FantasticFest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and action movies from all around the world. Here's a list of some of our favorite movies at FantasticFest.
A strange meteor lands in Japan unleashing hundreds of insect-like "legion" creatures which find their way into Tokyo. When the military fails to control the situation, Gamera shows up to deal with the ever-evolving space adversary. Written by
my least-favorite of the three films, but still highly entertaining and one of the most impressive monster movies, Japanese or otherwise
Following the success of the surprisingly spectacular "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe", director Shusuke Kaneko received a go-ahead to make two more Gamera movies and thus create his own trilogy. But this trilogy was destined to be something much more than just three more entries in the seemingly endless cycle of Japanese monster movies. This was where Gamera, the flying fire-breathing turtle created by Daiei Studios, became characterized and progressed enough to be considered his own character and not just another figure living in the shadow of Godzilla. Kaneko had a limited budget for his first film. For the first sequel, "Gamera: Attack of Legion" the budget would be increased. Now this is my least favorite of the three films, but that is not a denunciation. Not even close.
A year after Gamera's battle with the Gyaos, a mysterious cluster of meteorites crash-lands in Japan. Following this unexplained phenomenon comes a series of incidents and disasters and before long it becomes clear that the planet has been invaded by a colony of creatures from another world. The creatures, known as the Legion, begin to savage the countryside and before long, it's going to be you-know-who to the rescue.
Although I do enjoy the other two films in the trilogy a little more, "Gamera: Attack of Legion" is still a marvelous and artistic motion picture. It's still a lot more impressive than the average monster movie, Japanese or otherwise.
A notable thing about the Gamera trilogy is the gradual change of tone between the movies. The first film was a lighthearted entry made with respect to the older monster movies, but with an updated style. "Gamera: Attack of Legion" is where the series became a little darker, a little more cynical, making its way toward the utterly dark and mysterious "Gamera: Revenge of Iris." The second film lies a little bit between the two movies. For the most part, the approach on the monsters is serious, although there are some deliberately comical moments that keep the movie from becoming too moody.
Kaneko had a bigger budget, so he could create even more elaborate effects for this film. By ILM standards, no, the effects are not up to date. But with a limited budget, they are more than impressive. There were a few CGI shots that I didn't drop my jaw at, but for the most part, the effects were terrific. Sometimes Gamera and Legion looked so convincing they looked like they were beyond just men in rubber suits. The special effects work and of course the cinematographer are due enormous credit for this feat.
What about the human cast? Uncommon for a monster movie, they are actually, for the most part, quite interesting. Unfortunately, the leading character played by Toshiyuki Nagashima doesn't have a tremendous amount of personality depth, but then again, how many of us go to a monster movie looking for great character study? But aside from him, we do have some strongly-written humans and some strong performances. One thing I admire a lot about Kaneko's style is that he breaks conventions even in the casting, where he gives the strongest parts in female roles. The leading female part is played wonderfully by the attractive and talented actress Miki Mizuno and I can't leave out Ayako Fujitani as the girl who communicates with Gamera psychically, although I do wish she had just a little more screen time in the film. It is really refreshing to see women, who are usually reduced to just screaming in monster movies, to be stealing the screen not with beauty but with personality and performance. Yukijiro Hotaru, whom you may remember as the comical bumbling Inspector Osako in the first movie, also makes an appearance here as well.
The movie, like many, is not without its faults, but they are hardly enough to detract any entertainment value from the overall result. Featuring strong performances especially by Miki Mizuno and Ayako Fujitani, great special effects, a spectacular musical score by Ko Otani, and action scenes packed with imagination, "Gamera: Attack of Legion" is yet another success story for director Kaneko and his crew and one the most impressive science-fiction films this monster movie fan has ever seen.
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