Legend of the Millennium Dragon [鬼神伝, Onigamiden] (2011)
Starring Kenshō Ono, Satomi Ishihara, Shidō Nakamura, Kentaro Ito, Yasuyuki kase, Takashi Kondō, Shotaro Morikubo, Akio Nojima
Directed by Hirotsugu Kawasaki
I love mythology. Myths are the oldest stories we have, and they are a tie to what stories are and why we tell them. Those stories have captivated audiences for centuries and millennia. I am always fascinated by how potent they are, and how they strike to the core of human nature. As an anime fan, it should come as no surprise that I have a special love for Japanese mythology. Legend of the Millennium Dragon is based heavily on Japanese myths, taking some of the more important characters and throwing them into an action film with a hefty dollop of magical explosions. This is exactly the kind of thing I love to see. Except that Millennium Dragon is boring as hell. I really don’t know how you can make huge explosions, hectic sword fights, and furious monsters dull, but they certainly can be. If you doubt me, go ahead and watch this. You’ll learn the sad truth.
Part of this film’s problem is its overuse of computer effects. I don’t just mean that I hate CG and it makes the film look ugly (and boy is that the truth as well), but that Kawasaki seems far too enamored of his ability to pan the camera around. Whole scenes seem devoted to the fact that he can show a panoramic view of the room. He tried to infuse a sense of awe through the film, but it’s only awe at what the computer can do, not at the characters or events. It doesn’t impress, and it doesn’t entertain.
The plot adds nothing of value to the experience either. It’s just a generic tale of a young man who finds out he has some amazing power, and then needs to save the world, or at least ancient Japan, from a rather uninspired villain. Add to that a cheesy “why can’t we all just get along?” theme to the whole thing, and we get a wholly uninteresting story.
I liked the designs for the Oni, and the idea that they are just people wearing war masks rather than monsters, but that was about the only good thing this movie has to offer. Well, there’s also the goofiest and most impractical looking catapult I have ever seen, but that was just unintentional humor. Millennium Dragon tries to impress by making everything huge, and the climax is a contest of one-upmanship with each side simply pulling a bigger monster out its ass, back and forth while you yawn away the evening. But like a cat arching its back to look more menacing, it’s all just fluff.