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Mamoru Oshii's first two "Patlabor" films were excellent, both incredible and atmospheric pieces of work that always focused on characters first. For the third movie, you will find almost none of the original production staff involved but for Kenji Kawai, longtime Oshii composer. This said, I entered into the experience skeptical and was pleasantly rewarded.
WXIII, which stands for "Wrecked 13" for an almost indecipherable reason, is a fitting continuation of the series that gets occasionally bogged down in a ridiculous "big monster" plot. Much like the second film (arguably Oshii's best), fans should note that the main characters of the regular Patlabor series appear only incidentally. Asuma and Noa are the first members of Unit 2 to make an appearance, in a non-speaking part, almost 30 minutes in! Goto and Unit 2 don't have an actual speaking role until the last 20 minutes or so of the film. The movie focuses entirely on Detective Matsui, now older and on the injured list, and his young partner. Viewers of the first two films will recognize them, and it's a welcome exploration of their lives. In essence, it's a detective story, although the outcome is never really in doubt.
What makes the film so enjoyable is the excellent characterization of the detectives. The monster plot-line is fun at points and ridiculous most of the rest of the time, but thankfully it's spread out pretty thin. There are some beautifully composed shots, the music is spot-on, and the script is clever and in keeping with the tone of the first two films. There are some annoying plot holes that a Kazunori Ito script would have avoided, but it is overall a good effort from the new screenwriter.
Those expecting an action-fest will get a couple of fun, suspenseful moments, but otherwise look elsewhere. But fans of solid drama and intrigue will be rewarded. The Japanese DVD has excellent subtitles and a number of fun extras, so if you have an all-region player I would recommend it for your collection. Patlabor 3 is very good film that, despite its flaws and the reputation of the previous films, succeeds in the right places. 7 out of 10.
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