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The day was set to end, I had two videos in my hands I had just rented
an hour before, one of them was "Lost in Translation" and the other one
was "The Returner".
To make a long story short, my attitude turned pretty sour after viewing the more anticipated "Lost in Translation" and turned on "The Returner" thinking it would be pretty cheesy....turns out, I was completely wrong.
The Returner, even though it obviously borrows a lot of ideas from other films, is incredibly entertaining. The main characters Miyamoto and Milly were incredibly engaging, the bad guy (with his "Vash the Stampede" look and gun) was pretty cool, the storyline (filled with some comedy, drama, action, and a science fiction twist of course) was not that bad (some parts were a lot more enjoyable than others), the execution of the directing was what caught my attention, and the overall impression I got from it was completely passable and whole-fully entertaining.
Even the ending and the soundtrack was superb. It made me drop my jaw in awe during the credits, it really had that much of an impact with me throughout the entire thing. I long for the special double disk edition (if it exists that is, not entirely sure yet).
For those who love action/SCI-FI flicks, this is a definite must. And this is also recommended for those who love Japanese Cinematography in general.
I was told by everyone that this movie was awful. Even the critics said
it was bad. Then I wanted to check it out by myself! MAN, has everyone
lost their mind? This is probably one of the best sci-fi flick I've
ever seen! Never saw something that refreshing since Fifth Element.
Of course a lot of people are going to say it is a Matrix rip-off, that the script looks like Terminator or Independence Day, blah blah... Then I'm sure these people didn't watch the same movie I did! Cuz it has nothing to do with these films, AT ALL! It may be futuristic, but it has its own universe, its own way to introduce it to you. Plus, you stay close to the characters, to the very end. Even though the plot is big and takes place on a higher level, you always stay close to the characters life, emotions, motivations and goals. That's what I liked about this movie. It may be sci-fi, but the characters are not so far from any drama movies.
I heard someone saying that the Japanese love to copy American movies. BLASPHEMY! If you look carefully, it's the total opposite. Weren't the Americans the ones who did a remake of Godzilla? Weren't the Americans the ones who did free adaptations of Ringu and Ju-On? Aren't the Americans planning to do a live-action movie of The Transformers? Besides, Matrix IS a Japanese animation *rip-off*. It deliberately got his inspiration from anime such as Ghost in the Shell or X. And if you want good example of innovative Japanese movies, I recommend to you Akira Kurosawa's, even though it has nothing to do with sci-fi.
Anyways, Returner is a must see to all sci-fi fans and to all Japanese movies and animation lovers. I can guarantee you a good time if you watch it *open-minded* and if you put aside the *rip-off* crap we've been so fed about.
9 out of 10
Rating: *** out of ****
On first impression, I enjoyed Returner very much, but I can easily see why many others didn't care for it. The movie's plot is a rip-off of countless American blockbusters (just on first viewing I see E.T., The Terminator, Back to the Future, ID4, Stargate, Dune, The Matrix, MI:2, and even a little bit of The X-Files) and there's nothing really all that special in the way the story is executed but in general most Asian action flicks don't have much plot so I at least count it a blessing that ripping off all the aforementioned films gives the film enough story to sustain interest.
Takeshi Kineshiro stars as Miyamoto, a mercenary who has an agenda against Yakuza boss Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani). But before he can fulfill his vengeance, a time-traveling girl (Ann Suzuki) interrupts his task, giving Mizoguchi the opportunity to escape. Frustrated, Miyamoto takes the dazed girl back to his apartment. There, she informs him her name is Miri and that she's traveled back from the year 2084 to save the world from an incoming alien invasion.
Naturally, he doesn't believe her, but finds he has no choice but to help her when she tapes a bomb to his neck. Miri informs him that an alien spacecraft has crashed and the surviving crew member will signal the mothership, thus instigating the war between humans and these aliens called the Daggra. Joining Miri's mission to kill this surviving alien, Miyamoto gradually believes her when he witnesses some astonishing sights. But what should be an easy task proves difficult when the Yakuza get involved and want the alien technology for themselves.
