What To Do With The Dead Kaiju?

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Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

What To Do With The Dead Kaiju?
"The trouble is that all of this has been done on a very low budget and the special effects which director Satoshi Miki has been able to muster don’t match up to his ambitions." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

When the film begins, the action is over. The kaiju which threatened Tokyo is dead, collapsed in a river out in the countryside. The news channels carry the stories of ordinary people relieved that life can go back to normal now. But the real trouble is just beginning.

What, exactly, is the proper course of action when the corpse of a gigantic, alien monster is slowly decomposing in a waterway outside a major city? Who is responsible for dealing with the matter? Is it a local or a national issue? Where, exactly, should the funding for disposal come from?

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It’s a fantastic concept, and one which quite a few viewers may have wondered about over the years. Politicians have often been a feature on the periphery of kaiju movies, struggling to make the right decisions when faced with problems too large or too devastating to easily comprehend, and here they are brought to the fore as they battle one another in an attempt to pass the buck or, in one case, to exploit the monster. It’s dead now so it’s safe, right? Couldn’t it make a lot of money for japan as a tourist attraction?

Whilst the politicians squabble, with one minister going so far as to climb on the dead kaiju to pose for the cameras, scientists, alert to the fact that every large biological organism plays host to millions of others, are uncovering some disturbing things. Will anyone listen to what they have to say? Will they do so before it’s too late?

Described by some as Japan’s Don’t Look Up, Satoshi Miki’s spiky satire, which screened as part of the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, seems a closer parallel to the Fukushima disaster than to the handling of climate change, but comes to similar conclusions. A more upbeat final act brings heroes and hope such as one might find in an older kaiju film, and there’s a similar helping of awkward, chaste romance, family loyalty and maverick heroism in the face of moral conflict, but in the shadow of one of this year’s other major offerings, the overall message is still that humans will struggle to save themselves from entirely predictable problems.

The trouble is that all of this has been done on a very low budget and the special effects which director Satoshi Miki has been able to muster don’t match up to his ambitions, to the extent that some things would have seemed more impressive if not shown directly at all. There is also a problem with the hit and miss nature of the comedy, whose sharper points are blunted by padding. There’s a lack of depth to the characters which makes them feel like thin caricatures and makes its harder to take them seriously – which in order for the satire to bite, one really should.

Ultimately failing to live up to the promise of its premise, What To Do With The Dead Kaiju is itself disintegrating from the start. It will leave you longing for a remake.

Reviewed on: 06 Aug 2022
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A large monster attacks Japan, but dies suddenly. While the people rejoice and bask in relief, the giant corpse left behind begins to slowly rot and bloat. If it explodes, the nation will be destroyed.

Director: Satoshi Miki

Writer: Satoshi Miki

Starring: Ryôsuke Yamada, Tao Tsuchiya, Gaku Hamada, Joe Odagiri, Toshiyuki Nishida, Hidekazu Mashima

Year: 2022

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: Japan

Festivals:

Fantasia 2022

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