We round out our adventures in Heisei turtlehood with Shusuke Kaneko’s 1999 opus GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS. Huh? A monster named Iris? Is it going to attack Gamera with its special budokai knitting needle triple stab attack? Maybe stuff him with sweets after he has long ago tried to communicate that no no, he’s quite full up, thank you? Allow me to allay your fears (hopes?) of this granny monster and inform you that Iris is actually the weirdest, most perverted and disgusting monster I’ve seen in all of my kaiju journeys so far. Grosser than Hedorah? I dare say exactly that! But let’s take this all back to the beginning. Our intrepid heroine Dr. Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama) is still trotting the globe in search of Gyaos activity. That’s right, the disgusting troll-birds have been popping up again, and are still miserable piles of meat and slime. As Mayumi’s jeep cuts a path through the South Pacific jungles, another old familiar friend is reintroduced to us: Ko Otani! The maestro of the previous Heisei GAMERA films does wonders for the film – an already pretty good-looking one, at that – and its ability to transport viewers into mankind’s unknown prehistory. His orchestrations reminiscing on Atlantis of old inject some much-needed mystical ambiance in this monster menagerie… and what a menagerie it is!
For those who were skeptical of Iris perhaps being a super-evolved Gyaos, fret not! Even though Mayumi tells us these Gyaos are “evolved” from their previous incarnations, they’re mostly fodder for the first two acts of the movie, indicating that the Earth is changing and the ancient protectors (and, of course, enemies) of mankind don’t quite know what to do with these man-made alterations to the world. Can you smell an allegory coming? Well, you must have very developed olfactory senses then, because this movie certainly isn’t hitting you over the, uh… nostrils with it? No, let’s stop this sarcasm – I actually quite like the movie not being subtle one bit. The sins of the past are coming back to haunt us, in several ways! Climate change in the form of a mana-overload, driving Gamera mad with destructive power? Check! Long-thought-dead Gyaos returning in evolved form? Check! An ancient Atlantean failsafe monster meant to take care of Gamera if this scenario ever happened? Check! A vengeful teenager who is the perfect vessel of bitterness and hatred to nurture this assassin monster until it gets to proper city (and turtle) smashing size? Check, check and check, onii-chan!
This teenager is Ayana Hirasaka (Ai Maeda), a girl who lost both her parents and her cat Iris (oh yeah) to the destruction caused by Gamera and Gyaos in the 1995 events of GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE. In these heady geek times where we all must have strong opinions on whether or not Superman was appropriate in making out with Lois in the wreckage of ten 9/11s in MAN OF STEEL, it is perhaps sobering to reflect that a decade and change before Zack Snyder’s film, Shusuke Kaneko was already exploring the aftermath of city destruction in (still fairly light-hearted!) movies aimed at kids. Laughs are a little bit more sparse in IRIS as opposed to GUARDIAN or LEGION, but it’s perhaps only fitting that things get a bit more dramatic in the closing chapter of a trilogy. I hope you weren’t too bummed out, Travis!