Japan's first (or maybe they've done it before, I sure as hell don't know) attempt at crafting a summer blockbuster that can rival those of American cinema is an unqualified success as a work of great entertainment. It delivers what one would expect from a popcorn blockbuster: fast-paced thrills, big laughs, and visual spectacle, but there's a layer of genuine heart and emotion that propels this far above the crap one could expect from Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer.
Takeshi Kaneshiro is understandably one of Asia's biggest heartthrobs, the man looks great in tousled hair and long trench coats. But along with the cool exterior, he boasts solid acting talent to go with all that charisma. No doubt, he'll probably be Asian cinema's most popular star within the next five years. Ann Suzuki also impresses as the young teen who's had to grow up fast for her age. It's the natural and sweet rapport the two develop that raises the stakes; the addition of human interest makes the action and the story more compelling. As the hilariously laconic and irredeemably evil Mizoguchi, Goro Kishitani is fun to watch, his villainous performance evoking a mix of past work from Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman.
Returner boasts numerous terrific action sequences, rousing gun battles that employ fluid camera-work and stylish slow motion. The opening setpiece, with Kineshiro taking down scores of Yakuza, is a total blast and the coolest opening sequence since Equilibrium. Some of the action scenes employ bullet-time techniques, but that's thankfully limited to only a few moments. There's a potentially cool motorcycle chase that ends way too quickly, but otherwise, the action is first rate.
As for the f/x, I was really quite impressed. I don't know what budget this film had to work with, but the visuals are mostly excellent. Most of the f/x are at least on par with a Sci-Fi Channel miniseries (like Children of Dune), and occasionally are up there with even expensive Hollywood blockbusters (the effects sure as hell are better than, say, The Core). The CGI work on the alien mothership is gorgeous, a definite improvement on the model work from Independence Day.
Returner is not without its faults. There are a few moments that are simply too similar to its "inspirations." The riffs from Independence Day go all the way down to the inclusion of telepathy, alien body armor, and force fields. The battle sequence between the aliens and the last human outpost is gripping. The sets, the direction, and the f/x are all impeccably handled in this setpiece. It probably should have been the film's highlight, but the scene is marred by some poor acting from foreign actors who clearly shouldn't be trying to fake American accents.
But despite its blatant unoriginality, Returner is spirited and thrilling. The climax, set aboard an ocean-bound oil rig, is an exhilarating race against time amid several blazing gun battles. There's some sentimentality on hand, and I'll even admit I got a bit choked up near the end. Admittedly, the movie runs a bit long after all the action, but there's a nice post-climactic plot twist that should please most sci-fi fans.
(Major spoiler warning) I gather that the filmmakers were assuming that once Miri returned to the future, she'd still have the same memories of the former timeline (a la Back to the Future, Frequency), thus enabling her to save Miyamoto. But I'm not sure why she'd automatically return to the future after thwarting the war, or why she didn't arrive after Miyamoto realized she'd saved his life to spend some time with him (End spoiler).
And what's up with playing a Lenny Kravitz song over the end credits? It's a bit of a distraction for an otherwise rather touching final scene. But on the whole, Returner is enthusiastically recommend to sci-fi action fans.
Having read a few online reviews of this movie, and having seen some of
more recent movies out of Japan including Batoru rowaiaru (2000), my
expectatations were low. (Battle Royale is for the most part a good movie,
but enjoyment of the movie is ultimately crippled by a truly lousy
For some reason, recent Japanese live-action movies tend to be really bad,
while anime is often very good.
This movie was a pleasant surprise. It didn't rip off other movies nearly as much as I was led to believe. True, some of the special effects resembled those in The Matrix, but they helped advance this movie instead of being a way to try to make the movie seem more "cool."
The character of Mizoguchi, played by Goro Kishitani, resembled Gary Oldman's parts in a number of films including Fifth Element, The (1997) and Léon (1994). The acting by Takeshi Kaneshiro as Miyamoto was good, but the standout of the movie was the cute-as-a-button Ann Suzuki as the serious, fun, energetic, and rebellious Miri.
