’s. My major complaint with this film has nothing to do with the film itself, but the company responsible for the English subtitling. While most of the dialogue has been translated and subtitled, captions on establishing shots and newspaper headlines have not, leaving the audience in the dark until a character happens to mention where in the world they currently are or what the press is saying about the current events.

In Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion, what appears to be a meteorite is approaching Japan, but when it begins to decelerate as it gets closer, scientists believe it may be an invasion from outer space. When it eventually crash lands in the city of Saporro, their theory is confirmed. The legion attack the Kirin brewery (in an obvious product-placement deal), removing the glass from the bottles and leaving only the beer. Electronic communications are disrupted. Giant plant-like tentacles make their way out of the building the meteor crashed into, burrowing into the ground and through the subway tunnels. When Gamera comes to the rescue, the Legion attack him like ticks on a dog, covering him head to toe and rendering him powerless. The Legion have a trick up their sleeve - they are creating a Queen (which looks like a cross between a metallic tick and a flea) to annihilate the planet. Why have the Legion arrived? That is something never quite explained in this film, the weakest of the three. Many of the main characters have returned, which help give the film a flow between the previous and next chapters in the trilogy. The good news is that the subtitling issues I had with the first film are non-existent this time. The bad news is that there are a few scenes of English-speaking news reports that are over-dubbed in Japanese and not subtitled, like trying to listen to two people talking at the same time. The only solution to this brief problem is to switch to the English-dubbed track temporarily.
 

Everything comes full-circle in Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris. A young girl, Ayana, blames Gamera for the death of her parents and pet cat, Iris, which occurred during the first film, and befriends a creature that shares a similar hatred of Gamera. Ayana names the creature Iris, and as Iris quickly matures, it builds a spiritual and psychic link with Ayana, using the hatred they both share to extract revenge on Gamera. Kaneko, the girl who was spiritually-bonded with Gamera in Guardian of the Universe, returns, as do many of the main characters from the previous entries. Kaneko reaches out to Ayana, and eventually Ayana learns the truth of how her parents died, and eventually brings the film to a thrilling showdown between Iris and Gamera. Although the pacing for the first half of Revenge of Iris is relatively slow, it is somewhat necessary to tell Ayana’s story and genesis of Iris. I found very few subtitling issues in this film, none really worth mentioning.

The visual effects in all three films are outstanding, improving (as one would expect) throughout the series. Sure, Gamera and the other monsters are, most of the time, actors in monster suits, but these “suits” have come a long way since the original film series. Gamera even manages to show a good range of emotion, particularly after the final showdown in Gamera 3. The miniatures, although sometimes obvious, never look like toys. These miniatures have a well-thought out scale to them, and are lit more naturally to help them appear more realistic. The films, as a whole, never become overly campy like their predecessors. There are no scenes of Gamera rotating on a parallel bar and doing an Olympic-style dismount, or Gamera pounding on his opponent like a xylophone. These films are much darker, and the themes are a bit more mature. Like I said, these are not your father’s Gamera movies.

Video:
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe: 3.5 out of 5
Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion: 3.5 out of 5
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris: 4 out of 5
The first two films were released by Mill Creek as a double-feature on one BD50 disc in October, 2010, and that same disc is included in this set, presenting both Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion in a nice 1080/24p transfer in the films’ originally intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1, using the AVC codec. This is actually a fairly nice-looking disc, with accurate and consistent colors, lush greens, decent contrast and black levels, with a fair amount of detail. Film grain present but never distracting, and a few scenes in Guardian of the Universe exhibited a minor amount of noise.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris was released at the same time as this Trilogy set, and that disc is identical to the one included here. Much like the previous entries in the series, Mill Creek has provided the third film in a nice 1080/24p transfer in the film’s originally intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1 using the AVC codec. This is a much sharper transfer, with slightly stronger colors and detail, with no hint of noise.

Audio:
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe: 3.5 out of 5
Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion: 3.5 out of 5
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris: 4 out of 5
Gamera and Gamera 2 contain a DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 track in Japanese that really rocked my system. While not exactly reference material, both films have an impressive sound design, with good stereo separation and excellent use of the surrounds and LFE. An English dubbed soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 is also available for both films, with Gamera encoded at 448 kbps, and Gamera 2 at 384 kbps.

Gamera 3 benefits from a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track in Japanese that was at times quiet and understated during most of the first half of the film, and rivaled that of a modern-day Hollywood blockbuster during the exciting battle scenes later on in the film. The track had excellent stereo separation with active surrounds and LFE when necessary. Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also available in Japanese and English, both encoded at 448 kbps.

Special Features: 3 out of 5
When the first double-feature disc was released by Mill Creek, there were no special features whatsoever. However, with the release of Gamera 3, Mill Creek has included some special features for all three films on the Gamera 3 Blu-ray disc, all in standard definition. Unfortunately, all of the material has been lumped together as one long video (running close to 3 hours), and the selections from the menu are more like selecting chapters than selecting featurettes. To make matters worse, some of these are mislabeled. For example, Behind the Scenes of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe should have been titled Camera Tests and Special Effects, and vice versa. And there are many more titling mistakes. For what it’s worth, here is the list of selectable special features:

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe:
Behind The Scenes
Camera Tests & Special Effects

Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion:
Action! On Location
Creating The Legion

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris:
The Awakening of Iris Remix
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailers

Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Gamera’s 1990s comeback is finally released in its entirety, available either as two separate discs or as a 2-disc Trilogy set. The movies look and sound great, and are a blast to watch. Although the special features are a bit confusing, it is nice, nonetheless, for Mill Creek to have included them for all three films on the Gamera 3 disc. With the Trilogy set selling (at press time) for less than $13.00 on Amazon, for fans of the giant turtle, this is a no-brainer.
 

Brisby

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Gamera is really neat! Gamera is full of meat! We've been eating GAM-ER-A!
 

Jim Peavy

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There is a problem with the subs on Gamera 3. Some are incorrect, and some lines are not even subtitled. I've watched G3 on DVD (from the subtitled R2 box) quite a bit and am pretty familiar with the subtitles, and was disappointed in the errors on the Mill Creek blu-ray. The picture quality is terrific, though; and the extras are plentiful, especially if you're a fan of G2. The scene where they're testing the Mother Legion suit outside (in what looks like a park) and some passing woman asks, "excuse me, what is that thing?" was amusing. Some really amazing behind-the-scenes stuff featured in the extras. Shame about the subs. Would be terrific if Mill Creek offered replacement discs, but Keith Aiken at SciFi Japan contacted them and said "at this time they're not planning to reissue or replace the GAMERA 3 Blu-ray."
 

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