Toru's mother has recently died in a car crash, and this is his first summer without her. When playing on the beach with his friends, he sees a strange red glow emanating from a nearby rock formation. He decides to go over and investigate it. He is in for a surprise. What Toru finds is an egg lying on top of a strange red rock with patterns carved into it. When he picks up the egg in his hands, out hatches a little baby turtle. He names it "Toto," which is what his mother used to call him when she was alive. What he doesn't know, is that the turtle "Toto" is really the offspring of the Gamera.
Directed by: Ryuta Tazaki
. Starring: Ryô Tomioka
, Shingo Ishikawa
, Shogo Narita
, Kanji Tsuda
, Susumu Terajima
, Tomorô Taguchi
, Kenjirô Ishimaru
, Megumi Kobayashi
, Kenji Motomiya
, Tetsu Watanabe
, Keenan Cromshaw
Fans of the Japanese monster movie genre, myself included, had to wait seven years to see the return of one of the idols. That idol being Gamera, a fire-breathing turtle with the ability to fly. In the sixties and seventies, Gamera oftentimes combated other monsters to defend children in peril. In the 1990s, Gamera was re-invented in a more nostalgic, serious manner. The new movie, "Gamera the Brave" is a kick-start to a new franchise and sort of a throwback to the original series. It would probably do the original creators of Gamera proud, but sadly will not do the same for the fans or moviegoers in general.
The movie introduces Gamera in an entirely different way. After a prologues shows the giant turtle's ancestor dying in battle with the ferocious, bat-like Gyaos, a young boy (Ryo Tomioka) glum over the recent death of his mother, discovers a baby turtle which he soon realizes is not normal. Not unless you consider the ability to fly, breathe fire, and grow at an astronomically fast rate normal. It isn't long before he learns that his pet turtle, whom he names Toto, is really a descendant of the first Gamera. At the same time, a sea monster begins to plague the Japanese coastline to satiate its hunger.
"Gamera the Brave" is constructed basically on the same grounds as the original series. It is more juvenile that the 90s trilogy but done with near-equal technical efficiency and, about halfway through, is a very sweet and sometimes very tender little movie. It starts out good, so very good, that when it starts to take the wrong turns at the forty-five minute mark and continues to make them clear to the end, when the intrinsically dissatisfying ending comes along, it's only more of a letdown.
I really liked the first half of the movie. It dealt with re-inventing Gamera's origins in a way that was original and pleasing. Young actor Mr. Tomioko is talented and does very good interacting with an imaginary creature and the moments between them are very tender and sentimental. In addition, both Gamera and his new opponent Zedus are well-realized via some very good special effects. They are still men in suits, but there are many shots where you would never know it. And their first battle is marvelously done. The dynamic with Mr. Tomioko and a teenage girl (Kaho) is well-written and performed. Everything works in a way that reminds you of the original series, but doesn't become too juvenile.
It works until the halfway mark.
Then the movie starts throwing up potentially great ideas and never follows through on them. The idea of Gamera, before being fully grown, being captured by scientists starts out promising and then cuts off before you know it had even begun. Furthermore, Zedus, good-looking at he is, really doesn't have much presence beyond the ostensive qualities and is a rather forgettable monster. He doesn't same the same antagonistic personality as some of Gamera's earlier opponents like Gyaos and Barugon and, more recently, Iris, who is one of the cinema's most cold-blooded villains. And it's at the halfway mark that the relationship between Gamera and Mr. Tomioko becomes way too sappy, takes the wrong turns, and leaves you feeling rather empty. That great pull we felt before disconnects and never rejoins again.
There are also some very bad sequences, many of which are poorly edited and unwisely lacking soundtrack which seem to have no purpose in the picture at all. There's also a sequence in the third act, leading up to the climax, which almost seems like a silent film. Firstly, the visuals are preposterous, the idea is very bad. And it not saved on account of an excruciatingly juvenile and amateurish musical score.
And on a side note: what the heck happened to Gamera's trademark roar? It is not to be found. Not even once, even for a finale. Now after doing some research, I learned that this movie was produced by Kadakowa Pictures and not Daiei, who produced all the Gamera movies before this one. Maybe there was a copyright problem? Who knows. But here's my question. Whose imbecilic, unforgivable idea was it to replace Gamera's trademark shriek with a stock, B-movie dinosaur roar from the 1950s. Remember the cartoonish T-rex in "The Land Unknown?" Well, Gamera gets his roar. Not only is it too cartoonish, but it doesn't even fit him at all.
"Gamera the Brave" is well directed and acted and half of its screenplay is terrific. However, the other half of it is very condescending. It's not a horrible movie by any means, but it does leave you wanting more. A whole lot more. And the musical score by Yoko Ueno is absolutely awful.
Review by TheUnknown837-1 from the Internet Movie Database.