Thursday, October 31, 2013

Return of the Wrath of Daimajin (I think)

By film 3, Wrath of Daimajin, the Daimajin formula was pretty well established. Evil Lord oppresses the good people, someone appeals to the god, and then Daimajin establishes some brutal social justice. But as with all monster series, he get a f ew new powers as the series goes on.

In the first five minutes of Wrath of Daimajin, Daimajin is shown to be a god of weather, causing terrible cold, flood, drought, and avalanches. The miniatures work is excellent. In each film, he has become further removed from humanity. Apparently seeking peace, he has now retreated to a mountain, and the villagers know that Daimajin's Mountain is a dangerous place.

Daimajin Brings Down the House!

After demonstrations of Daimajin's power, the film introduces us to a village, and the protagonists. They are children. I was wary at first, since the child actors in Daiei's Gamera franchise are annoying at best. Luckily, these are not the obnioxious, laboriously mischievous kids who share the screen with Gamera. This is a fairly serious journey film, as the children walk over Maijin's Mountain in order to help rescue ther fathers, who have been kidnapped by the Evil Lord who is making them build a fortress.

Do I even need to SAY evil lord?

The journey takes them across all sorts of landscape. Thickly forested slopes, a rocky defile with a waterfall, and a rocky mountain top. It's a rather attractive travelogue, frought with the usual attendant dangers that keep the tension up. Daimajin has a touch more agency in this film; a hawk is said to be Maijin's messenger. When the children are confronted with the statue of Daimajin, they pay it proper respect, and the god does not become angry.

Daimajin is watching you.

While the film has some lovely scenery, it is a bit devoid of emotional resonance. Kinta, one of the four kids who set out on the journey, drowns after their raft is wrecked in the rapids. He is never mentioned again.

What's-his-name, face down in the river.

Daimajin rouses himself when the leader of the kids party throws himself off a cliff, as a sacrifice to the god. Once again, the fortress comes down around the Evil Lord's ears, but this time, it's in the snow. The scenes of Daimajin smashing the fortress of the evil lord are great. There's surprisingly little human resistance, which makes sense from a filmic perspective. Layering human actors in front of the miniatures work is expensive.

Daimajin SMASH!

There are a few innovations. For the first time, we see Daimajin unsheath his sword. He's had this sword for all three films, and this is the first time we see it come into play. He throws it to create an avalanche that destroys a pile of samurai. In addition, earlier in the film, a worker names Shiohachi tries to escape, and as punishment, is thrown into the boiling sulfur spring. When Daimajin puts out the stone boot of justice, he once again deploys the sword, stabbing the lord, who then tumbles into the very same boiling sulfur spring.

Giant Killer Statue With a SWORD.

But there is a further dimension to Daimajin in his third iteration. He towers over the evil lord and his henchmen in the same way that an adult towers over the children. So there is a parallel of Daimajin schooling the adults from the same position of power that the adults would school the children. And when Daimajin's vengeans is slaked, the snow stops, the he dissolves into snow. He is no longer the threat to the villagers, as he was in the first film. Daimajin is more like a bloodthirsty Santa Claus, determining who is naughty and who is nice. The good get left alone. The naughty get the sword.


As I said in my review of the first Daimajin film, these films straddle an uncomfortable line. There's not enough samurai action for samurai films, and there's reallty not enough giant statue smashing action for us giant monster film buffs. In addition, I would say it would be best not to watch them too closely together. They recycle a lot of elements; there is always an evil lord who is being mean to the people who venerate the Daimajin, and Daimajin kills him in the same way he killed, or attempted to kill, someone.

Next week, a film I haven't seen. A lost giant monster film from an unusual production location.

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