Goemon is a strange mix of East and West, a live action film that has anime aspirations and abhorrence for all things practical in favour of CGI and greenscreens.
Goemon Ishikawa is a Robin Hood-type character, introduced to us as he robs from the rich and gives to the poor.
It takes a good twenty minutes or so to acclimatise to the fact that very little of this film was made outside a computer. Sure, the actors are real (and do much better than anyone in the Star Wars prequels at pretending they can actually see what hasn’t yet been composited) but this can’t be said for any of their surroundings.
In time, Goemon will be required to rise above mere ‘master thief’ status and become something more, something of a legend to the people of ancient Japan. Thankfully, he’s a superhuman ninja or some such. His martial arts prowess works both in the film’s favour and to its detriment. Sure, it’s cool that you can jump 100 feet into the air, but if you can do that, the humble viewer may wonder why you only do it at select moments. Facing off against 10,000 men? Sure. But then how can I expect that one particular adversary could ever give you that much trouble? Maybe you started to tire after the first 8000…
Of course, things such as these aren’t really important in a film that simply wants cool slow-motion sequences and silhouettes of leaping ninjas in front of a full moon, and on such a violent and purely escapist front, Goemon does pretty well.
The middle section gets bogged down in what feels like an eternity of flashbacks – and there are a lot of characters to remember. Only one of them is female, of course, and as an object of affection she doesn’t really cut the mustard. I appreciate that Goemon’s all about the heroic slaughter and not really about the romance, but it would have been nice to be given some indication as to why the young Chacha Asai is so worthy of our titular hero’s attention, aside from the fact that she’s perfectly symmetrical and says very little.
Honour, pride, justice, vengeance etcetera, etcetera – it’s all here, and there are one or too moments that are, against all odds, quite emotive. The main reason to enjoy a film such as Goemon, however, is to see just how horrendously ridiculous things can get. Think of the ‘burly brawl’ from The Matrix Reloaded, then think about an entire film of that one scene – that’s pretty much what Goemon is like, except with the contrast turned all the way up.
Extravagantly ridiculous, the film does have its own charm – just don’t expect to be wowed by the visuals