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3 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Big Man Japan
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by Mel Valentin

"Messy, muddled Japanese superhero/reality show parody."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Part mock-documentary, part giant-monster movie, part superhero character study, "Big Man Japan" (“Dai-Nipponjin”) stars Hitoshi Matsumoto (he also co-wrote and directed) as the titular superhero, a middle-aged, divorced everyman, Masaru Daisatou, who, when electrified by high-voltage wires grows, Hulk-like, into a tattooed, spiky-haired, corporate-sponsorship wearing, baton-wielding giant in purple underwear who battles monsters, both to defend Japan and to make a living, however meager. Unfortunately, monsters have come and gone have for decades that the viewing public doesn’t give them much thought. That leaves Daisatou’s reality show near cancellation with low ratings. On the plus side, Daisatou has a manager, Kobori (Ua), looking out for his (and her) best financial interest.

Mired in a deep depression, Daisatou, finds his willingness and desire to fight, all but gone. That’s bad for Daisatou who still has to fight, but good for the monsters who show up periodically to wreak havoc in Japan, necessitating Daisatou’s painful transformation into “Big Man Japan” (a.k.a., the “King of Pain”). Daisatou’s opponents range from a giant rubber-band man with a long, giraffe-like neck and a comb over, a head attached to a reptilian leg, a lackadaisical, octopus-like monster who emits a strange odor, a hyperactive version of the octopus-like monster, a giant-sized baby with a maternal crush on Daisatou, and worse of all, a horned, red-skinned giant with a giant head and small, very small hands and feet. It’s this last opponent that causes Daisatou to question his calling as a monster killer.

Big Man Japan spends little time on the actual battles between Daisatou and the other monsters. While the battles occur periodically, they’re relatively brief. All of them, with the exception of part of the last battle, are accomplished through CGI rather than practical effects (i.e., man-in-rubber-suit effects). Most of Big Man Japan’s nearly two-hour running time follows the sad-sack Daisatou as he goes about his daily routine and/or subjecting himself to the offscreen interviewer’s prying questions about his personal life and professional shortcomings via static, handheld camera shots. It’s all dull, excruciatingly dull, made all the worse by Matsumoto’s halting speech patterns (meant to evoke Daisatou’s evasiveness, but dull nonetheless) and the repetition of scenes that offer little insight into Daisatou’s background or mental state, at least none we didn’t gather from earlier scenes.

Where "Big Man Japan" fails as compelling drama or as a satire of reality television, it comes close to succeeding in the all-too-brief battle scenes between Daisatou and his giant opponents, each one more strange and improbable than the last. While the CGI often leaves a lot to be desired, there’s also no pretense toward realism. Minus the monsters, each imaginatively conceived in their own right and an absurd, ridiculous final battle that will leave most moviegoers scratching their heads in confusion and maybe, just maybe awe, "Big Man Japan" wouldn’t be worth seeing. With them, it comes close, but while Matsumoto had a premise with lots of potential and promise, he didn’t do enough. More and longer battles would have helped (along with a tighter running time) "Big Man Japan" rise above a bizarre curio into the cult classic it obviously aspires to be.

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originally posted: 05/03/08 23:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2007 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2007 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival For more in the 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/07/09 Sully Soooo good! Love big Japan monsters. 4 stars
7/20/09 porfle The monsters and the fight scenes are wonderful. 4 stars
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  15-May-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Jul-2009


  DVD: 28-Jul-2009

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