Review Roundup - Turtle power

GAMERA 2: ADVENT OF LEGION (1996)

I can't be certain, but I'd have to hazard a guess that this is a misquoted bible verse they are using in the title there. I've no idea if the "we are many" excerpt refers to a swarm, never mind a swarm of bugs - but I will get to that. Gamera, a rival to Toho's Godzilla was rebooted in the 90s with three films, and for the genre this one holds up fairly well. That is considering it features a giant turtle with super powers... As you'd expect this is a monster clash movie with rubber suits and a lot of collateral damage and ecological messages.

This time he does battle with alien insects - they have a few different stages that keep things interesting. When fully grown it's part bug, part crayfish; all arms. It has a few different abilities, but it's also got a plant like nest that grows to spread it's seed to outer space (killing us in the process). The smaller ones are used in a few scenes typical of an alien infestation plot - hiding in the subway or jumping out the dark. It keeps the human element from getting too dull and the effects are used properly - they are hidden in the shadows until the right moment. A medium sized flying variant gets forgotten about after it's appearance, but bringing things up and dropping them becomes a recurring theme here.



After a number of meteors land in northern Japan (but unsurprisingly they later spread to Tokyo) a number of strange creatures are spotted and things like phone lines and bottles from a brewery go missing. As usual in this type of thing the military and science bods slowly work out what is going to happen. Meanwhile Gamera; Friend To All Children (no, really) gets on the case. There's a few stock scenes discussing the alien plan and things like magnetic waves and silicon based life, it's all pretty typical nonsense. Unfortunately they have this annoying plot device where a character has a psychic link to the 'hero' creature - something that was overused in the later 90s Godzilla movies - but since this is a part two and they did all they really could with it in the first movie, it's not really explored or used that much. One the one hand this is good as I find it silly and melodramatic; but why feature it at all if you are going to bring back characters for no apparent reason or have them randomly at the scene of the attack in the style of so many dumb sequels?

There are a couple of things like this, unused dramatic elements which could have been focused on better or should have been dropped - one other character apparently witnessed the previous film's events and could have been utilised somehow, but they are quickly forgotten. Why mention it? There's also a scene where a shockwave levels a city, hinting at a darker tone - but it's left aside as things move along; nobody really talks about it afterwards. The dry expository element is always problem with this genre as it becomes dull quickly, and in a story about giant monsters it needs pruning back or fleshing out all the way. People are here to see the larger than life characters after all.

The battles themselves are well staged; though I found it odd that the antagonist is so tall here - the movement in some shots seems limited by the size difference. All the legs and moving armour plates are quite intricate. It's a shame the DVD is so washed out in places as visually it could be pretty nice. Some computer elements do creep in which is a shame as I love the old fire breathing effects; but generally the destruction is all detailed model work and real props. Overall it's solid entertainment but one that is unlikely to blow any minds or convert new fans in an age of far more advanced visual effects techniques.

3/5

BONUS REVIEW
ICHI THE KILLER (2001)



Looking into some Japanese cinema of a whole different variety, I recently revisited a few older DVDs including this mix of extreme violence and manga insanity. The characters are all bizarre and twisted and the imagery is completely over the top with crazy amounts of splatter and crazier fashion. Seriously, with all the gore there are some loud shirts. Yakuza plots interconnect with threads about hypnotherapy and masochism so don't expect any relatable characters or a story conclusion that adds up on the first viewing. On the surface it's about a plan to wipe out mob bosses - and the guy with cinema's best Chelsea smile does awful things as he goes around trying to get to the bottom of it. But these are the simple parts of explaining how things go down. Ultimately I can only recommend this to those looking for new foreign cinema kicks or horror fans, but it's a ride that I think is too strange to be missed.

4/5