Finally released on DVD, this 2006 film one breaks continuity and abandons the adult tone of the well received 1990s GAMERA trilogy directed by Shusuke Kaneko (GAMERA, GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE, GAMERA VS. LEGION, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRYS), in favor of returning to the childish tone of the campy 1960s movies. As bad as that sounds, the result is not as bad as it sounds. GAMERA THE BRAVE is actually a pretty decent kids movie that has special effects and production values on par with its immediate predecessors, even as the script shifts the emphasize onto younger characters.
The film starts with the Gamera made familiar in the previous films self-destructing in order to defeat a pack of the flying Gayos monsters that are about to get the better of him. (This sequence looks as if it were originally designed to suggest a continuity with the ending of GAMERA 3, which had the giant flying turtle marching off to face a swarm of these monsters; however, the opening of GAMERA THE BRAVE is set way back in 1973, decades before the ending of REVENGE OF IRYS.) Over thirty years later, a young lad discovers an egg from which a new Gamera hatches. The middle of the film is actually quite funny as the tiny turtle grows larger overnight, displays abnormally intelligence for a reptile, and begins to display the familiar powers (flying, spitting fireballs. etc).
Things turn from amusing to exciting when Jidas, a new man-eating monster, arises, and Gamera, sensing his destiny to be a protector of mankind, turns from being a friendly pet to being a faithful guard dog. The new opponent, perhaps not unintentionally, seems to resemble the Sony 1998 Godzilla; it’s a very effective, frightening design, that is perfectly realized with a combination of suit-mation, puppetry, and CGI. Unfortunately, the new Gamera design is a disappointment, replacing the fierce look of the defender of Earth with a kid-friendly face featuring big blue eyes, like something out of a bad anime.
The special effects are mostly good, although the miniature work is apparent at times. The acting and script are better than expected, considering that the appeal is mostly to kids. Things only really start to fall apart near the end. There is a cornball sequence wherein a string of kids act as a sort of relay to carry an object that will revive Gamera (kind of like spinach for Popeye) so that he can defeat his opponent. This is just barely works, in a cornball kind of way. But then it really gets bad when our hero finally delivers the object (a scarlet pearl) but first gives a long speech demanding that the turtle not self-destruct in order to kill the monster that’s eating people left and right. As if this were not bad enough, there’s an even cornier moment after that battle, when all the children cordon off Gamera to keep the authorities at bay, so that the turtle can fly away to fight another day.
Despite these missteps, the film is mostly entertaining – a good effort for parents to watch with their children. As if realizing that the baby Gamera was the most endearing part of the movie, the final credits rolls with outtakes running on the left side of the screen, with the tiny creature wandering around looking cute. All in all, GAMERA THE BRAVE succeeds where Takashi Miike’s GREAT YOKAI WAR (another Japanese fantasy film aimed at children) fails, because the filmmakers did not treat the material with contempt but instead tried to make the best of it.
U.S. kaiju fans finally got a chance to see GAMERA THE BRAVE on DVD when Media Blasters released it under their Tokyo Shock label on December 30, 2003.
GAMERA THE BRAVE (a.k.a. Chisaki Yusha Tachi – Gamera ["Little Braves of Gamera"], 2006). Directed by Yurta Tazaki. Written by Yukari Tatsui. Cast: kaho, Kanji Tsuda, Susumu Terajima, Ryo Tomioka.
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