Gamera The Brave (2006) DVD Jun 19, 2010 11:07:28 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Jun 19, 2010 11:07:28 GMT -5
Sometimes you watch a movie and end up pleasantly surprised...
In 1973 a young Japanese boy watches as Gamera attempts to fight three Gyaos flying monsters. Outnumbered and sensing defeat, Gamera goes to his ultimate weapon - he blows himself up taking out the three bad guys with him. It is a sight that the boy will never forget.
Fast forward to 2006, that boy is now grown up and has a son of his own. Unfortunately, his wife had died a year earlier in an auto accident, leaving him as a single parent. His son, who was very close with his mother does not believe that she is in heaven looking down on him. He has become cynical and somewhat closed down emotionally. While visiting his mothers oceanfront grave, the boy sees something glowing on a small island just a hundred yards or so off the beach. It is a sight he will see again the next day.
So he decides to swim over to the island to investigate this bright red object. Once on the island he discovers that it's some kind of large jewel holding an egg - an egg that hatches once he picks it up. Hatching out of the egg is a small turtle, which he adopts and gives the name, Toto (which is what his mother used to call him). This isn't your ordinary turtle, however, and Gamera The Brave isn't your ordinary Kaiju (giant monster) movie.
Gamera The Brave is actually a clever, heartwarming film that recalls the mood of both E.T. and Benji, just translated to the Gamera/Godzilla style. It is surprisingly well written, and the Japanese cast is quite good. The only weak links in the movie are the actual monster scenes, and they aren't bad at all.
Gamera was originally conceived as Daiei Studios answer to Godzilla. The series quickly deteriorated into fairly goofy (but still entertaining) kids movies. In 1995 Gamera returned to the big screen after a nearly twenty year long hiatus. This time it was a trilogy of deadly serious, very well made films by director Shusuke Kaneko. Kaneko took the Gamera films up not only to the level of the best Godzilla movies, but arguably above and beyond that level. The second and third movies in the trilogy (Gamera: The Advent of Legion and Gamera: Revenge of Iris) are considered to be the pinnacle of Kaiju filmmaking, and have not been surpassed since.
Unfortunately, despite the quality of these films they failed to set the Japanese box office on fire, so the series was ended there.
A new studio, Kadokawa, decided to give Gamera another try - this time going back to Gamera's roots as, "Friend to all children." Expectations were not high (going back to the series cheesy kid flick roots was not a popular move among Kaiju fans).
But director Ryuta Tasaki had something up his sleeve - a great script by Yukari Tatsui. It was this script that Tasaki would treat with great care as he filmed the movie. Taking his cues from Spielberg's work on E.T. and even borrowing a bit of the tone from Joe Camp's Benji, Tasaki helmed a movie where the characters were well rounded, likeable, and believable. Without these characters and the progression that they take Gamera The Brave would just ended up as another cheeseball Gamera movie.
But it didn't end up that way.
The boy finds that keeping the turtle is going to be trickier than he thought, and he even tries to release the turtle back into the wild - only to find that the turtle follows him home! The turtle quickly shows that he isn't your ordinary everyday turtle, however, as he develops the ability to fly. There are some really cute, heartwarming scenes here, and it is this base that the film builds on.
Of course, being Gamera, before too long the turtle becomes too big for the boy to keep in his room, so he keeps him in his hidden fort on the beach. He and his friends take care of Toto (Gamera), until he ends up missing one day. Shortly thereafter, a giant monster emerges from the ocean and attacks the boy's town (eating some of the residents in the process). Toto shows up to fight the monster, despite being only half his size.
From there the Japanese government gets involved, and the boy feels another sense of loss (first his mother, now, possibly, Toto).
The resolution of the movie is especially heartwarming and touching, with the focus on the children more than the giant monsters fighting in the city streets.
The special effects are passable, but not in the same league as Kaneko's trilogy from a decade earlier. Tasaki's focus is on the children (and the boy's father), and it is there that the movie shines.
Gamera The Brave is one of those movies that exceeds expectations to become a very pleasant surprise. It's not a great movie, but it is a very good one that transcends it's genre.
The DVD from Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters (pictured above on the left) is also quite good. The picture quality is fairly clean and clear, with better than average fine detail. Both the English and Japanese soundtracks (it comes with both languages) sound quite good as well. The treatment given to this DVD is as good as the movie itself as the transfer was very well done.