Sunday, August 02, 2009

Movie Log: Big Man Japan

Mockumentaries are a surprisingly rich field these days -- perhaps because there's always new material to mock, or perhaps because filmmakers only watch movies these days, so that's all they know. Either way, Big Man Japan is a movie so saturated in its pop-cultural reference that it's swimming in them -- and viewers outside of Japan are unlikely to catch more than a handful of those references. (The Wife had to point out a Yu-Gi-Oh! reference to me, to my eternal shame.)

Big Man Japan is the sixth in a series of superheroes who have protected Japan from monsters for a century or so -- his father, the Fifth, is now dead after an overdose of the electricity that causes the Big Man to grow to his Tokyo-shaking size, and his grandfather, the Fourth, is senile but still occasionally sneaks out, juices up, and stomps around.

So a camera crew follows around Big-Saito, who's actually very boring and bland when he's not supersized (and not all that interesting when he is, either). He lives in a small house in Tokyo, with a stray cat, and never really does anything, and never can go anywhere (since he has to be ready to save the country at any time). He's pretty whiny, too -- about his ex-wife, about how the country used to treat his grandfather better than it treats him, and about life in general. So he's not very interesting, and not all that much fun to watch.

The monster fights are really weird, and redeem the whole thing -- the monster designs are utterly bizarre from a Western point of view, and Big isn't conventionally heroic, either. He mostly stands around, or gets beaten up, until he manages to win somehow.

The last fight, and the culmination of the plot, takes an additional, even odder turn. The Wife had made a shrewd guess as to the identity of the red monster -- which, unlike all of the others, is not introduced by a dossier entry -- but the plot, such as it is, of the movie itself is essentially abandoned for an Ultraman parody in a very different fight style. (There's also some strong US symbolism, but it didn't all come quite clear to me.) Big Man Japan is one of those movies that ends by doing something at a right angle to the rest of the movie, so don't watch it if you want a conventional ending. On the other hand, you're probably not going to see a subtitled mockumentary about a superhero if you're looking for normal in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment