May 6, 2006
Movie Review By: SFAM
Directed by: Sogo Ishii
Written by: Sogo Ishii
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium
Key Cast Members:
Overview: Sogo Ishii, master of the Japanese Extreme Cinema delivers a truly bizarre experience for us in Electric Dragon 80,000V. If you added the dialogue from this whole movie up, you probably wouldn’t get much more than a page or two. The story is told through visuals, and that said, the narrative itself isn’t all that deep. So why do I give the movie a decent rating? Simple – the visuals and the overall mood this film creates are absolutely unique. Electric Dragon 80,000V is first and foremost an experiential flick. The narrative definitely takes a back seat to the visual and sound integration.
The Story: Electric Dragon 80,0000V follows the maturation of two kids who had traumatic experiences with electricity when they were young. One, Dragon Eye Morrison (played by Tadanobu Asano, who also stars as Kakihara in Ichii, the Killer), underwent electric shock treatment due to being violent as a kid – specifically, he endured 80,000 Volts of electricity. When Dragon Eye Morrison undergoes electric shock treatment, something in his reaction awakens the Dragon. The Dragon is the Eastern style dragon – one that’s embedded in all living things and the world at large. Dragon Eye Morrison’s connection with the dragon releases the rage within in, and thus, forces him to get more shock treatments. With each electric shock treatment, he develops a deeper connection with the dragon. By the time he’s an adult, Morrison can commune with reptiles (he owns a bunch), and has learned that playing REALLY LOUD guitar music (well, playing really loud anyways) is able to sooth the rage within him.
The other, Thunderbolt Buddha (Masatoshi Nagase) got electrocuted with 20 million volts while attempting to climb a power-line tower. The electricity is so high that half of his body becomes encased in metal – and in fact his personality is as split as his body. One side of him is trying to kill himself, while the other is deviously listening in on all electric conversations within his vicinity. It’s not to hard to figure out that Thunderbolt Budda is the bad guy in this modern Godzilla story.
By the time they are both adults, somehow Thunderbolt Buddha, who spends his time attached to a satellite dish, scanning the city, finds out about Dragon Eye Morrison – worse, he decides that the world isn’t big enough for the both of them! So Thunderbolt invades Morrison’s apartment and kills some of his lizards and takes others prisoner. Sure enough, Dragon Eye Morrison figures out who the culprit is and they meet at high noon! From there – it. is. ON BABY!!!!
What the Fuck is This Movie About? Yes, at first glance, this movie appears to be pretty shallow and non-sensical, and it may just be. But I like deeper meanings, so allow me to intuit. OK – assuming there is any meaning one can derive from this movie, my wild ass guess is it is this – Dragon Eye Morrison represents the Dragon on earth personified, whereas Thunderbolt Buddha represents modern technology. At first glance, modern technology appears stronger than the earth (20,000 volts to 80,000), yet, due to his ability to bring the full might of the dragon to bare, he’s able to stand up to modern technology. What’s interesting about this theory is the reversal of fortunes: Dragon Eye Morrison gets transformed to merging with the Dragon (earth) due to the detrimental use of technology on him, whereas Thunderbolt Buddha is transformed by a natural occurrence – lighting. In a sense, both grow up reacting against that which transformed them. Or, um, my theory is full of bunk – you make the call.
The Sound: As tightly integrated as can be, Electric Dragon 80,000V links massively loud and distorted guitar sounds with the kinetic visuals. This is really the true genius of Ishii’s work. Like all Japanese Cyberpunk movies, Electric Dragon provides an assault on the senses. Unlike most, the assault in this case isn’t as strong on notion of humanity itself, but is instead an assault on you, the viewer. To really experience this movie in the way it was intended, I STRONGLY recommend absolutely cranking the sound. If you don’t do this, you really will lose out on the mood this picture tries to set, and really, will not get the attraction
The Visuals: Electric Dragon 80,000V is really rather sedate for the first half. While well shot, the visuals aren’t really that noteworthy from a Japanese Cyberpunk standpoint. But the second half is FILLED with a bevy of truly bizarre shots. Electricity integrated with humans is the theme, and it is explored in a variety of ways, though showing various forms of electricity to kinetic shots of volts coursing through our lead characters. The second half uses the same style of stop-motion animation we get in Tetsuo – The Iron Man. While the movies are radically different, the movement of these two films is pretty similar.
The Bottom Line: Electric Dragon 80,000V is clearly an indulgence in extremes. The mood brought on by the sounds and visuals far outweighs what little exists of the narrative. In the end, Electric Dragon 80,000V is either a movie you really dig or absolutely abhor. For this reason, I find it pretty difficult to give a solid rating, so I’ve gone with 7 stars – which implies that it’s a good movie, but one that some may not like. The entire thing is barely 50 minutes, so if you find yourself hating it, not to worry, it will be over soon. If you do like it though, Electric Dragon 80,000V has solid replay value.