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Shûsuke Kaneko
Tsuyoshi Ihara, Akira Onodera, Shinobu Nakayama
Writing Credits:
Kazunori Itô, James Shanks

A hibernating species of giant carnivorous birds is awakened on a Japanese island shortly after the military encounters an unidentified mass moving beneath the water off-shore.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0
US English DTS-HD MA 5.1
US English DTS-HD MA 2.0
UK English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $179.95
Release Date: 8/18/2020
Available Only As Part of 12-Movie “Gamera Complete Collection”

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian/Artist Matt Frank
• Introduction by Film Historian August Ragone
• “A Testimony of 15 Years: Part 1” Documentary
• Interviews with Shusuke Kaneko and Shinji Higuchi
• SFX Interview with Shinji Higuchi
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “Production Announcement”
• “Backstage Clip”
• “Yubari Film Festival”
• “Hibaya Theater Opening Day”
• Alternate English Credits
• Trailers & TV Spots
• Image Gallery


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Gamera: Guardian of the Universe [Blu-Ray] (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 17, 2020)

After the franchise debuted with 1965’s The Giant Monster, the Gamera series rattled off six more movies in six years. It went dormant for nine years until 1980’s Super Monster attempted to revive the character – and failed miserably.

Our favorite enormous turtle left us for 15 years until a reboot in 1995. With that year’s Guardian of the Universe, we find another attempt to bring Gamera back to public prominence.

In the Pacific Ocean, a plutonium-transport ship suffers an accident after it runs around on a bizarre moving atoll. This weird floating mass continues to head toward Japan.

Before long, this “atoll” becomes revealed as Gamera, a giant, super-powered turtle. He eventually reaches Tokyo, where he does battle with Gyaos, an enormous prehistoric bat who threatens humanity.

Before this 2020 Blu-ray set hit my doorstep, I’d never seen a minute of any Gamera film. My experiences with the 1965 debut didn’t make me eager to view more, though I gave Super Monster a look because I thought it might offer camp laughs.

It didn’t, and in a logical world, I’d have bailed on Gamera once and for all. However, the existence of this 1995 revival intrigued me, as I thought perhaps a more modern version of Gamera might succeed.

And it does – or at least it betters its predecessors. With the advantages of more sophisticated visual effects and probably a better budget, Guardian manages to become a superior film vs. the two older flicks I watched prior to this screening.

Don’t take that as a strong endorsement of Guardian, though, as the final product seems inconsistent. While it works better than the 1965 or 1980 flicks, it never quite turns into a winner in its own right.

Whereas the 1965 film clearly worked from the Godzilla template, Guardian operates from a different influence: 1993’s megahit Jurassic Park.

I won’t call Guardian a ripoff of that classic, but the 1995 film shows considerable signs of its style, right down to Spielbergian camera work. Heck, we even get a scene in which a female scientist digs into a giant pile of creature poop!

Mainly the similarities stem from the depiction of the monsters and mayhem, as Guardian gives Gamera more of a dinosaur impression than in the past. Some of this material becomes staged in a way that seems evocative of Jurassic Park as well.

Of course, a lot of this still leans toward the Godzilla influence, so Gamera can’t escape his more famous predecessor’s shadow. Essentially Guardian feels like a cheap Spielberg knock off of a Godzilla movie.

As lame as that might sound, Guardian brings some excitement – or maybe the cheesy nature of the 1965 and 1980 movies beat me down so much that I can’t tell the difference anymore. As noted earlier, Guardian clearly tops those two flicks, so perhaps they left my expectations so low that it took little to impress me.

Though I shouldn’t state that Guardian does impress me, as it doesn’t. It may offer a relative step up compared to its predecessors, but it remains a fairly uninspired effort.

Still, we do get some decent excitement along the way, as the movie’s action scenes offer reasonable impact. While they never really excel, they manage some energy and verve.

Unfortunately, the story seems like a mess. At its core, Guardian tells a fairly simple narrative, but it complicates matters unnecessarily and turns into a confusing tale along the way.

The characters never become more than faceless. Although the film attempts some paths to give them personalities, these don’t work, so we fail to connect to or bond with the various roles.

