RSIFF 2020: The Great Buddha Arrival

Posted in Festival Coverage by - November 09, 2020
RSIFF 2020: The Great Buddha Arrival

Originally created in 1934, well before the onslaught of ‘Kaiju’ films that followed Gojira’s success, The Great Buddha Arrival told the tale of one of the great Buddha statues that awakens and travels around Nagoya City- before flying into the heavens towards Tokyo. The film is considered one of the earliest examples of a “Tokosatsu film”- a film that relies heavily on special effects. The film was only shown briefly in theaters before being lost during WW2- only photographs left behind. 2018’s The Great Buddha Arrival attempts to both reboot and reimagine the original film for a modern audience.

Right off the bat, The Great Buddha Arrival doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. The film opens with an interview with the grandson of the 1934 film Yoshiro Edamasa,  a veteran of the Godzilla franchise himself, discussing the original film and how it was made as a fictional piece, but then shifts to the cameraman from that interview following up on the case of the Buddha as if it was real. The blending and distorting of the real and fictional parts of the tale continue throughout the film, along with a very low fi approach to the subject matter, until a final act twist that is more contrivance than impactful.

In many ways, The Great Buddha Arrival confines itself to retelling the original story ‘accurately’, using outdated techniques and post-production film grading to achieve an aged feel- until it wildly swings for the fences out of nowhere instead of applying the concept to and original take on the subject matter. This approach loses a lot of the actual Great Buddha’s movements in the process. And in the end, The Great Buddha Arrival simply needs more Buddha.

Kirk Haviland
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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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