Gamera 2: The Attack of Legion - 100% / 100%
A review by Damon B
In a sentence: A rollercoaster of a kaiju movie, absolutely bursting at the seams with intense action, likable characters, and a convincing story, Attack of Legion is easily in the same ballpark as the genre's finest.
The middle child of the Heisei Gamera trilogy, Attack of Legion proves itself to be more than worthy of the greatness of the other films. In fact, Attack of Legion is perhaps the single best film in this critically-acclaimed series, and perhaps one of the best kaiju films ever created. While the premise of the story is quite basic, its complications are quite interesting and it is supported by solid characters. In addition to this solid story, Attack of Legion has bar-none the finest effects in any kaiju movie yet seen in America (Except perhaps Gamera 3), which is saying a lot considering its age (Nearly 9 years). Yes, it even rivals and exceeds the visual flair of Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. which was released earlier last year.
The title, Attack of Legion, is all too appropriete given the film's subject matter. It's an undeniably simple story, revolving around a violent alien species transported to Earth via massive missle-launching flowers. They're here and they want to take over, dagnabbit. Its the way that the story is told that makes it so interesting: it has some believable scientific roots, and it takes itself seriously enough as to allow a very strong suspension of disbelief. Never once does it bite off more than it can chew, however, which is a very good thing and perhaps one of the largest flaws many films in the genre have. In any case, it's leaps above Gamera: Guardian of the Universe's story.
Attack of Legion takes a decidedly darker approach to presentation than most kaiju movies. It never once plays down to children, especially in terms of violence. Perhaps this single fact is what makes this movie so unique and awesome: It's not afraid to throw a little suspense-horror in there, particularly in one surprisingly effective sequence where the Legion monsters attack a train. Innocent people not only die, but the train conductor is absolutely splattered across a window, and yes, it leaves a lot of blood. This happens relatively early in the movie, and it absolutely sold me. Finally there would be a truly mature kaiju movie. Finally there would be a movie that wouldn't be looked down upon by non-kaiju fans. Finally there would be a series that could very well surpass Godzilla's legacy. The train conducter isn't the only one that bleeds either: Gamera sheds a very large amount of blood all over a building during a very well done escaping sequence. Okay, I like blood a little too much.
The monster designs live up elegantly to the high standards set by every other facet of the movie. The Legion monsters match their insectoid alien personalities with utmost perfection, and the final large Legion is a very unique and powerful looking monster. Surprisingly, the creatures (Save for Gamera, ironically the lowest-quality of the monsters) don't even look very fake in their numerous sequences. In fact, they would look incredibly lifelike if only they moved a little more than their rigid bodies seem to allow. Gamera, while clearly more kinetically-able than Godzilla, looks quite a bit worse in comparison to his opposition, which is a shame because he is the film's hero. Even so, his movements are entertaining and he's a flying turtle that launches fireballs, so it's hard to stay mad at him.
The monsters would perhaps not look so good if not for some very well-done camera work. The director clearly knows what he's working with, and he pulls it off with utmost mastery. There are several shots that stand out in my mind as unique and very effective, complimenting the monsters at every angle. For instance, there is a sequence in the movie where the Legion minions attack a Kirin beer warehouse in order to eat precious, precious glass, and two bumbling security guards encounter them. You see the monsters only twice in this whole scene: once only in shadow, and again through the boxes of Kirin beer. It sounds very simple, and it is in esscence, but it lends a large amount of believability whereas a less-skilled director would perhaps shoot the monsters head-on. The same goes for the train sequence: You see very little of the actual Legion monsters in this particular instance (But don't worry - you see them in massive quantity later on), yet this lends an incredible amount of suspense. Not all of his shots are so simply-effective, however. There are a significant amount of artistic shots that lend a certain grace of beauty to Gamera, such as when he is engulfed in the massive flower's blast. Such delicious little perks that the kaiju genre disregards in all too many cases. I also must tip my hat to the director in regards to his risky though utterly amazing balance of CG techniques and old school model techniques. Brilliant!
These visuals are often used to support the film's subtler values. There is quite a bit of Christian symbolism, and Gamera is even conveyed as a Christ-figure. Many would perhaps be turned off by the Lord being symbolized in a giant, alien-crushing turtle, but that's exactly makes kaiju cinema so brilliant: they're good movies. Gamera is by far more of a character than any Keanu Reeves character ever, yet people dismiss kaiju eiga at first glance. Despite this powerful symbolism, the movie acknowledges that its emphasis is more on action, and it never runs away with itself ala The Matrix Revolutions. The messages and symbols are gentle up until the movie's final minute in which two main characters have a brief exchange in dialogue that's the kaiju eiga trademark, "Don't mess with nature." Okay, we've all heard it a million times, but this message actually goes quite a ways to evolve the Gamera character from the good to the conditionally-good, a wise move on the creator's part.
What more is there to say? Gamera 2: The Attack of Legion needs to be seen. It's perfect for entry-level kaiju fans, as it is loaded with fun action sequences, but it also goes quite a bit deeper. Not quite as deep as something such as Godzilla vs. Mothra, but the difference is that Attack of Legion is simply a good time. Think of it as a poetry slam. There's loud noises, good characters, and you can read into things if you want, though it's hardly required. Attack of Legion is easily amongst the top 5 kaiju eiga ever created.
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