Goemon is one strange movie. It is a huge rambling high-energy big-budget feudal Japan ninja/war movie. The movie starts out as one type of movie, but turns into another type. At first I enjoyed it hugely – with the extraordinary CGI scenery and cityscapes, and the exciting ninja hijinks. This first part reminded me strongly of Zorro and Robin Hood, with the same ‘steal from the rich and give to the poor’ ethos. And in fact I discovered when I got home that Goemon is indeed the Japanese version of this legend, and it is considered the man himself really did exist.
Towards the end of the ninja part of the story, the movie began to lose me, because the ninja acrobatics went from only just beyond what a human could actually achieve, to way, way, way over the top. By the end of this sequence the principals were to all intents and purposes flying, which cut the strings holding up my willing suspension of disbelief, and made me wonder why the hero bothered with walking and horses and stuff when he could just fly everywhere. Another downside of this section was the CGI: for all the money this movie has behind it, they didn’t quite have enough to do the flying ninja scenes convincingly.
Several times you think the movie is drawing to a close only to find it suddenly opening up again into a different but related story. What starts as a small story about ninjas turns into a huge story about clashing warlords. The main theme in this section is, “Will the terrible fighting ever stop? Each warlord deposes the last claiming to want to bring peace to the land, but all that happens is that the fighting begins anew.” This anti-war rhetoric is framed (of course) by savage stylized battles between vast armies. The soldiers of the two opposing armies – facing each other across a nearly featureless plain – are almost caricatures: one army is dressed in black, with the soldiers looking almost like orcs. The other army is dressed in white, with the soldiers looking almost like stormtroopers. And the hero (in red) tries to bring peace by killing everyone.
A strange movie, but great fun.