Thursday, November 26, 2009

In short: Mikadroid (1991)

To the surprise of no one, Japan was trying to build a cyborg soldier during World War II. Just when the war is lost, the Japanese government decides to close down the project. They needn't have bothered, because the building in which the project is based is destroyed in an air raid. Before that, the lead scientist manages to help two not completely converted soldiers escape, while the real prototype in its full early Iron Man glory is buried under the rubble.

45 years later, a building with a parking garage and an underground disco has been built on the site. One day, Iron Man awakens and kills a few people. Fortunately, his old soldier colleagues haven't aged a bit in the intervening years and are coming to kill him.

A young electrician (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, yes the director) and an office drone (Yoriko Douguchi, who still has a career in Japanese genre film and has also played in a few Kurosawa films) will be very thankful for their help.

Mikadroid sounds more interesting than it actually is. Apart from the intriguing Kiyoshi Kurosawa connection and a handful of neat visual ideas, there's unfortunately not much about the film.

There isn't happening enough for 73 minutes of film, the plot would barely be enough for 45, and while the cyborg soldier's design is nice and truly looks like I'd imagine a cyborg made in pulp '45 would, the two directors (Satoo Haraguchi & Tomoo Haraguchi, the latter mostly a special effects guy with a few films like the dreadful Kibakichi as a director) never manage to do much with him. The film does not manage to build the necessary feeling of menace and is also much too slow to ever build up enough momentum to become exciting.

The script is nothing to write home about either. It never bothers to explain why cyborg soldier is going on a killing spree, leaving what is happening too abstract to have emotional impact. The film's tendency for undeserved pathos does not help its case - there is too much baseless melodrama here, too many moments when we the viewer is told to feel something the film doesn't bother to make her feel.

Still, I am not completely down on Mikadroid. Most of its problems are obviously based on a lack of experience and a lack of funds, and I am willing to live with them to a degree when a film at least tries to be professional.

There are also a few slightly surreal sequences making up for some of the film's flaws. Seeing Kurosawa act alongside Douguchi is quite a neat thing to watch, too.

So while I can't really recommend it, Mikadroid has its intriguing aspects.


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