Gamera the Brave
(Chiisaki Yuushatachi: Gamera; 2006)
There's a lot of hate out there for this film that I don't really get. I mean, I kinda know why - it's not made in the same mold as Shusuke Kaneko's acclaimed reinvention of the character in his 90s Gamera trilogy - but I think this view is pretty stupid. Taken as a totally different kind of film it is a very solid and enjoyable monster romp with a lot of heart.
Basically, the film is about a young boy, Toru, who has just lost his mother in a car accident, resulting in his relationship with his father becoming rather distant and a little tense. One day, he swims to an island just offshore the beautiful seaside village he lives in and happens to find an egg, which quickly hatches into an adorable little turtle. An adorable little turtle that also happens to grow at an alarming rate, starts hovering in midair and breathing adorable little fireballs.
You know you wish this happened to you as a kid.
Meanwhile, fishing vessels offshore mysteriously start to disappear and eventually a vicious giant monster, Zedus, makes landfall to feast upon the populace. Amidst this, Toru's father and friends begin to suspect that his adorable little turtle may actually be the juvenile progeny of the legendary monster Gamera and whether or not he might grow enough in time to defend Japan from this new threat!
Yeah, the film stars a bunch of kids and it's definitely a family film. That said, most all of the children are competent actors and the film never panders to its audience. I mean, when was the last time you saw a children's film that shows monsters devouring people like it's nothing more than Sunday brunch? Om nom nom.
The effects work does not reach the same glorious heights of the aforementioned 90s Gamera films but is still very solid and provides several nice visuals. Additionally, the slightly smaller scale of the monsters in this film allows for more detailed miniatures than are usually seen your standard giant monster production. One really cool practical effect was a full-sized, 1/1 scale model of one of Gamera's smaller forms, built for a scene in which he is wounded and carried through the streets on a flatbed truck. It's pretty great.
My only big complaint with the film is Gamera himself. I don't hate the cuter design like a lot of fans do (it suits the tone of the film) but I DO hate hate HATE the new roar they gave him. Gamera is well known for having a very unique roar but someone working on this film decided instead to give him an alarmingly generic stock roar. Especially baffling is the fact that they would do such a thing in the film made in celebration of Gamera's 40th anniversary! What gives, guys?
Overall, it isn't the best tokusatsu production to be released in recent memory but it's definitely a standout for being as solid as it is. Even if it is a little unremarkable, it has a lot of heart and a fairly unique story that puts it a head above most of Godzilla's recent entries into the genre and it is well worth watching. I'd definitely recommend it.
Sadly, the film bombed in Japan (giant monsters aren't really "in" anymore) so it's unlikely we'll ever see a sequel as originally intended.