Big Man Japan (2007)
Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto
Everybody talks about trying to get to know somebody else's culture. We Americans talk big, we want to know what life is like outside our borders. But in the end, we mock whats different to us. However, we sometimes embrace other cultures and blend them into our own.
So we can sometimes "get" that dry British humor or add in a Mexican phrase into our lexicon. But I gotta admit, I believe I've only glimpsed the pop culture world of Japan. So after watching Big Man Japan the fact that I know exactly what they are trying to mock makes it totally universal.
Big Man Japan is the ultimate mockumentary of the big monster/Ultraman/superhero subgenre in Japanese subcultures. And it's unbelievably brilliant.
Working off that Office-y feel and throwing in CGI monster battles to boot, I've never seen anything like Big Man Japan. It's a blend of sentimental sadness, hilarious spoof-a-rama and an ending of Monty Python like proportions.
I cannot contain myself with how wonderful and uber-funny Big Man Japan is. Tears streamed from my eyes from continuous laughter.....which ultimately in my book equate to 3 spinkicks of HA HA HA.
A middle-aged slacker living in a rundown, graffiti-ridden slum, Daisato’s job involves being shocked by bolts of electricity that transform him into a stocky, stick-wielding giant several stories high who is entrusted with defending Japan from a host of bizarre monsters.
But while his predecessors were national heroes, he is a pariah among the citizens he protects, who bitterly complain about the noise and destruction of property he causes. And Daisato has his own problems - an agent insistent on branding him with sponsor advertisements, an Alzheimer-afflicted grandfather who transforms into a giant in dirty underwear, and a family who is embarrassed by his often cowardly exploits.
A wickedly deadpan spin on the giant Japanese superhero, BIG MAN JAPAN is an outrageous portrait of a pathetic but truly unique hero.
Awesome Review-O-MaticI am not going to go scene by scene as I usually do when I start ranting about a flick I love. Suffice it to say, you need to watch this movie squeaky clean to get the full effect.
But I will tell you a few tidbits to get this on your Netflix or torrent que.
Told in a documentary style gimmick, we meet Daisato. An unseen reporter asks Daisato about his work....which of course entails being Big Man Japan. The questions are often unintentionally (or intentionally) funny and give many moments of pause to Daisato who contemplates his answers like a B list celebrity making sure he gets the best press possible.
The first hour is devoted to this characterology. We see where he lives, what he eats, what others think of him and how he works. Interspliced in all this, we are shown the epic battles between BMJ and the various monsters on the prowl. These include the strangest monsters ever conceived. You have to see it to believe it. Strangler monster, Leaping monster, Stink monster and big red monster are just a few that must battle our hero.
BMJ also has a few people in his life. These include his dog worshipping agent, his grandfather "the fourth" who also served as a Big Man. We also meet his ex wife and a TV blurred daughter who, well let's say has parts of her dad in her.
All this is told in that sympathetic Japanese way, where we are made to care about Daisato. We also discover he doesn't make alot of money, his TV ratings are poor and he has to put sponsored advertisements on his body. This is not your average salaryman.
Every aspect of the movie works perfectly, though sometimes trudges a little long. At 113 minutes, this is a heavyweight of a film where the movie gets you immersed into a land of make believe, one that is so prepostrous I loved every minute of it.
The movie goes back and forth between heartfelt drama and slapstick comedy, to some it may be confusing and may get you film-seasick. But each scene, each moment is so perfectly crafted by Matsumoto, that the fact this was 5 years in the making was time well spent.
Are you still there? You still reading? Well my vagueness is a good thing for this review because the ending is by far the most hilarious scenes I've ever witnessed.
Let me just say this. When you see the "live version" of our favorite TV show Big Man Japan, it was like a moment of clarity.
Everything made sense and it just H-bombed my mind.
Big Man Japan's courage to mock the big robot/radiation spawned monsters of it's pop culture TV and film world is to be applauded. America has done the same to our "grindhouse" culture but Matsumoto does it without being so vicious and curveballing us by making Daisato so puppy doggish you care about him.
But not everybody does. Even though people hate him, he destroys buildings, kills a monster baby and wreaks constant havoc....our hero never wavers, never gives up and always protects his country.
Well actually he didn't do that.
None of course
The ending. By far one of the funniest endings I've ever seen.
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
The Big Man Japan DVD hits American shores via Magnolia Home Entertainment on July 28th. When it does, get your hands on it. It's culturally universal though I think if you've seen some Ultraman, some Godzilla and some Gamera it would help in noticing the trend of mocks.
Evil Adam will also be posting a review of this and I'll be sending you his take on this awesome flick when its up.
As we Americans do not have a monster subculture (Clover-crap doesn't count) to make fun of, I'm pretty sure this is remake proof.
But remember like I said, we tend to make fun of things we don't understand or sometimes we embrace them. However most of the time, we just steal the idea.
It's the American way.
Check out the official US site.
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