Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) review

Introduction

With Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, Shusuke Kaneko, who besides directing also helped writing the screenplay, offers his conclusion to his Gamera trilogy. Can the final film offer a worthy conclusion, offering everything that a Kajiu fan desires? Let us find in our review. 

Arrow Video

[This film is available on Blu-ray in the Arrow Video’s Gamera: The Complete Boxset]

Review

Three years after Gamera defeated Legion, ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama) discovers that Gyaos-like creatures are, once again, roaming the earth. While she, at first, thinks that these creatures are the same kind of Gyaos that terrorized Japan 4 years ago, an autopsy in Japan reveals that these Gyaos are a more evolved subspecies. At the same time, an expedition to investigate a certain peculiar formation at the bottom of the sea discovers that the strange formation is not, like they thought, a graveyard of ships but a graveyard of Gamera fossils.

In Japan, cabinet secretary and fortune-teller Mito Asakura (Senri Yamasaki) and her associate Kurata Shinya (Toru Tezuka)visit Yashima Marine Insurance co., Ltd to investigate Gamera’s curved jewels in order to find a way to destroy the evil spirit called Gamera. Near the city of Nara, Ayana Hirasaka (Ai Maeda) finds a stone egg in a sealed cave at the local shrine. Upon hearing that Gamera (Hirofumi Fukuzawa) destroyed Shibuya, she returns to the shrine only to discover that the egg has already hatched. She calls the creature: Iris (Akira Ohashi).

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) by Shusuke Kaneko

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, the third and final installment of the Heisei trilogy, is a narrative that rights the most important wrongs of Gamera 2: Attack of Legion. The first problem that plagued Gamera 2 was that the often-overlong moments of exposition, by being focused on Legion, did not offer any further development of Gamera as character as such. Strange to say, but the true main character of Gamera 2 was Legion and not Gamera. Luckily, Gamera 3 rights this wrong and provides a narrative that not only deepens his origin but also touches upon the inherent conflictual relation he has with humanity.

In Gamera 3, Gamera’s origin is further developed by bringing the notion of Mana. a supernatural power, in play. Via the evocation of Mana, a power living in all things, Gamera is firmly established a monster protecting the health of the earth and the complex cyclic systems that make life possible on earth. It is, for instance, revealed that to defeat Legion, Gamera was forced to consume Mana, hereby risking to radically alter the world’s environment. Moreover, the environmental issue as such is, just like in Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, touched upon. It is subtly underlined that if Japan, as industrialized country, keeps on eating Mana and thus endangers the balance of the earth, something very bad will happen.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) by Shusuke Kaneko

The conflictual relation Gamera has with ‘humanity’ is explored via Ayana Hirasaka and the cabinet. While Ayana Hirasaka’s tragic loss, a loss fueling her hate for Gamera, allows her to see one side of Gamera’s truth, i.e. that he does not serve humanity as such, the focus on her loss also renders her unable to accept the other side of his truth, i.e. that he protects the cycle of nature that enables all life on earth. A similar psychology is at play in the decision of the cabinet to mobilize the self-defense forces and destroy Gamera. If Gamera forms a threat for Japan, it is because of all the casualties he makes and the trail of destruction he leaves in his wake. Yet, the focus on the casualties and the destruction is short-sighted, as such focus represses the very truth that without Gamera the earth would already have become inhabitable for any kind of life whatsoever.

Just like Gamera 2: Attack of Legion improved on the special effects in Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 3 improves on the special effects present in Gamera 2 – of course, many special effects show their age. It is, nevertheless, not so much the quality of the special effects that has improved, but how CGI and practical effects are utilized to visually decorate the various kaiju (e.g. the fire around Gyaos, the movement of Gamera’s shell before landing, … etc.) and to stage the destruction they cause (e.g. the destructive impact of Gamera’s plasma fireballs). These subtle decorative additions do not fail to heighten the visual pleasure for the spectator.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) by Shusuke Kaneko

Gamera 3 also further refines the integration of the special effects in thevisual flow of the cinematographical composition. This refined integration of special effects gives, just like in Gamera 2, the Kaiju a sensible and believable presence in the narrative space and heightens the visual realism of the narrative. This visual realism is, in fact, the most important element that makes the Kaiju-action in Gamera 3 so satisfying and transforms the finale, the ultimate showdown between Gamera and Iris, into a thrilling and breathtaking experience.

The cinematographical composition of Gamera 3 stand out due to its dynamism. This dynamism is not only function of the fluid way in which fixed and moving shots are composed together, but also function of the pleasing rhythm by which Kaneko unfolds the multi-threaded narrative. Just like in Gamera 1 and Gamera 2, Kaneko utilizes dramatic camera movement. While such kind of dramatic movement often disturbed the flow of the cinematography in two first narratives, Kaneko finally found a way to utilize this kind of movement in a more constructive manner.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) by Shusuke Kaneko

That Gamera 3 is so enjoyable is not only because Shusuke Kaneko keeps the various explanatory scenes more concise – never revealing more than necessary – and unfolds the narrative at a pleasing rhythm, but also because he, by playing with the power of allusions, infuses a pleasing amount of mystery into the narrative. It is this sense of mystery – a sense of mystery logically most sensible in the initial stages of the narrative – that successfully engages the spectator. And while Gamera 3, just like in Gamera 2, does not feature many set-pieces – three to be precise, Kaneko has right the second wrong of Gamera 2 and succeeded not only in making the final showdown between Gamera and Iris a visually breathtaking experience but also one of the finest pieces of Kaiju-action to date.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris is, without a doubt, the best film of the Heisei Gamera trilogy. Kaneko does not only deliver a narrative with a pleasing rhythm, engaging the spectator in a pleasing reassessment of Gamera’s relation with humanity from start to finish, but also delivers with his visually breathtaking finale one of the finest pieces of kaiju action to date.

Notes

Music note 1: Music is most often applied to heighten the sense of mystery in the narrative.

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