That’s one area where Guardian suffers in comparison to its predecessors. While I didn’t much care about those movies’ characters, at least they showed some signs of life, whereas the inhabitants of Guardian blend together.

Though clearly superior to what we saw in the earlier movies, the effects of Guardian don’t live up to 1995 standards. Not that I expected ILM-caliber work, but I hoped for material that would seem superior to the wholly unconvincing beasts we locate here. We’re often stuck with the usual “dudes in suits” material that seems barely upgraded over the decades.

Hmm… the more I write about Guardian, the harder it becomes for me to praise it. Perhaps one should view it as more than the sum of its problematic parts.

By that I mean I can pick apart much of Guardian: dull characters, barely coherent plot, iffy visual effects. All of these facets create problems.

And yet, I kind of like Guardian - or at least I don’t actively dislike it, which acts as a step up from my opinion of many flicks from the franchise’s original run. You probably need low expectations to enjoy Guardian, but it does manage some monster movie charms.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus A-

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a great presentation, the movie largely looked fine.

For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. Occasional soft spots emerged, and not always for logical reasons.

I expected some lack of definition from effects elements, but other iffy moments made less sense. In any case, the image usually brought appropriate delineation.

No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects emerged, and edge haloes remained absent. The film boasted a nice layer of grain, and sound flaws seemed minimal, with only a few small specks on display.

Colors veered toward a blue impression or some amber. These hues never excelled but they appeared more than adequate.

Blacks were a little dense but generally good, and shadows followed suit. Though a few low-light shots became a bit murky, most of them felt acceptable. This was a perfectly watchable “B” image.

Similar thoughts greeted the movie’s generally positive DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Given its era and genre, the soundscape seemed more limited than expected, though it still mustered fairly good involvement at times. Obviously, the flick’s many action scenes became the focal point, and these could open up the side and back speakers in a positive manner.

But they rarely did so in an impressive way. By 1995, robust multichannel mixes were common, so I expected more from this one.

The track broadened the elements in a generally solid way, with decent use of the side and rear channels. However, it tended to seem a bit speaker-specific and didn’t always blend in a smooth way. Delineation between front and rear didn’t feel as fleshed out as I’d like.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed reasonably natural, and music featured positive punch.

Effects also seemed fine, as they showed good clarity and definition. Speech seemed natural and concise. This felt like a pretty positive mix, albeit not anything special.

We find a mix of extras here, and we open with an introduction from film historian August Ragone. A staple of these discs, Ragone chats for four minutes, 34 seconds as he discusses the series’ reboot. He provides the usual efficient overview.

For the movie’s audio commentary, we hear from artist/film historian Matt Frank. He provides a running, screen-specific look at the reboot's evolution and path to the screen, cast and crew, creature design and various effects, story/characters, and related topics.

Though the commentaries for the first five movies ranged from very good to excellent, the quality collapsed for the next three. The best still seemed subpar, and the worst became genuinely awful.

Happily, we rebound with this lively and informative commentary. Frank delivers an energetic personality and he tells us plenty of good details about the project. Expect a pretty terrific chat here.

Across all three reboot movies, we get a long documentary under the banner A Testimony of 15 Years. Here we find Part 1, a one-hour, 55-minute, 47 piece that brings info from actor/stuntman Tomohiko Akiyama, animatronics Tatsuya Abe, stunt action coordinator Mitsuo Abe, producer Morio Amagi, assistant art director Yumiko Arakawa, 1st assistant to SFX cinematographer Masahide Iioka, digital composite Nobuya Ishida, script supervisor Kumiko Ishiyama, SH lighting chief Shigeru Izumiya, screenwriter Kazunori Ito, sound effects Shinichi Ito, SFX production assistant Masato Inatsuki, practical effects assistant Kenichi Ueda, production designer Hajime Oikawa, producer Yoshiyuki Oikawa, composer Koh Otani, monster actor Akira Ohashi, first recording assistant Satoshi Ozaki, creature modeling assistant Takashi Oda, SFX unit leader Katsuro Onoue, SFX production Masaya Kajikawa, assistant SFX art director Yoshiyuki Kasuga, first AD Shozo Katashima, matte artist Keisuke Kamitono, director Shusuke Kaneko, SFX 1st AD Makoto Kamiya, Gyaos actor Yuumi Kamayama, and assistant practical effects to the SFX unit Kenji Kawaguchi.

