Iris gives us a much darker tone of any Gamera movie. Before this film, Gamera had always been looked at as this hero of a monster. During the Showa, he and Godzilla shared many common traits in these films, but during the Heisei era, Godzilla turned more back into that enemy he's commonly known as. Gamera wasn't exactly a hero persay in the Heisei era, but he was no enemy of humanity. He fought and defended them, but humanity still had contingencies for Gamera. Well, here they nearly completely drop the hero side of Gamera, and the result is easily the darkest Gamera film you'll ever watch to date. Here, Gamera is responsible for a lot of destruction, and death, and it results in a child growing up with a huge grudge against the Guardian, and bonding with a monster that nearly kills him. This take on Gamera is so unique, so unthinkable, a child hating Gamera, that it's just...wonderful to watch.
Now it should be said that the story isn't perfect, but again, it does improve on the last film. One thing I found disappointing was that despite Gyaos having a bit of a roll in this film, there's not too much action involving Gyaos here. Which is a damn shame because Gyaos looks absolutely...wonderful in this film. The effects crew need to be credited with this film, because the effects aren't as dated as previous Gamera films, and they look just...wonderful. more on this shortly though. They manage to have some fun with the story, and their characters. Almost to the point of it being ridiculously silly. I had a small laugh at the family who apparently guards this tomb which houses the monster Iris. The thing is they barely do anything in the movie, and the only one that does contribute to the plot, in the form of a decent love interest, is always getting thrown around. I'm surprised he lived in this movie honestly. Yeah the family of Guardians does a pretty lousy job in this film, but they're still likable. We also get the returning characters like Asagi in this movie, and they do have a better role than in the pervious film. They help flesh Gamera out more in this film, and explain a bit more about how things are with him better than in the previous films.
Are there forgettable characters? Oh absolutely. There are some characters in this movie that I found entertainingly bad. Like this one weirdo who keeps on claiming that the end of humanity is near and whatnot. He always has this weird smile glued to his face, like someone in the Purge movies might have. And he has the most laughable last words ever. The ceiling of a train station is coming down on him, and his last words are along the lines of "Oh my! This is indeed very scary!" I had a good laugh at that. There's also this girl who...honestly I can't even remember, but she dies after trting to pray all the evil away or something, and crazy guy just kinda laughs as she dies. You also got the family of the girl who hates Gamera...who dies, except for her kid brother, who's barely in the movie anyway, and so on and so forth. The characters are strong, but not all of them are exactly memorable or serve purpose to the overall story.
But my God, you just don't care when you see the monsters on screen. The action in this movie is absolutely phenomenal. EASILY the best I've seen from any Japanese monster film. It's quick, it's destructive, it's intense, even intimidating. It's kinda scary to see Gamera bring so much death upon humans. One might think it something that doesn't work, but I believe it strangely only strengthens this story out. Whenever Gamera is on screen, which ironically isn't much in this movie now that I think about it, you're going to have a lot of fun watching. But even when he's not, when we're getting introduced to Iris, or whatnot, there's something in this movie that holds everything together with little effort. Now I will day that I still kinda think Legion is the better monster compared to Iris, but Iris is still one of those really fun monsters that Godzilla just can't seem to create nowadays. Intimidating, cool origins, powerful, and unique. It just continues to up the ante against Godzilla. And needless to say, the fight Gamera has with Iris is absolutely stellar. Again, no monster fight in Japan has ever looked so damn good.
If you're reading these, and are a fan of Godzilla, a lot of you may not have liked my stance on these films. Me claiming how a vast majority of them are so damn superior to Godzilla films. And this is coming from a guy who grew up with Godzilla, and still loves the big guy. Well I hope I've at least made you think a bit about why I'm so harsh towards a lot of Godzilla films now. With Gamera pulling what it did, there's no reason Godzilla films should be so...I hate saying this, but...half-assed as a lot of them are. There are way too many sequels in that franchise that completely disregard the film they're following. There are way too many plot devices, and "because movie" moments in those films. There are way too many absolutely forgettable characters, and story arcs that go nowhere. And again, there's no excuse for it. None. Not when you have a trilogy like this come and just do so much right, give a solid and satisfying beginning, middle, and end, and rise up on top when it didn't have nearly as much success or resources as Godzilla did. If you think there is an excuse, I'll be waiting to hear one. But so far, most Godzilla fans I've talked with on this matter are pretty damn stumped. I hope Toho will one day take some serious notes from this trilogy. Godzilla could be so much more than what it is right now, and while I'm thankful we did get a boost in quality in the early millennium, it still doesn't really match this trilogy. And after Godzilla Resurgence...well you all know how I feel about that film.
So with that rant out of the way, what do I think of this third Gamera film?
I wanted to give this film the fullest rating I could. I really did. But there are those minor annoyances that do hold it back just barely. Still, I'm giving Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris a solid three and a half star rating out of four. It is my favorite of the Gamera films, it outdoes it's predecessors at almost every turn, it ties in nicely to the previous two films of this trilogy, and concludes it wonderfully. In fact, the ending of this movie is easily one of the coolest endings of any monster movie you'll ever see. I won't dare spoil it. It's one you need to see for yourself. And it only makes me that much sadder that this is pretty much the only thing Gamera has been up to lately. While we had a new Gamera movie in the early millennium with Gamera the Brave, I've yet to see it, and have heard it does fall short of the Heisei trilogy, and there's not been much since then. And I'm a bit sad that with the fiftieth anniversary of Gamera having come and gone, not a lot was done to celebrate the Guardian of the Universe. We got a short film that many confused as a film trailer, including new, which looked incredible, but that's about it. With Godzilla now on the big screen again, I for one hope the Guardian makes his return again. He is gaining my respect more and more, and if Godzilla continues on the path he's treading...Gamera may just take his place on my list of favorite monsters out there. Time will tell.
But that's my views on the Gamera Heisei trilogy. And with this being the last Kaiju review of the 2016 year...it's time to get myself mentally prepared for the Kong-a-thon...I hope you'll join me then as I get us ready for Kong: Skull Island. Until that time, please feel free to voice your own thoughts on your own views of this movie, leave a comment requesting a film you'd like to see me look at, and as always, thanks for reading.
Final Verdict: 3.5/4