Today’s feature is the concluding entry into the Heisei era Gamera Trilogy: 1999’s Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris was once again written by Kazunori Itô, who also penned the previous two movies (Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Attack of Legion) as well as the movie adaptation of Ghost in the Shell and .hack//SIGN.
The director for Gamera 3 was Shûsuke Kaneko, who also helmed the Death Note movie and Toho’s Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Out Attack. This was his last work in the Gamera franchise after directing Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Attack of Legion.
The cinematographer, Junichi Tozawa, likewise returned from Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Attack of Legion.
The editor for Gamera 3 was a newcomer to the franchise: Isao Tomita, who also cut Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.
The producing team for Gamera 3 included Naoki Sato (Gamera 2, One Missed Call, Three…Extremes), Yasuyoshi Tokuma (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), and Tsutomu Tsuchikawa (Dead or Alive, The City of Lost Souls).
The effects team for Gamera 3 included Makoto Kamiya (Godzilla vs. Biollante), Rikiya So (Godzilla: Final Wars), Shinji Higuchi (Gamera 2, Gamera, Attack on Titan), Mahiro Maeda (Blue Submarine No. 6, Mad Max: Fury Road, Porco Rosso, Gamera).
There has been one more Gamera movie created following the release of Revenge of Iris, though it is not regarded as part of the Heisei era trilogy: 2006’s Gamera The Brave. There are currently rumors that a new Gamera movie is being produced in the wake of the success of the American Godzilla, though specific details are sketchy.
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris was very well received among fans, and some regard it as the greatest non-Godzilla kaiju movie ever made. It currently holds a 7.4 rating on IMDb, alongside an impressive 91% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
A background aspect of the plot in Revenge of Iris is the return of a number of Gyaos, which were the principle adversaries in Guardian of the Universe. Iris, Gamera’s mysterious new adversary, is alluded to be a mutated subspecies of Gyaos, and retains some of the monster’s physical characteristics. The Showa era also brought back Gyaos occasionally to show how much stronger the new foes were in comparison to past threats, but their purpose in this movie is much different. Instead of acting as a display of how powerful the new enemy is, they exist to pose something of an ethical question: are the Gyaos or Gamera the greater threat in the grand scheme of things? If only one can be dealt with, which should be the priority to defeat?
Iris, the primary adversary in Gamera 3, is a curiously designed creature. The head and sharp angles still look like a Gyaos, but tentacle-like appendages add a new element to the creature. Personally, I think it looks a little too busy on paper, though it does look pretty cool on screen. The tentacles reminded me a bit of Biollante, a Heisei Godzilla villain, though I like the aesthetic of the water flora/alligator much better than the…whatever Iris is supposed to vaguely look like. The color scheme also reminded me of the far less interesting Godzilla villain Destroyah, which was a clear influence.
There is a notable scarcity of Gamera in Gamera 3, which lends an atmosphere of menace and mystery in the wake of the unclear ending to Attack of Legion. This fits well with the movie’s grounded approach to kaiju, emphasizing the collateral damage and ethical issues inherent to their presence. In particular, one scene shows Gamera apparently saving a child, but at the expense of countless other lives, which are brutally depicted being scorched in path of his fire breath.
I mentioned in my coverage of Attack of Legion that the effects look particularly good in that movie. Astoundingly, Revenge of Iris puts that preceding film to shame. The monsters look fantastic, and the building destruction miniatures and flame effects are shot and executed even better than they were previously, making the movie all the more brutal and visceral in accordance with the darker tone.
Amazingly, the human story (which is a historic weakness of kaiju movies) is pretty interesting here, and builds on principles and precedence established in the first two movies. There is a genuine sense of urgency, terror, and anger in their stories, and you can’t help but care about their struggle. This is also the only kaiju movie I can think of where I genuinely wanted the film to cut away from the monster action to get back to the humans, which is damn near heresy. Still, it works, and works quite well.
Overall, this is a movie that deserves its positive reputation. However, it does suffer a little bit from not being able to stand on its own. Realistically, the intertwined stories mean that to appreciate this movie, Guardian of the Universe and Attack of Legion are mandatory viewing for this film to have a full effect. That said, if you can commit to the whole trilogy, this movie is a fantastic conclusion, and a top-tier kaiju film. Fans of the genre owe it to themselves to watch through the entire trilogy, if only to appreciate the mastery that is shown in this conclusion.