Beginning with flashbacks to the events of the first film from a different perspective, we technically don’t get the same buildup to Gamera’s emergence that we did with the first two films in the 90s trilogy.
With the events of Revenge of Iris tying in so closely with the first film – Gyaos creatures returning, for one thing – it really does feel like the closing chapter of a complete trilogy. It’s a shame that we don’t have an entirely new threat – like the Legion bugs and kaiju of the second film – but the monster action we get in Revenge of Iris does get off to a good start at least. And though the Gyaos do return, we do also have the Iris of the title, which is an excellent addition to Gamera’s rogues gallery.
We still have a film that feels grounded and convincing, at least during the first act. Though Gamera is often cast as Earth’s guardian, he does still cause a near-comical level of property damage, which is an important aspect of the story here. Revenge of Iris doesn’t shy away from showing the impact that our ‘hero’ has on everyday people; not often in a good way. Lots of kaiju action is shown from ground level, with hordes of screaming citizens running for their lives…and sometimes not getting away. It’s a refreshing approach and one that’s long overdue.
There’s a lot of disparate plot elements here, with the Iris subplot, covering a bullied kid raising the newly hatched – and very cute – monster being one of the most compelling threads, though I was a bit turned off by the sexually suggestive manner in which Iris drained its victims, especially as they seemed to be exclusively female.
There’s a bit more insight into Gamera lore too – with more of an explanation of the climax of the first film, which seemed to come out of nowhere at the time. It’s really fun to see a Dreamcast console (!) being used to simulate the prevention of a Gyaos Invasion, though the reclusive programmer of the video game simulation is a cartoonish character who does little more than make weird predictions and spout cod-philosophical nonsense. It’s an issue with the film in general – there really are so many characters and not all of them are essential to getting the plot moving; it’s the longest Gamera movie since 1966’s Gamera vs Barugon – and it definitely feels as if there’s a lot of filler, with a number of elements that feel a bit unnecessary in the end.
The practical effects are really well done this time, with the aforementioned Iris being particularly strong in terms of its implementation. It’s not just a beautifully designed creature; even the puppetry is first rate. It’s a shame when it’s rendered in awful 90s CGI, but given the context of some of the scenes it is difficult to see how they could have pulled it off any other way. Even then, there are definitely sequences where the CGI actually works really well (particularly in an airborne chase scene).
Overall, it’s definitely the most successful of the Heisei trilogy films in terms of maintaining a consistent tone and excellent implementation of its old school practical effects techniques, which are admittedly coupled with some awkward CGI in a few moments, but certainly not enough to derail the film. It’s a shame that it feels bloated with subplots and even ends on a slightly inconclusive note, but it’s an impressively dark and serious kaiju film that really does work where it counts.
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