Big Man Japan: DVD

Sunday, 27 September 2009 09:39

“Big Man Japan” is ostensibly a Japanese version of “Hancock”, Will Smith’s every-day superhero tale. Here the central character is Masaru Daisato (Hitoshi Matsumoto, also the director and co-writer), aka the eponymous BMJ. Daisato is a very world-weary man who spends most of his time shuffling through a drab existence on his own (apart from the occasional company of a stray cat) – the kind of person you would least expect to assume the guise of a super hero.

Two thirds of the movie is made in a mock fly-on-the-wall documentary style, voyeuristically watching his sad life with an off-screen interviewer asking Daisato questions about his dual roles. Every so often, he receives a phone call from the government asking him to come in and undergo the transformation into BMJ, whereupon the movie switches to a bizarre CGI rendering of events.

Big Man Japan DVDWithin these scenes, we witness a giant, sky-scraper-high version of Daisato sporting bolt-upright hair and an absurd pair of purple pants, wrestling with outlandish creatures that are running amok in the city.

“Big Man Japan” is billed as a satirical docu-action-comedy, and it certainly features some successful elements of this crazy hybrid genre. The movie features a heavy undercurrent of sadness and despair, both in terms of Daisato’s pitiful regular life and his alter ego’s struggle to comprehend and reluctantly defeat the city’s monsters. One senses the burden placed on Daisato’s shoulders, such that he can never relax or settle into any kind of rhythm when the government might come calling at any moment of the day or night.

He grudgingly accepts his role as saviour of the people, not least because he has inherited the power to transform from previous generations of super heroes. It is unquestioningly expected of him. However, even when he helps the city out and defeats the monsters, the people still criticise him for causing or allowing the creatures to cause destruction and collateral damage. Banners and graffiti are everywhere proclaiming their dissatisfaction with the cost of his monster-bashing, but also criticising his slowness to react to the ever-present threat of a city-wide catastrophe.

He cannot live up to the legacy of the rich and celebrated heroes of days gone by, and people are now too cynical and mean-spirited to revere him. In this day and age, his only source of income is generated by agreeing to wear belittling product advertising tattoos in his giant state.

There are moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity in both sides of the film, such as a deadpan moment when an unhappy member of the public throws a brick through Daisato’s window, he boards it up and then a second brick dislodges the repairs moments later, all without anything more than a flicker of despair and resignation on his face, and when a pair of monsters get particularly fruity with each other.

However, more often than not the comedy is either subsumed by the sheer weight of expectation pressing down on our (anti) hero and the (mock) dour tone of the documentary element, or during the monster death matches it is simply too weird and wacky, not to mention jarring in comparison with the real-life side.

The CGI battles are quite well directed and choreographed, and the monsters are certainly the product of a hyperactive imagination, but ultimately the fights come across as spruced-up video game cut-scenes. I cannot help feeling that the film as a whole would have benefitted from a smoother transition between its two schizophrenic identities.

At the end of the movie it flies off in yet another direction, which is either crude or simply adds another layer of satire on top of what is already a pretty messed-up cake.

Perhaps others will find the movie’s eclectic directorial style less difficult to live with; ultimately it is quite a thoughtful and visually interesting piece that has the word “cult” stamped all over it.

Should one be too critical of something that is clearly making an effort to stand out from the crowd? “Big Man Japan” (Certificate '15') is out now on DVD from Revolver Entertainment, with a RRP of £12.99.

 

Movie Review: Big Man Japan (2007)

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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