They used to call Judge David Johnson Big Man Japan, and by "they" we mean "Judge David Johnson's sock puppets."
He's big, he's a man, and he's from Japan.
Did you know there was a genre devoted to the subversion of man-in-suit Japanese monster mashes? Me neither. But here's an entry.
Facts of the Case
Daisato is an unassuming, middle-aged man who hides an astonishing secret. Actually, it's not that astonishing, because his countrymen don't seem to care. He's Big Man Japan, the gigantic superhero called upon to spring into action, when the city is attacked by weird creatures like the Strangler and some other weird thing that looks like an avocado and farts yellow toxin.
It's a tough job and there's not much respect issued his way for doing battle with these creatures. For example, his televised fights are broadcast in the dead of night and, when people find out his true identity, very few can summon even an atom of interest. That doesn't mean the city still doesn't need saving, especially when Big Man Japan's biggest fight awaits.
I was prepped to love this crazy movie—just look at that cover!—and there are certainly some highlights worth noting, but overall, Big Man Japan is saddled with a profoundly slow-moving pace that will likely turn off most viewers from the onset. As it did me.
The film is set up like a documentary, with Daisato as the subject. It opens with a shockingly long, static interview session, no music, very little activity, and just a lot of plainly spoken dialogue. The concept is certainly interesting—talking to a tired, washed-up defender of the Japanese populace who can grow a 100 feet—but the execution is exceedingly dull and the jokes don't land.
After what has to be 10 maybe 15 minutes, the scenery changes as Daisato is called into action as Big Man Japan, but not before a head-scratching sequence where the camera follows him on his motorbike.
Finally, he gets to a power plant, gets zapped, and grows, and the movie finally begins to gain some traction. The resulting showdown between Big Man Japan and the Strangler Monster thing is fun and visually weird. Instead of suits, all the monster mayhem is rendered in CGI and the effects work is solid.
From this point on, the formula becomes clear. In between monster bouts, you get more of the documentary story and, thankfully, the pace picks up noticeably. The culture of celebrity spook rolls along smoother and the jokes have more punch. Daisato's plight as unappreciated hero and the disappointment he feels when compared to his father (from whom he inherited the Big Man Japan mantle), is both funny and, oddly touching.
Then it's onto more monster fights, until the inevitable final showdown with the movie's Big Bad, a crazy-looking red thing that screams a lot. Unfortunately, the lethargic start-up and some successive slow patches hamstring the experience. What could have been a memorably quirky overseas delight ultimately falters.
The DVD looks nice, the picture sporting a sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen that does the cool visual effects justice. Two Japanese tracks (5.1 and 2.0 stereo) are accompanied by English subtitles. Extras include deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.
A fun premise and some interesting creature effects are unable to salvage a horrid pace.
Guilty. Sorry Big Man.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
• Deleted Scenes
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