Gamera The Brave (Japan 2006)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 7/8/07

Completely disregarding the continuity of the previous kick-ass Gamera trilogy, a new (or retro) kid-friendly Gamera returns to the silver screen. Thirty years after Gamera sacrificed himself fighting a flock of Gaos, a young boy named Toru finds a mysterious turtle egg that hatches and imprints on him. Innocently adopting the turtle as a new pet and naming it "Toto", it starts to grow, and grow, and grow... It can also do neat tricks like float in the air and belch fire. Distracted by something it senses at sea, Toto leaves one day and is later spotted fighting with a horrible sea monster called Zedus. Toto is eight meters long at this point, but he still takes an awful beating from Zedus. The weakened Toto is whisked away by the military, who tries to make him grow at an accelerated rate in preparation for the inevitable rematch. But the children know better, and realize that they have to get a certain gemstone to him in order to save his life. The children know this intuitively, and an extremely moving relay race takes place as the children rush headlong into danger carrying their prize. I have rarely seen anything with as much impact as watching an eight year old girl fearlessly run against an entire city that's frantically trying to evacuate. Very intense stuff. With the stone in his possession, Gamera's adult powers finally manifest themselves and Zedus is barbecued.

This is a heart-warming tale of a boy who has lost his mother, and the joy he finds in taking care of a pet. Like many of the earlier Gamera films, most of the adults in the film are two-dimensional caricatures who don't understand anything and just get in the way. The children are presented as intelligent and assertive, and their fears, feelings, and problems are never trivialized. Truly a great family film. Unfortunately, that's not what I wanted to see. Gamera's makeover presents the giant flying turtle with an overbearing cuteness, which I suppose is only natural since he's still a baby. His own coming-of-age trials are both amusing and heartfelt, but it's still a bit too juvenile for my tastes. The visual effects are very good and the urban devastation is delightful, but of course there are some bad digital effects thrown in here and there. The cinematography, editing, and sound design are all top notch, and apart from the cute factor, it's a first rate kaiju film. With Gamera all grown up now, it'll be interesting to see where the franchise goes next.