When Toho studios launched the Godzilla/Gojira series (the first two installments were made in the mid 50s, but the series didn't kick off until 1962's King Kong vs Godzilla (Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira)) and hit box office pay dirt as a result, rival Daiei was quick to cash in by introducing its own giant monster: Gamera the Giant Turtle, who made his debut in 1965.
Three decades, nine films and a fifteen-year recess later, versatile director Shusuke Kaneko (best known for co-directing Necronomicon with Brian Yuzna and Christophe Gans in the US) breathed life into the Flying Turtle with a trilogy (so far) of brand new Gamera films: Gamera - Guardian Of The Universe (1995), Gamera 2: Advent Of Legion (Gamera 2: Region Shurai, 1996) and this one.
Now to be honest, despite their millions of fans the appreciation for the classic kaiju eiga is strongly coloured by oceans of nostalgia. Watching the Godzilla and Gamera movies of the sixties and seventies is on the whole a brain-numbingly dull experience. I defy anyone to call the first 70 minutes of Destroy All Monsters! (Kaiju Soshingeki, 1969 - so fondly remembered for featuring all the Toho monsters in a big end battle, but aside from those fifteen minutes of mayhem a film that plods along at a leaden pace) exciting. In a nutshell, the kaiju movies left a lot to be desired.
This was exactly the feeling that motivated Shusuke Kaneko when he went about revamping Gamera; to make a monster movie the way monster movies should have been made in the first place. This resulted in a series that put Toho's neverending efforts to keep Godzilla alive (including the much-hyped, but badly-received Godzilla 2000 (Gojira 2000: Mireniamu, 1999 - Takao Okawara)) to shame. No kaiju movie had ever been as dynamic, action-packed and alive as Kaneko's reborn Gamera.
Because a rebirth it is. This, the best of the new Gameras so far, delivers everything a movie about huge, fighting, city-stomping monsters should have: excitement, slam-bang action sequences, beautifully designed creatures and yes, even stunning special effects (the days of the noticeable man-in-a-rubber-suit stomping on lifeless cardboard houses are definitely over). Its dynamics rival the best anime out there and beat anything Hollywood high concept sci-fi has thrown at us this last decade.
Of course, in the end it's still about a big turtle stomping on Tokyo and your appreciation depends on your willingness to accept that premise, but if there has ever been the slightest fondness in your heart for giant monsters, this dynamic piece of high-class pulp will knock you out of your seat.