Schoolgirl Ayana discovers a large egg in a cave that, according to legend, houses demons. The egg hatches into a small monster, which Ayana decides to raise and quickly develops as psychic bond with. As Ayana's monster, named Iris, grows to adulthood, the flying turtle Gamera begins to take an interest in this new potential threat. Who will be the victor in the final battle, and how much of Japan will be left standing at the end?
Directed by: Shûsuke Kaneko
. Starring: Shinobu Nakayama
, Ai Maeda
, Yukijirô Hotaru
, Ayako Fujitani
, Senri Yamazaki
, Toru Tezuka
, Yuu Koyama
, Nozomi Andô
, Kei Horie
, Norito Yashima
, Hirotarô Honda
, Aki Maeda
, Hiroyuki Watanabe
. Music by: Kô Ôtani
"Gamera 3: Incomplete Struggle", is the best entry in the trilogy and often praised, by those who bother with giant monster movies, as one of the best, or even the best, of its genre. While I would not take it that far, I do agree that this is the strongest Gamera film to date, granting this trilogy the rare distinction of improving with each installment.
The biggest storytelling triumph is the sense of consequences. Unlike the vast majority of the genre, Kaneko's movies acknowledge the long term effects that the activities of giant monsters have on humanity, and "Gamera 3" may represent the best effort in this respect. From the story of Ayana to the various news reports, we are given insight into the growing (and not unreasonable) disapproval of the eponymous monster. In a similar vein to "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe", which cleverly addressed the unusual features of the monsters, time is taken shed new light on previous events, such as how Gamera pulled off that crazy plasma attack in the second movie. The whole thing has such a sense of follow-up concerning the first that it makes me wonder concerning its place.
George Lucas once said that the advantage to a trilogy is that each part has its purpose. The first introduces everything, the second puts in the heroes in a black hole and the third brings them out of it. "Gamera 3" definitely has a sense of placing its heroes in a tough spot, as it is pervaded by an escalating crisis. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem appropriate for a conclusion, especially because everything ends on, essentially, a cliffhanger. It would have worked much better as a middle chapter. Sure, there's a silver lining in the military diverting its efforts to combating the hordes of Gyaos, but overall it would have been more satisfying to see this conflict play out, perhaps in a grim future where humanity ultimately finds its direction again.
Several plot points lack either significant follow through or sufficient explanation. The introduction of the monster Irys, as well as the discovery of the graveyard under the ocean, brought the opportunity to expand upon the origins of Gamera and the Gyaos, but all we get are outlandish speculation from one very unsettling character. You'd think that the discovery of a Gamera graveyard would spur more discussion amongst these people. Frankly, there were many moments in the film when I felt pressed to wonder what certain details meant or questioned their prominence. After the characters comment on the returning Gyaos for the 20th time with minimal shown incidents or counterattacks, the sense of crisis can grow trite. Again, this would have served better as build-up...if there was anything to build-up to.
The characters themselves are not terribly successful. Despite some reappearing from earlier films, much of the cast really has no bearing on the story, while others fail to leave much of an impression. Even Ayana's interactions with Irys lack conviction because they are rushed and lack true foundation; the time she spends "raising" him is too short. Nagamine is the most engaging lead. True, she is more of a guide for the audience than an intriguing individual, but she also retains an endearing quality, which can go a long way. Her warm conversation with Osako is an especially good example of this. Asagi, despite her magnetic presence on screen, is criminally underused, contributing little more than clarification for some confusing plot points. It's remarkable that after 3 films, little real effort was made to delve further into her personality and connection with Gamera, which would have been far more interesting than Ayana's mostly flaccid tale of vengeance. The monsters themselves, unusually, are better handled. Though the reasoning behind his newfound destructive tendencies is lackadaisical, Gamera ultimately strikes the right balance between menace and nobility and gives us a guardian we can root for. Irys definitely carries a malicious presence, bolstered by a wholly original design and one of the most interesting methods of flight I have seen. The fantastically surreal, creepy scene of Ayana within his gut finely conveys the torturous nature of the bond between the two.
Where Gamera 3 really shines is its special effects, which are rightfully considered a gold standard within this genre. The use of CGI, while no more convincing than half of what is seen today, is properly used when necessary. In fact, it is noteworthy that giant monster movies, cheesy as they may be, consistently make appropriate use of CGI to enhance action scenes instead of create them, which big budget blockbusters rarely get right. The two action sequences are easily the highlights, providing some of the most impressive images of destruction the genre has to offer, particularly from the explosions of Gamera's plasma blasts. The final fight can seem sluggish compared to most monster brawls, with minimal movement from the combatants and excessive movement for the camera, but the indoor setting and some rather innovative shots that emphasize the monsters' size by showing things from the point of view of the humans help make up for that. Two moments in particular that I have never forgotten are when Gamera and Irys crash through the train station and the fiery transition between Gamera, Irys and Ayana before the fight. The climax may be construed as the only true accomplishment of "Gamera 3", as it contains virtually everything that makes the film stand out within the kaiju genre.
I recommend this movie, given that some of the more traditional movie-making techniques it contains allow it to appeal even to those who are not fans of this genre. While it suffers from some unevenness in its storyline and needs more clarity and less bizarre moments, it still deserves to be applauded and even emulated because it serves as a testament that great results can come from a balance in traditional and modern special effects.
Review by jephtha from the Internet Movie Database.