Sunday, August 2, 2009

Two Giant Thumbs Down

Big Man Japan (2009)

Massive spoilers (yes, I will reveal the ending), but it’s okay because YOU SHOULD NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE EVER!

Taking a great premise - a profile of Japan's lone defender (a superhero who grows to giant size and gains a Kid 'n Play hair do) against its constant giant monster attacks - and shitting all over its audience, Big Man Japan is one of the most difficult movies I've ever had to sit through. Make that ENDURE.

Writer/director Hitoshi Matsumoto (credited as Hitosi Matumoto) stars as Sato, our hero, who is interviewed for a reality show or documentary (we're not really shown which). In the first ten minutes, we get a really good feel for Sato and his world. He lives in a very small old house, he likes dried seaweed (because it grows in his mouth - get it?), he doesn't make much money (compared to the previous "Big Men" - his father, grandfather, etc. [Sato is Big Man No. 6]), he never takes a vacation or goes too far away (you never know when a giant monster will pop up). He has no friends; he's separated from his wife, and only sees his young daughter once or twice a year. Yeah, he's a real winner. Oh, and the public generally laughs at him and hates his guts for all the damage he causes fighting the weirdest giant monsters you will ever see; disparaging signs are strewn along the road to electric plants where he "powers up" and graffiti imploring him to "die" is spray-painted on his house.

After 15 or 20 minutes I desperately wanted to use the fast forward button on this mockumentary. The majority of scenes with Sato are interviews with him sitting on the floor of his home, or sitting at a bar, or sitting at a restaurant. Call him, Mr. Inaction. The off screen reporter or producer asks him questions and Sato stumbles and mumbles his way through all of them. These scenes are long, slow slogs. AND THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM! I got the message, okay, movie? Everyone who watched this movie got the message in the first 10 minutes, SO PICK UP THE FUCKING PACE ALREADY! It's called "MOTION pictures" - that's MOVING pictures. Chris Marker's all still photo movie La Jetee has more movement and better pacing than Big Man Japan. There is so much dead air in these interview scenes (ever see a real documentary - they trim the dead air out but keep the responses in). Watch This is Spinal Tap, the movie that invented the mockumentary. There is NO dead air in that film. The jokes work beautifully, they don't sit there decomposing before your disbelieving eyes.

The funniest part of the movie was a running gag where everytime Big Man faces a giant monster, the movie cuts to a document of some sort that profiles the monster. The document is read by an unseen narrator who gives the monster's name, its powers and what it might be after. These bits always end with, "And these are the features of the (blank) monster." Very studious and efficient; very Japanese. The monsters have names like the Stink Monster, whose farts are like "10,000 human feces", the Strangling Monster, who looks like the Michelin Man's skinny cousin (but with his head on a long neck so it resembles a Q-Tip end) and likes to wrap his stretchable arms around buildings so he/it can flip them over his back, and the Leaping Monster, which is basically a head on one severely muscled leg that jumps around from building to building yelling one word, "Sei!"

This movie is interminably long at 108 minutes. In the beginning I assumed it was about 90 minutes. Then about 20 minutes into it I was praying that it was only 90 minutes. Don't be fooled into thinking that an extra 18 minutes isn't enough to hurt a decent movie. AN EXTRA 18 MINUTES CAN KILL A DECENT MOVIE.

To add insult to all this injury Big Man is killed towad the end in his second encounter with a giant monster that was obviously modeled on Hellboy for some reason (one that beat the snot out of him the first time). Heaven for Big Man is an Ultraman-like TV show with giant superheros - the Justice Family - and really fake buildings. This sequence goes on and on and on. The Justice Family beats the shit out of a similarly fake looking giant Hellboy monster while Big Man cowers behind the fake scenary. I am NOT kidding when I said this sequence goes on and on. It does, with one member of this gaudy, shiny Justice Family - Papa, Mama, Grandpa, Sister and Baby Justice - each taking turns literally kicking the stuffing out of the Hellboy monster (it went from a beating to a humiliating beating). Then they put their Justice hands together, like a football team about to break huddle, and a colorful laser beam shoots out from their hands to envelope Hellboy monster. Big Man puts his hand in and discovers it has NO effect on their beam - he contributes nothing to the situation. And then it ends.

You the viewer are left feeling totally drained by the movie - perhaps that was its evil superpower. Big Man Japan is a big waste of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment