Over the past few years, the Japanese Film Festival has emerged as one of the best film festivals for Asian film lovers across Australia. Goemon was the fifth and last film that I saw at the 2009 Festival, and I continued to be impressed by the variety and quality of films showcased. Many of you would have read my short reviews of some of those films, and here I want to share with you my thoughts on Goemon.
Goemon was a master thief from the 16th century. He was like a Japanese Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. After stealing from a wealthy merchant, he found amongst the treasures a foreign-looking wooden box, which appeared empty. So he was quick to throw it away, only to discover later that the fate of his country lied in the box, and that evil warlords were desperately searching for it…
Goemon is a big-budget movie, reportedly carrying a production price tag of US $8 million. A large proportion of the money has obviously been spent on computer graphics, which featured heavily throughout the film, especially in the action scenes. As a result, the fight scenes are very often visually stunning and spectacularly exciting. Unfortunately, the use of CGI is a touch excessive, and while some of the effects, such as a few of the richly detailed computer-generated background settings, are good; others like the obviously fake grass plains and forests are far from realistic. This has overwhelmed the story and made the movie video game-like, and I often found myself distracted by the CGI as I was watching the film.
On the other hand, I was rather impressed by the story and the way it was told. It is an age-old story about love and honour. Yes, it is a familiar story. And yes, there are major plot holes. However, the story is told in a way that captures your attention, and at a pace that keeps you interested. I particularly enjoyed the scenes featuring the young Goemon and Chacha, which beautifully portray their innocent young love.
The cast consists of many big-name actors and actresses. Playing the lead is Yosuke Eguchi, well known for his performances in many television series and movies. The actor uses his charms to his advantage here in turning the title character into an immensely likeable one. His love interest, Princess Chacha, was played by Ryoko Hirosue, who not that long ago was seen in the Oscar-winning Departures. While she gave a credible performance in Goemon, the role probably wasn’t a particularly challenging one for this talented actress. Given the chance to really shine in the film was Takao Osawa (Ichi, Crying Out in the Centre of the World), who gave a wonderful performance as the ninja Saizo, another hero of the film.
Goemon is a period epic filled with emotions, and a very entertaining film. It looks stunning, and is a visual feast that deserves to be appreciated on the big screen. If you are able to accept the over-the-top style and video-game feel of the movie, you will be in for one exciting thrill ride.