Big Man Japan
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BIG MAN JAPAN is an outrageous portrayal of an original superhero. As Big Man Japan, Daisato inherited the role of defending Japan against a host of bizarre monsters. He receives high-voltage electroshocks which transform him into a stocky, stick-wielding giant several stories high.
However, where his predecessors were revered as national heroes, he is an outcast among the citizens he protects.
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The story starts off in a interview/mockumentary style, and much of the comedy in the first part of the movie is a little bit hard to catch. The character development seems almost a little dark, and you really feel bad for our main hero, Big Man Japan himself. You learn a lot about why he does what he does, and it's a real play on the human nature of sticking to what we know and fearing change.
It almost seems like a serious movie up until you see the first monster. This is where the movie gets GREAT!
All of the monsters are creative and hilarious. I won't spoil any of them for you, and I recommend you watch the movie without looking up any videos about it beforehand, as seeing the monsters in the context of the movie really adds to the humor of it. Any fans of Godzilla or Japanese media such as myself will know what these monsters are parodying. It's a nice laugh after seeing so many giant monsters being taken so seriously by other Japanese media. The monsters in this movie really make it worth the watch.
Unlike most Japanese monster flicks that I have seen, this movie uses CGI for its monsters. I am not a fan of CGI myself, a reason that I have always admired the modern Godzilla films that use latex and makeup, but this movie I forgive because the monsters are so well done. It doesn't look like a big budget $22 million Michael Bay CGI film (which I still say looks cheap compared to classic effects), but it has its own own charm.
If you find the beginning of the movie boring, don't quit watching until you get to the first monster scene. It is not too long into the movie, and trust me, you should be hooked after that.
A few people have complained about the ending, which again, I will not ruin. All I will say is that it is not expected, and I find it to be one of the greatest endings of a comedy I have ever seen.
This movie is a comedy, but it is not a comedy that takes itself to seriously like most comedies from the US. It is not for everybody (the reason for the 4 stars instead of 5.. it's five stars in my book), but anybody who is interested in Japanese media should give it a shot. The monsters in the movie are a real treat, and I found myself excited to see the next one. The story line changes style a few times throughout the movie, but there is humor in each transition. This movie is a really fun watch.
As a satire on Kaiju films, this works on some levels, but the heart of the film is some very surrealistic monsters in some not-very-good digital animation. Amazingly, only one building gets busted up--although much is made of public outrage at the collateral damage caused by Big Man and the various Kaiju. However, the last ten minutes of the film are hilarious if you are familiar with Ultraman and other tokusatsu series. The film has other satirical targets, though, which make the film difficult to categorize. Other than the soundtrack being noticeably and annoyingly out of sync, my problem with the film was pacing. Although this is supposed to be a mockumentary, ten minutes could easily have been taken out. Think *Troll Hunter*, a similar film that moves along at a more invigorating pace. If you watch the film, be sure to stay through the credits (think about the "Chicken Schwarma" scene at the end of *The Avengers*).
The grand irony of all this, as other reviewers have pointed out, is that while he's called Big Man Japan, he's a very small person. He lives in poverty, the broadcasts of his fights air at 2am to low ratings, his wife left him and is embarassed to let thier daughter be around him, the people he protects find him more of a bother than a hero, and his agent takes advantage of him. Its an interesting commentary on how fame doesn't assure a person of glory or riches, as well as an interesting way of showing how people sometimes cling to dying tradtions because they don't know where else to turn to.
The humor in most of this film is found in the awkward and defeating circumstances BMJ is often in. In this respect it reminded me of the UK version of the Office, its very VERY dry. The situations were so awkward and depressing that I didn't really laugh out loud all that much, but upon thinking about it later it was funnier in retrospect. Your experience may vary, but that's about how it was for me with the UK Office too. Some of it is really funny looking back, but dry enough to be uncomfortable in the moment.
The monster fights, on the other hand, are completely absurd and insane. They are rendered in (I assume intentionally) cheesey, low budget CGI. Its used to excellent effect in just smacking you upside the head with their weirdness. I'd liken them to more of a sketch comedy styled parody of giant monster battles, and it makes for quite a contrast with the extremely dry humor found in the live action sequences.
Some have complained that they didn't get the movie and needed to be more "in the know" with what its making fun of. I disagree. I don't think a person has to have an intimate knowledge of the giant monster sub-genre of Japanese cinema, they just have to know that it exists; that for a period of time it was trendy to feature movies where men in rubber monster suits fought each other. Really, if you've seen more than one Godzilla or Gamera movie, or caught a few episodes of Ultra-Man or the Power Rangers as a kid, you'll have all you need to "get" what this movie is trying to do.
Overall, I liked the film, but there are two key areas where I thought it could've been better. First off, the pace. This movie could've been 20 minutes shorter and not have lost a single joke. As is, it drags quite a bit. Overall, the dryness of the humor and the slower pace makes the movie's puchline of an ending hit quite a bit harder, as it is a DRASTIC change in tone (I laughed myself silly the first time I saw it, and you will too, provided you've seen either Ultra-Man or the Power Rangers), but it could have been just as effective had they cut more of the dead space leading up to the good scenes.
Secondly, I thought BMJ himself could've been made a bit more sympathetic of a character. We feel like his life is sad, but there are a few times where he just flat-out lies to the camera crew or acts a little bit like a jerk to them, and it takes away from his likeability. Like the pacing issue, a few small edits were all we needed to change this, and he would've been a much more sympathetic character as a result, we would've had a much stronger desire to see him succeed.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An interesting, if somewhat flawed film. It was definitely an original concept, and I enjoyed it, even if it was a bit on the slow side.
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