Big Man Japan: Life Ain’t So Super for This Superhero

Hitoshi Matsumoto, half of a legendary Japanese comic duo, debuts as a big-screen director/star with this goof on the rubber-monster movie line, with a special debt owed to Ultraman. Dai Sato (Matsumoto) is heir to a family of Big Men, homeland protectors who under high-voltage electroshock grow to apartment-block size and wrangle on television whatever rampaging cheapo CGI is threatening the peace. In Sato's era—underpaid, ratings in the basement, geishas gone—this means dog-catching low-comic grotesques: a Cyclops with an eye dangling from its crotch, or publicly-copulating behemoths. Life at normal size only adds to the indignity. Sato's a distracted burnout with a time-warp sartorial sense, intent only on stroking his hair out of his eyes. His wife has left him, taking his daughter and any prospect of a successor. His transformation ceremony takes place in a storeroom. His agent sells ad space on his torso. Sans secret identity, he takes the PR hits (and obscene graffiti) whenever Big Man slips up—the best bit involves mishandling an infant monster and the resulting mawkish vigils. Between such shots of inspiration, Matsumoto's mock-doc framework seems a lazy stock device, interviews playing more dead than deadpan and failing to exceed an overfamiliar comic-pathetic attitude toward the lives of functionaries.

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