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Movie: Goemon

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You can’t get much further from the last movie [in the last post here on elroyonline] than with the Japanese fantasy adventure film Goemon. The movie is based, extremely loosely, on the life of Goemon Ishikawa, a legendary Japanese Bandit from the 1590’s. Goemon was a Robin Hood like figure, with the most notable difference being that Goemon actually existed. He did indeed rob from the rich and give to the poor, but his actually-happened life was filled with actual tragedy, actual vengeance, actual romance and actual adventure… So much so that you really have to wonder why the film’s write/director Kazuaki Kiriya felt the need to modify the story so much. Unless there have already been just as many tellings of the real Goemon’s life as there have been of the mythical Robin Hood.

Oh, and another thing that Goemon had over Robin Hood: He was a friggin Ninja!

Shot almost entirely against green screen, with computer generated backgrounds and completely over-saturated, the film has a surreal look, which suits the storytelling perfectly. Despite being based on a true story the whole thing has a cartoon / anime feel to it, but it works, given the artificial look that results from the techniques used by the film makers.

The biggest problem with the film — if you’re not turned off by the visual aesthetic — is that the story itself is actually kind of complicated. Not that being complicated is a bad thing, but the execution is a little clunky and, more irritating, is that concepts are approached but not resolved. During our introduction to the films main characters, Goemon is doing his ‘master thief’ / ‘Robin Hood’ thing (robbing rich > giving poor). During this escapade he makes off with gold coins and trinkets, which he then tosses from the rooftops to the waiting common folk below. One item, which makes its way into the hands of a small child, is a small blue box. We later learn that this box is the mythical Pandora’s Box and this revelation comes with all the foreboding and menace that one would expect. However there is no follow-through. No acknowledgement that this myth has any bearing on the story itself.

To be fair, these are small complaints. I enjoyed this movie greatly. It is over-the-top and epic, both visually and in content. The characters run the full catalogue, from loveable rogue to moustache twirling, evil villains. This is the kind of movie that makes for a great afternoon kicking back on the couch. [trailer] [source]

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