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ADV Films presents
Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996)

"Sapporo will be utterly devastated. Nothing will survive."
- Obitsu (Mitsuru Fukikoshi)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: June 03, 2003

Stars: Toshiyuki Nagashima, Miki Mizuno, Tamotsu Ishibashi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Other Stars: Ayako Fujitani, Yusuke Kawazu
Director: Shusuke Kaneko

Manufacturer: M.O.F.C.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (giant monster mayhem, some disturbing imagery, language)
Run Time: 01h:40m:46s
Release Date: April 29, 2003
UPC: 702727038822
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-C-B+ B

DVD Review

You can't keep a good giant turtle down, it seems. The success of the 1995 revival of the Gamera series by Daiei resulted in a pair of sequels, both helmed by Shusuke Kaneko, who had successfully revived the monstrous giant turtle the year before. While this second installment features improved effects work, it's rather a weaker effort.

When a mysterious green meteor crashes on the island of Hokkaido, it piques the interest of the military, under Col. Watarase (Toshiyuki Nagashima), and a science teacher, Midori Hunami (Miki Mizuno). Although no sign of the meteor is discovered, odd occurrences plague the nearby city of Sapporo, such as thefts of glass beer bottles and fiber optic cables, and releases of high concentrations of oxygen. The discovery of an immense alien pod growing on the local subway station gets the Japanese Defense Force deeply involved, but soon a gigantic turtle monster, our friend Gamera, is on the scene and locked in combat with the horde of insect-like crustaceans (Legion) that emerge from the pod. But Gamera is no match for this unstoppable horde, and finds he's in even deeper trouble when one of the creatures grows to gigantic size. Soon buildings are crashing and burning as some classic kaiju eiga battles follow as the monsters inevitably make their way towards Tokyo.

The effects are a significant step up from the year before, when they were already miles ahead of the usual rubber monster fare. While it's still clearly a guy in a suit, the use of detailed miniatures and CGI helps lend the proceedings a decent air of verisimilitude. Effects master Shinji Higuchi is clearly making progress in depicting giant monsters as actual actors, with Gamera having recognizable expressions and a surprising level of nonverbal emoting. Nagashima is pretty bland, but Mizuno makes for an attractive and spunky heroine, even though she doesn't get a great deal to do beyond lengthy exposition. The script is laced liberally with comedy bits, including a number of goofy police and Midori's sidekick Obitsu (Mitsuru Fukikoshi), who is likeable in his overwrought earnestness about nearly everything.

Ayako Fujitani makes a reappearance as Asagi Kusunagi, the girl with the empathic link to Gamera. However, this factor is less of a plot point here, beyond some mental encouragement to the great turtle as he struggles with Legion's forces. To some extent, we're back to square one since Gamera is again not trusted as Japan's rescuer, and the military seems unsure as to whether to Legion or Gamera is the threat. On the whole, the storyline lacks the compelling flavor that made the first installment so entertaining; at times one just wishes that we would skip right to the giant monster battles and drop all of the military maneuvering and the nonsensical science.

That said, this second installment is still miles ahead of the mediocre-to-awful sequels of the 1960s version of Gamera, and is entertaining enough for a fix of giant-monster-wrassling and Japanese-building-crushing. And if that's your goal in the genre, this installment fufills that requirement quite handily. The English dub contains some foul language not present in the subtitling.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Although the transfer is anamorphic widescreen, there are a number of problems, mostly associated with color. Much of the time color is very much oversaturated, particularly the reds, which feature nasty noise levels and severe combing. The source print is in fine condition, as one would expect for a film of recent vintage. Ringing and edge enhancement are minimal, but there is a pronounced softness to the picture throughout. The battle sequences are generally well-rendered (except for the reds, which continue to be problematic). Frankly the nonanamorphic picture on Gamera: Guardian of the Universe looked better than this.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Japaneseyes


Audio Transfer Review: DD 5.1 mixes are provided for both the English dub and the original Japanese. Both are quite clean and noise-free. Dialogue is clear on both, and the music and explosions have excellent depth and presence. The Gamera howls seem rather distant and unimpressive, but that seems to be a fault of the original mix since other sounds come through with perfectly fine impact.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
7 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris
10 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:21m:20s

Extra Extras:
  1. gag voiceover reels
  2. ADV Previews
Extras Review: ADV provides another rich assortment of unusual extras for this installment. The Shinji Higuchi interview continues here (31m:32s); about half of it is devoted to the explosions in the series, while the rest concentrates on the problems inherent in making giant rubber monsters act. Higuchi seems to be a blood brother to Peter Jackson in more ways than one, both in appearance and enthusiasm for his subjects. Four featurettes regarding the making of the film and its release are included in the original Japanese (with English subtitles). The first (6m:34s) is the press conference announcing the making of the film, while a second gives a 3m:11s look at behind-the-scenes shots. A somewhat lengthier featurette is devoted to the promotional events in summer of 1996, although this tends to be light on explanation so it's not always entirely clear what we're seeing. Finally, the opening night in Japan is represented with much speechifying from the cast and director.

A vast accumulation of Japanese trailers and TV spots (some only a few seconds in duration) give a nice overview as to the promotion of the picture. Two gag segments featuring the English voiceover actors are included. The first is purportedly outtakes from the film, with snippets being given the What's Up Tiger Lily? treatment. The second is a more ambitious retelling (12m:41s) of the feature as it would have occurred in Lake Texarkana, with the voices emulating halfwit rednecks. Although frequently hilarious, this gag unfortunately runs out of steam and ideas before the end. There's also some moderately rough language here that's quite a bit more extreme than even the English dub of the feature. Finally, there's the usual selection of incomprehensible previews for other ADV fare such as Zone of Enders: Dolores I, Princess Blade, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Farscape Season Three and RahXephon.

On the whole, an attractive package with some entertaining and unusual content.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Not as good as the first installment, although the effects are an upgrade. The transfer is surprisingly poor, with a number of significant issues, but there are some fun extras that make this a welcome disc for the monster fan.

 


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