Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)

Class: Staff
Author: Forrest Freund
Score: (4.5/5)
October 2nd, 2002 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

The first time I saw Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, I was sold on the Heisei Gamera series. True, Gamera lacks the indestructibility of Godzilla, or the umpteen zillion beam attacks of Mothra Leo. But what he does have is character. And in Revenge of Iris, we see a part of his character that is usually not shown in his movies. His destructive side. But before I digress further, let us get down to the brass tacks.

Like in its predecessors, the Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris has a heavy human element in it. However, unlike the previous movies, where the focus has been humans who are favorably inclined towards Gamera, this movie takes an interesting turn in that three of the main characters, namely Ayana Hirasaka, are decidedly against him. The actress who played Ayana did a masterful job of relaying the girl's melancholy and dour attitude, as well as her hatred of Gamera. Ayana's relationship with the movie's villainous kaiju, Iris, is almost completely reverse of her feelings towards Gamera. When Ayana finds Iris, she claims to feel a kinship of hatred for Gamera with the strange creature. This kinship of hate draws the two together, and allows Iris to bond to Ayana like Gamera did with Asagi Kusanagi in the first movie. Each of the other characters are also quite well developed, from the paranoid inspector Ogata to the love struck Moribe, each person brings quality acting to the screen.

Story wise, the authors created a compelling and enthralling tale of melancholy hatred and shattered perceptions. I don't remember a single moment when I thought, "Gods above, I wish they would get on with it." The plot is compelling, and the development of the characters, both human and kaiju, was masterful. The melancholy mood of the story, and the layering of truth under perception are rampant in this film. Thus, even though we see Gamera as being almost completely insane in the beginning, and Iris as a newfound guardian and friend for Ayana, as the film progresses, the truth behind the mater is slowly revealed. Gamera, it turns out, is trying to compensate for the damage he did when destroying Legion, and Iris is kind to Ayana simply for his selfish desire to get stronger, by feeding off her hate and eventually merging with her. And in the end, when the story is left hanging in the wake of Gamera and Iris's fight, with the impending Gyoas flock approaching, Gamera's undying determination shines through, making the viewer want to cheer for the big turtle and take up arms to aid him.

Musically, I have a hard time finding fault in the score of this movie. The music helps to re-enforce the somber mood of the movie, or enhance the drama of a moment, like when Iris and Ayana first meld. The battle music is also quite marvelous, with the aerial fight between Gamera and Iris being a particular favorite. Kow Otani did a marvelous job orchestrating the symphonic in this piece, and greatly helped set the tone of the movie.

As for production values, the movie looks crisp. Now, I'm not usually a fan of CGI. I personally think it looks kind of tacky, like its just been pasted onto the screen with no thought about how it blends with the rest of the background, particularly in U.S. CG. Yet, the suitimation and CGI are all well rendered into the scenery, and blend with the movement of the movie. In Ayana's nightmares, Gamera looks positively demonic, and Iris, the movie's antagonist, is amazing. I am a fan of kaiju, in particular original looking ones, so long as they don't look too flashy or overdone. Let me tell you something; to this date, I have yet to see a Kaiju that looks as fantastic, and down right cool, as Iris. His design is truly inspired, and the way that he flies, by opening his tendril arms and using them as energy sails. Wow. Gamera, ever changing in this series, almost seems to have a fiercer, more feral look to him in this installment. His shell is spinier, his elbow spines look longer, and his eyes seem more ferocious, almost feral. And the Gyaos, who also make appearances, are wonderfully rendered in CG. I might even go as far as to say see the movie simply for the special effects, because, quite frankly, they are incredible.

However, the part of this movie that I liked the most comes from the character not of the human players, but of the kaiju themselves. In most kaiju movies that I have watched, I felt that there was a distinct absence of character in the monsters. Admittedly, Godzilla is a primal force of nature in most of his roles, and the saintly Mothra's are embodiments of protectivity, but they seem almost like cardboard cutouts when it comes to the personality that Gamera and Iris bring to the screen. Gamera, unlike in his previous roles in the first two heisei movies, seems almost blatantly destructive, having gone slightly insane in the previous movie (getting killed would probably do that). In his first appearance in the movie, he completely levels a city, killing hundreds of people, all in the name of destroying two Gyaos. Yet, in the midst of the devastation, Gamera still shows signs of his beginning nature, protecting a child from the sonic attacks of one of the Gyaos, even as he's destroying buildings with his explosive plasma fireballs. Latter on in the movie, Gamera's never give up attitude also comes into play. First when he is fighting Iris, even after he has been run through the stomach by Iris's harpoon like arms, and having every attack of his fail to seriously damage his foe, Gamera simply refuses to stay down. Or in the end, when he decides to face an approaching Gyaos swarm, even thought Iris has mangled him. His compassion also manifests itself again when he pulls the sack containing Ayana from Iris's stomach, even though it means he has to sacrifice his own right arm.

Iris, conversely, is down right diabolical. When he is first introduced, he seems caring, almost affectionate towards Ayana and Moribe. However, the twisted nature of the beast manifests when he goes on a rampage through the town Ayana and Moribe live in, killing both families and more than half the total population, all in response to Ayana's strong feelings of dislike for the other people in the community. When he matures, he kills another young woman and a platoon of soldiers, all while trying to reach his Ayana. When he reaches her, he acts on her wishes, and tries to kill Gamera. Yet, when he is about to merge with her, and Moribe gets in the way, he reveals his true nature by almost killing Moribe and forcing Ayana to merge with him, simply to become stronger. In addition, while Ayana is trapped in him, he seems to taunt her with the result of her hatred, namely his actions in the village, as well as the truth about Gamera and the circumstances of her parent's death. So in the end, Iris is revealed to be almost a manifestation of Ayana's hatred as much as his own being.

Overall, I have to say that this movie is one of the finest I have seen in a long time. True, it's not revolutionary, and isn't going to change the face of entertainment, but it still must be applauded. The characters are superb, the actors are competent, the story is compelling and the music helps to make the mood. When it comes to the kaiju, it doesn't get much better, as both Gamera and Iris are incredible. Over all, I would recommend this movie highly, and urge any fan of kaiju to go out and find a copy. It will be well worth your dime.