Funimation // 2009 // 130 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 2nd, 2011
His crimes will save a nation.
Epic CGI tomfoolery.
A corrupt lord is ruining Japan with his cruelty. Meanwhile, his subordinate heads of state are plotting moves of their own. Down a few rungs of society, the poor and helpless look to their masked hero Goemon (Yosuke Eguchi) for help. This mysterious, Robin-Hood-like figure steals from the wealthy and tosses his loot to the feeble. But one day he steals an item that could have explosive political consequences and he finds himself in the middle of a violent power struggle and dodging attacks from rival super-ninja, Saizo.
Ambition is not a scarce resource in Goemon. It is long, flashback-heavy, stocked with more characters than I could keep track of and staged in epic fashion. Its 130-minute runtime should be a hint to how much storytelling the filmmakers are hankering to dish and truly, they are few films out there where you will find more stiff squeezed into each frame. For straight-up sensory overload, not much is going to eclipse the craziness of Goemon.
Before I continue, fair warning: if CGI leaves you cold, steer clear. Like 300, Goemon is virtually all computer-generated, featuring actors with their prop swords (in most cases) standing in front of green screens delivering their lines. In fact, there were more than a few occasions that it felt like I was simply watching an extended cut-scene for a Japanese role-playing game on the PS3. I am on record as someone who has become ambivalent towards CGI overuse, especially with regards to action scenes, but I'll give Goemon a pass; from the outset we're in a hyper-stylized world and realism isn't a commodity (save for one gruesome exception, which I'll get to in a second). Goemon can jump multiple stories, run with super speed, change direction in mid-air and launch his body like a torpedo, ride a horse down a 90 degree cliff face and employ a multitude of other Kryptonian powers.
Fine. But there's a section in the film, a pivotal moment that ends in a shockingly disturbing manner, where Goemon is suddenly bound by the laws of physics and gravity. If you want to have a wacked-out set of rules governing your film's world, fine, but dispensing with them when it suits the moment is cheap.
My two biggest problems stem from the substance and the style: 1) the film is not a brisk two hours, its myriad sub-plots, character arcs and exposition chunks slowing the momentum down far too much and, 2) the potentially coolest action moments were nearly impossible to see. I could handle a sagging pace -- and the middle act of Goedon is glacial -- if the action pay-off was ample, but mostly I was squinting just to decipher the over-the-top computer renderings. For example, there's a huge scene toward the end as Goemon scales a tower to square off with the evil lord and he has bound through ascending levels, defeating ninjas and dodging cannon fire. Nifty in theory but almost impossible to follow thanks to the overwhelming busy-ness and hyperactive edits that were stuffed in.
Not that the Blu-ray wasn't trying, because the 2.35:1 transfer (1080p, MPEG-4 AVC) is a strong performer. The resolution provides an eyeful, which can be bittersweet: there is some seriously gorgeous effects to gawk at, but the enhanced clarity also pull the rug out from underneath some laughable visual effects. Two engrossing Dolby TrueHD audio tracks: Japanese 6.1 and English 6.1 (go with the original for the extra channel and the lack of dubbing) are included. The disc is rounded out by an hour's worth of behind-the-scenes content, showcasing how the film was staged and the effects were incorporated.
Some imaginative set-pieces and a handful of badass moments can't compensate for an overstuffed, trudging narrative and brain-punching over-production.
Stick to the wealth redistribution game, Goemon. Or run for Congress and do
the same thing without the fear of ninja strikes.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 6.1 Surround (Japanese)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated