Wednesday, September 17, 2008

REVIEW: The Mysterians - Ishirô Honda (1957)

Reviewed by Chris MaGee

It’s a mistake to judge a film on its special effects. Technology has obviously made light year jumps since 1957 when Ishirô Honda made “The Mysterians” and just within the past decade or so special effects with the aid of CGI is constantly evolving and constantly blurring the boundaries of what is real onscreen and what is not. That’s what special effects are for: a way to bring to life worlds and situations that a filmmaker could ever capture on their own with just a camera. Looking back on film history we have to suspend disbelief when looking at the original stop motion King Kong, the first rubber suited appearance of Godzilla (for which Ishirô Honda was responsible for), or the miniature model of the Death Star as it floats in space. All of these effects could be improved upon a thousand times today, but that’s not the point. It was the stories, not the special effects that truly make a film.

So with that said you are getting ready for a positive review of “The Mysterians”. Well, I’m afraid I can’t deliver one. Even though “The Mysterians” has the grandfather of kaiju monster movies behind the lens and we have veteran actor Takashi Shimura (star of such classics as “Rashomon”, “Ikiru”, and of course “Gojira”) onboard their hard work doesn’t count for much when the story is patched together from a handful of superior or at least better known science fiction films.

When a strange forest fires, landslides and sinkholes plague a small town outside Tokyo both the locals and a group of scientists are baffled… that is until a large robot drills its way out from a mountainside. The Japan self defense forces come to the rescue, but not before a huge swath of the village is destroyed. Shortly after the attack a group of aliens who look like Power Rangers, The Mysterians from planet Mysterioid(?!) come forward. They’ve come to Earth after their own world was destroyed by nuclear wars. They want to warn us against this same fate while asking for a small patch of land, just two square kilometers, on which they can… and here things get really silly… marry Earth women and repopulate their race. Now, they just don’t want to breed with our women, they want to marry them. I guess there’ll be a run on justices of the peace! In the end humanity has to protect the virtue of its women in a war where we will roll out the greatest weapon that the mind of man has ever conceived: the Marcalite Farp! Huh? The Marcalite Farp?!

Now fans of sci-fi will recognize right away the cautionary tale from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and the libidinous silliness of “Robot Monster”, two films that should never be mashed together and it’s this uncomfortable mix and a laughable story that ends up making “The Mysterians” more of a joke than a classic. There is always the option of throwing this film in and laughing at it with a bunch of your friends (as I did with a friend of mine), but as I get older I’d rather laugh with a film than at it. If this had been made recently as a comedy by, say, Yudai Yamaguchi or Katsuhito Ishii it would have been a lot of fun. As it stands now this is a relic the 1950’s that is best left in the past.

No comments: