Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Gojoe: Spirit War Chronicle
Benkei, a master fighter and killer, vows never to take another life after his conversion to Buddhism. His faith in pacifism, however, is shaken and ultimately broken when members of a warrior clan are being mysteriously beheaded at Gojoe Bridge. With his "Demon Slayer" sword the former Buddhist monk and his grave robbing sidekick set out to unmask and destroy the powerful evil forces that lurk at Gojoe bridge. Set in the 12th Century, this action packed epic features some of the most extraordinary fight sequences ever filmed, and heralds the return of the Samurai Film to Japanese Cinema.
This movie is based on Japanese historical legends and ancient clan rivalries and therefore many Westerners not familiar with them may not fully appreciate this film. It revolves around the great rivalry between the Taira and the Minamoto clans. The movie is directly based on the famous battle on the Gojoe Bridge in the 12th century between Musashibo Benkei and Minamoto Yoshitsune.
There are many impressive sword fighting scenes as well as maybe the most beheadings of any film I have watched. But these beheadings were not filmed gruesomely like some generic chanbara flick. What you actually see are a series of blood geysers erupting from beyond the bushes as the so-called "demon" attacks the samurai warriors. It is these lightning attacks which is what causes the samurai to try and figure out who or what is attacking them. Whoever is attacking the samurai are so fast as to be unseen so it is believed they are being attacked by demons. But are they? Benkei the monk feels it is his destiny to slay the "demon" and that once he does, he will achieve enlightenment. This will lead to his final battle. The main character, Benkei (Daisuke Ryu), was impressive with his calm and religious demeanor that hides his violent past. This movie has a lot a Buddhist and religious symbolism, good and evil, etc. The final battle between Benkei and the "demon" is long, intense and impressive but maybe not the "most extraordinary" of fight sequences as described by the film's producers. The movie uses very good imagery and is filmed in beautiful natural settings along with many fast action fight scenes and it is based on famous legends and stories from Japanese history which means this movie gets two thumbs up from me.