Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Sinking of Japan (Nihon Chinbotsu)

This Movie Got No Tomorrow

This disaster flick is a remake of a 1973 movie of the same title, based on a novel by Sakyo Komatsu. Japan is located right alongside the Pacific Ring of Fire (active volcanoes) and also along the edges of plate tectonics, whose shifting will cause earthquakes and tsunamis (a Japanese term in itself for tidal wave). Naturally, this makes a natural premise for a disaster picture, what with Hollywood having a field day with films like Armageddon, Deep Impact, and more recently, The Day After Tomorrow, which tackles how global warming becomes the catalyst for natural disasters gone bonkers around the world.

But I'll have to say this: The Sinking of Japan makes all the films mentioned earlier, look like classics. This disaster movie IS a disaster, and a massive one at that. Having to look at my watch every 10-15 minutes is a signal that the movie doesn't engage, and feels than it had over-clocked its runtime.

The special effects are gorgeous to look at. From satellite styled outer space pictures, to the vivid recreation of every conceivable natural disaster that can strike the land of the rising sun, the effects are the star of the show. However, having spectacular computer generated graphics does not in itself make a movie palatable, as too much of a good thing just plain bores.

If you had seen the trailer where you're enticed by the effects and specific scenes of chaos and mayhem, then yes, in fact those scenes are just that. There are no details, and everything is seen from afar, in a God-like mode. Things happen just like that on screen, with nary an attempt to try and delve deeper to look at issues up close. It's akin to Godzilla knocking over buildings, and it's as if there are no humans or loss of lives through that single act. Morbid as it might sound, show us the victims! A populous nation like Japan doesn't just suffer disaster after disaster with an extremely low fatality count, not when the filmmakers unleash mayhem in such an epic scale.

Trying to weave a romance into the movie, it stood out like a sore thumb. There are many characters in the movie, but each one of them lacking real characteristics, or humanity, and look like wandering zombies, without expression, without emotion, and definitely very stiff and unconvincing. Heroes become stuck in generic control rooms issuing statements, instructions and form policies, and react to incidents like it was a computer game, all settled with a push of a button. These are characters that you don't give a hoot about.

If I may just use The Day After Tomorrow as a comparison, while there are terrific effects, there is at least an attempt to provide a microscopic view of the entire disaster from different individual's point of views. And infused within are plenty of action sequences, big ones like the disasters themselves, and small ones with the focus on the triumph of the human spirit, that makes it relatively compelling.

Unfortunately for The Sinking of Japan, this movie should preferably be one to sink and tank, and hopefully undergo a short and quick death at the local box office to make way for better stuff.

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