I like to think that Asian cinema has far surpasses America. We’ve seemed to have lost all of our creativity, and feel perfectly content churning out remakes, reboots, and adaptations. It was refreshing to see the originality that complimented Goemon, a visually beautiful treat. Unfortunately, once you get past how nice everything looks, there is a supremely sloppy film that made even our constant reboots that accomplish their storytelling seem much more appealing.
Goemon (Yôsuke Eguchi) is what you would consider a Japanese Robin Hood. After seeing his mentor and ruler of Japan, Lord Nobunaga (Hashinosukè Nakamura) assassinated, Goemon ends his education to become a samurai and turns to thievery. He soon becomes what he considers “the greatest thief in the world” and gives most, if not all, of his loot to the poor. One particular job uncovers a secret about the assassination of Lord Nobunaga, revealing that the present leader of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Eiji Okuda), is responsible. Now, Goemon vows revenge with the blood of Hideyoshi and to save his lost love, Princess Chacha (Ryōko Hirosue).
Style over substance. There isn’t a better phrase that can be used to describe this movie. Right when I put it on, and the first scene played, I knew that I was in for an outstanding visual experience, and I certainly was. From the first scene to the last, I was completely taken in by the heavily CGI backgrounds. It was cartoonish, but somehow other-worldly. It reminded me almost of a live action anime, which the director Kazuaki Kiriya’s last film, Casshern, was. So, yes, visually this movie is phenomenal. One scene in particular that takes place on a burning boat is especially enticing and can not be shrugged off.
Are video games any good if the graphics look great but the gameplay is terrible? Is it fun listening to a well produced album if the music isn’t any good? In that same regard, is it worthwhile to sit through two hours of a movie that looks nice but has such a sloppy plot that it takes a really long time just to settle into it? No, it’s really not. When Goemon first started, I was really into the visuals and was ready to see where the story was going to take me. After the first 20 minutes, I still didn’t feel like it was taking me anywhere. Nor did I feel that way after 45 minutes. It took until the last half of the movie before things finally got interesting. This interest didn’t even last too long, and it didn’t help that the movie felt 15 minutes too long. Yes, it suffers from Return of the King Syndrome.
There’s really no redeeming qualities to any of the characters, either. I’ve seen all of these people before in many other different movies. This just adds to the continuing list of clichés that this movie has created. I called pretty much what the ending was and where each character would physically and mentally be by the end of the movie. I guess this is the big problem with this movie. Other than the visuals, it sticks so close to a mediocre story arc that is seen in a lot of modern films. I was hoping for a lot more from the story than this movie offers.
In the end, Goemon is a very disappointing movie. It’s a two hour long formula, not a two hour long narrative. The only thing that manages to keep the film interesting is its incredible visuals. The story is flat and the characters are boring. To compare it to a movie with a similar problem, one only needs to look at Avatar The difference is that Avatar‘s visuals creates an entirely new world while Goemon only offers something pretty to look at. See it once for its effects, but a second viewing is far from necessary. Strictly mediocre glitter.