Monday, July 17, 2006

The Great Yokai War (2006)

Takashi Miike needs a better editor, or maybe he needs a friend off whom he can bounce ideas. The majority of his films would be fantastic if they weren't so overloaded with every crazy notion and fancy that pops into Miike's head. So it goes with this overextended fantasia, which alternates between the exciting and the puzzling; the character of Kawataro is especially irritating, as he's the designated Odious Comic Relief, and he drags down most every scene in which he appears. Having registered those complaints, there's still quite a bit of fun to be had here, as Miike processes the kiddie-adventure genre (think Krull or The Neverending Story) through his particularly warped sensibilities; surely this is the only children-oriented film wherein the preteen hero is menaced by giant robots with chainsaws for hands or wherein an adult character is able to see and relate with the title spirits by getting good and stinkin' drunk. On a thematic level, Miike is speaking about children as well as to them -- Yokai is a film about the progress from childhood into more advanced stages of life, and the things we lose and gain along the way. Interesting to note in this vein is the treatment of the female characters, both of whom are scantily clad and just on the edge of sexualization, yet they sit on that perch without the benefit of eroticization; somehow, both the good and bad female simultaneously are and aren't lust objects. (They're both hot, at any rate, especially the ever-moist Mai Takahashi.) So there's that, which may be why I'm probably underrating this -- it's obvious that, despite his prolificacy, he puts a lot of thought and consideration into every film he makes. Which is why it's so annoying when he gets tripped up by his own tendencies towards excess. Yokai is hilarious, bold, exciting but uneven and ultimately wearying and as such is yet another merely-decent-but-should-be-way-better entry in Miike's filmography.

Grade: B-


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