Unlike most documentaries, “Testimony” doesn’t attempt a chronological portrait of the films’ production. Instead, it presents the participants mentioned in no particular order, as they offer memories of their experiences, and we also get shots from the sets.

Cumulatively, these comments bring generally informative insights, and the behind the scenes material adds value. However, the random structure makes “Testimony” a less than coherent package.

That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it to fans, as it comes with enough useful material to merit attention. However, the way the documentary just bops from one participant to another with no rhyme or reason means it feels lazy.

From 2002, we get interviews with director Shusuke Kaneko and FX director Shinji Higuchi. In this 35-minute, 48-second piece, we hear from Kaneko and Higuchi via separate sessions.

Kaneko chats for the first 20 minutes, 13 seconds and looks at the Gamera character and franchise as well as historical elements that influence the films. Higuchi fills the remaining 15 minutes, 45 seconds with a view of the Gamera costumes.

Kaneko’s remarks feel more philosophical than usual, so he doesn’t say much about the production nuts and bolts. However, he offers good perspective for the genre and franchise, and Higuchi delivers a fun glimpse of the monster suits.

Next comes another Interview with Shinji Higuchi. Recorded in 2001, this one-hour, 32-minute, 42-second program provides Higuchi’s chat with Studio Ghibli founder Hirokatsu Kihara.

The show covers the effects for all three of the 1990s trilogy films. Though it comes with plenty of movie clips, the interview could use behind the scenes footage as well. Nonetheless, it becomes an informative discussion as it looks at the series’ effects work.

Behind the Scenes fills 16 minutes, one second. It includes the expected footage from the shoot and it tosses in “on the set” comments from Higuchi, special effects photographer Hiroshi Kidokoro, specialeffects art director Toshio Miike, mechanical staging Izumi Negishi, and actors Yumi Kameyama and Naoaki Manabe.

As expected, we get more info about the movie’s effects. Also as expected, some of this repeats from earlier programs, but we get some fresh notes, and the glimpses of the production offer value.

With Production Announcement, we go back to April 25, 1994 for a five-minute, five-second reel. Here we see the press event at which the producers officially revealed the plans for a new Gamera movie. It’s worthwhile for archival reasons but it’s not especially interesting.

Called Backstage Clip: The Legend, a four-minute, 17-second reel runs behind the scenes footage along with a pop-rock tune. It’s not all that interesting, mainly because the shots seem so random and don’t last long enough to show us much.

From February 1995, Yubari Film Festival goes for six minutes, 13 seconds and takes us to the movie’s premiere. It’s another clip with archival value and not much more.

Hibaya Theater Opening Day fills two minutes, 55 seconds and takes us to March 1995 for the movie’s commercial debut. Some cast/crew appear at the auditorium as well, but this becomes a forgettable addition.

Two forms of Alternate English Credits appear: “US End Credits” (5:17) and “UK End Credits” (1:57). Neither seems compelling.

Under , we find two teasers, a theatrical trailer, six TV spots, and a US video trailer. We also get an ad for the Gyaos Destruction Strategy Super Nintendo video game.

The disc concludes with an Image Gallery. Across its 90 stills, we see the usual collection of production images, art and ads. It’s a good compilation.

Objectively, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe offers a mediocre movie at best. Subjectively, I recognize its flaws but still think it provides enough monster movie action to make it watchable. The Blu-ray comes with generally positive picture and audio as well as a long roster of bonus materials. Guardian becomes a decent reboot for the franchise.

Note that as of August 2020, this Blu-ray version of Guardian only appears as part of a “Gamera Complete Collection”. This packages 12 Gamera adventures.

The “Complete Collection” also features a 120-page reproduction of a 1996 Gamera comic book and an 80-page retrospective book. My review copy didn’t include these components so I can’t formally discuss them.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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