It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Gamera: Guardian of the Universe'' is precisely the kind of movie that I enjoy, despite all rational reasoning. How, you may ask, can I possibly prefer this Japanese monster film about a jet-powered turtle to a megabudget solemnity like "Air Force One"? It has laughable acting, a ludicrous plot, second-rate special effects and dialogue such as, "Someday, I'll show you around monster-free Tokyo!'' The answer, I think, is that "Gamera'' is more fun.
There's a learning process that moviegoers go through. They begin in childhood without sophistication or much taste, and for example, like "Gamera'' more than "Air Force One" because flying turtles are obviously more entertaining than United States presidents. Then they grow older and develop "taste,'' and prefer "Air Force One," which is better made and has big stars and a more plausible plot. (Isn't it more believable, after all, that a president could single-handedly wipe out a planeload of terrorists than that a giant turtle could spit gobs of flame?) Then, if they continue to grow older and wiser, they complete the circle and return to "Gamera'' again, realizing that while both movies are preposterous, the turtle movie has the charm of utter goofiness--and, in an age of flawless special effects, it is somehow more fun to watch flawed ones.
"Gamera'' is not a good movie but it is a good moviegoing experience. I am reminded of Pauline Kael's wise observation: The movies are so seldom great art that we should not go unless we can appreciate great trash. I am satiated, for the time being, by terrorists and fireballs and bomb threats and special effects, and my eyes yearn for new sights such as a giant radioactive bat trapped inside a baseball dome and emitting green rays. (There is even a voluptuous pleasure to be derived from simply typing the words "emitting green rays.'') Please, Mister, show me something new.
Gamera has starred in nine films in 32 years, but has never attained the stardom of Godzilla, perhaps because of speciesism, which prejudices us to prefer dinosaurs to turtles. Gamera lives for much of the time beneath the ocean (or, as the movie refers to it, "The Pacific--Ocean of Death!''), where he shows up on radar screens as a giant atoll. But when Gamera is needed, the atoll begins to glow, and (I can't stop myself) emits rays. And then Gamera flies through the skies, powered by jet outlets on its underside.