Mad God

28/09/2022

Mad God is wet and creepy (affectionate). I loooove stop motion animation and physical effects, and Mad God is very clearly a deeply passionate labour of love. The stop motion is so good that at points it really looks like real people and machinery, which is pretty mindblowing. The imagery, music and meandering 'plot' all drip with atmosphere and it's very clear that Mad God is more of a visual splendour than a coherent story. If I had to guess, I'd say it's about the pointlessness of war, specifically World War Two.

The one thing that kind of lets down this movie is the inclusion of real actors greenscreened into some shots. They almost always look awkward, weird and kind of cheap - like a channel awesome movie special effect, which is a pretty steep downgrade from the frankly breathtaking cgi. There aren't many scenes that use real people and not all of them are terrible (the long-nailed priest is pretty good), but I wish there hadn't been any at all.

Ben-Hur

28/09/2022

Ben-Hur was kind of hard for me to watch - it's over 3 hours long, so felt like a slog. It has an intermission and an overture, and plenty of slow ruminating in lavish scenery. I really liked it though, because it's so dedicated to those lavish scenes. It's very clear that a ton of money was dumped into this, from the beautiful architecture to the costumes. It's really cool seeing scenes with literally thousands of extras. There's a ton of violence too, espeically in the chariot scenes - Hollywood didn't fuck around. Hollywood was also super racist and sexist, so there's prominent blackface and the women are often objects to propel forward the main storyline of Judah.

Upon googling it afterward, I found out that they made a remake which looks way worse. What's with desaturating movies to seem more 'epic'? The crisp, vivacious look of the original was part of the draw, so I have no intention of watching a muddified sequel...

Mechanical Violator Hakaider

28/09/2022

Hakaider is less a coherent story, and more visual spectacle. The simple story is merely a structure for the emotions of the main characters, primarily Hakaider. He is the embodiment of a robot created for violence, and indeed commits violence, while doing so in the name of freedom and kindness. The true antagonist, Michael, is the opposite; a robot created seemingly for peace, who uses violence to suppress and control. It's a religiously charged dichotomy, with the white Michael appearing akin to a winged angel, whereas Hakaider is the devil opposing his godlike rule.

I like Hakaider because it cuts to the core of one of Shotaro Ishinomori's strongest principles: human lives are more important than lofty ideals like peace or justice. Hakaider is not peaceful. He kills and rampages, destroying a snow white room to reveal the blood-red core underneath. If Michael is good, then he is evil. It's a sentiment I like, and Hakaider leans into it with its incredibly blatant symbolism. The final fight also has awesome stop motion animation, which I sorely miss from tokusatsu. We need to bring back more practical effects!!

He-Low

28/09/2022

If you don't watch tokusatsu, He-Low is a cheap, incomprehensible indie movie. If you DO watch tokusatsu, He-Low is still cheap and incomprehensible, but hilarious and a fun romp with all your good toku friends! He-Low is clearly a passion project by members of Japan's tokusatsu industry, and being made on the budget of a piece of string honestly makes it more charming in my eyes. Watching actors I know be silly with each other and reference well-trodden toku tropes is immense fun, especially in a group watch. Like, come on man, Slider Kamen Dragon Knight? Ult Roman? The censored Pigmon? Delectable.

My favourite gag is in the second movie, where Kamen Rider Ichigo turns up at the start pixelated to high hell. The cheeky affection for Toei, Ishinomori, Tsuburaya and Bandai's (sorry, Pandai's) products and franchises are immense fun to connect with. The only flaw is that I can't afford to go to Japan and visit the official He-Low cafe. I really wanna eat Kamen Slider curry...

Tetsuo Trilogy: The Iron Man, Body Hammer, and Bullet Man

27/09/2022

Tetsuo is the epitome of cyberpunk. The movie trilogy spans metaphors of sex, birth and death, using the melding of man with machine to represent various areas of man's psyche. My favourite of the trilogy is the original, because it's fast paced, beautifully shot and has very obvious gay symbolism that speaks to a main character who fears his own sexuality and manifests that fear into misogyny. The film has a core focus on sex and 'abnormal' desires, represented by the heterosexual (lol) Salaryman and the 'metal fetishist' Guy. To me, joining with the Guy at the end represents the Salaryman accepting his homosexuality, and finding acceptance in that - but against a world that doesn't accept him back, he has to oppose it, becoming a living weapon.

The second movie, Body Hammer, shifts the focus from sex to birth and family, reframing the main character and The Guy as brothers. It's a bleak story of intense anguish and loss, watching the main character become more and more mechanical as he is subsumed by the grief of losing his son by his own hands. The ambiguous ending suggests that the Salaryman and his wife choose to unleash their grief on the world, nurturing their own love even as they injure others.

The final movie, Bullet Man, is a bit different. It's in faltering English, which does it a bit of a disservice (it's awfully cheesy), and has a bit too much plot. As the end of the trilogy, however, I think it works perfectly. It provides a compassionate ending to the Salaryman and the Guy (the two characters that always return to their core dynamic), suggesting that we don't have to be consumed by our own emotions as represented by grotesque metal forms.