The CG of aliens disguised as terran aircraft transforming into their true forms was impressive, resembling the work done in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) and Independence Day (1996). This is a movie not to be missed by CG buffs.
With the recent shortage of good live-action movies coming out of Japan, The Returner is one of the best to come out within the last few years.
Version: Columbia Tristar's DVD release. Japanese / English subtitles.
Time travel is cool. Explosions are cool, as are gun fights. Any movie that attempts to incorporate 'The Terminator', 'Independence Day', 'Leon', and nearly every John Woo movie made between 'A Better Tomorrow' and 'Face/Off' is cool. 'Returner' features all these elements, and therefore, is awesomely cool. Or at least a fun action movie.
In 2084, the Earth has been nearly overrun by aliens. The last survivors of the human race are fighting a losing battle in the mountains of Tibet. Naturally, these survivors have mad scientists with them who develop all these cool gadgets, as well a time-machine. Milly (Anne Suzuki) volunteers to go back to 2002 to stop the war from beginning. Upon arrival, she teams up with Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Miyamoto is a mercenary seeking vengeance against the Triad gangster, Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani), who in turn, may actually have caused the war in the first place. Convenient.
A Japanese friend of mine originally recommended 'Returner' to me, and another friend of ours, knowing full well we are easily impressed by explosions. If, like me, you are easily impressed by explosions and have not yet seen 'Returner', you should stop reading and go watch it right now.
'Returner' is little more than a stylish action movie. Most of the plot seems to be taken from random elements of 'Terminator', ID4, and 'Leon', and styled in a similar way to ID4, 'Matrix', and a fair number of John Woo movies. I must admit that any comparison to the 'Matrix' is a tad unfair, as the 'Matrix' was also made up of elements from nearly every movie John Woo ever made. As a sci-fi / action movie, 'Returner' is entertaining, if a little cheesy. The action scenes are generally awesome and exciting.
'Returner' is a fun action movie. It should at least satisfy hardcore action fans, and should be entertaining enough for anyone looking for a fun movie - 7/10
This has admittedly taken a lot of inspiration from Matrix, Terminator, Independence Day, ET, Predator, and probably a few others that I didn't notice. However, it seems more like a tribute to the movies, than a lazy ripoff, as it treats the source material with the respect it requires. The plot is very good, it borrows heavily from Terminator, but it gives it a bit of a twist that is pretty interesting. The science fiction portion of the movie is pretty good; the effects are nothing short of stunning and mind-blowing. The CGI totally mixes in perfectly with the live action, without at any point in the movie looking out of place. The action sequences are fantastic; sure, the action is often heavily inspired by films like The Matrix, but they pull it off pretty good. Some sequences leave you yearning for more. The acting is pretty good. I saw it with English audio, so I can't really say anything about the original actors voices, but the English/American voice actors did their job well. The only negative thing I can say about the film, is that the plot drags a bit in some places. At certain times, the movie seemed to not move on at all. However, this is only a few instances in the first part of the movie, and no one should be discouraged from watching it simply because of that. It's a damn good action/sci-fi movie, as long as you can accept that the concept is not particularly original. I recommend this to anyone who liked The Matrix, or similar films. 8/10
In 2084, the mankind is near total annihilation by alien invaders.
Milly (Anne Suzuki), a young woman from the Earth resistance, uses a
time machine and returns to October, 2002, trying to avoid the
beginning of alien invasion and the war. In her arrival in a ship, she
is rescued and saved from the yakuza evil boss Mizoguchi (Goro
Kishitani) buy a hit-man called Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Using
unconventional methods, Milly forces Miyamoto to help her to save the
human race. "The Returner" is a good surprise: the story uses many
elements of "The Matrix" (the shootings, the costume of Miyamoto),
"Clockstoppers" (the apparatus that makes time stand quite still), "The
Terminator" (the traveling back in time to save the human race) and
even "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (an alien that wants to return home).
However, although having some flaws in the story (as usual, when
dealing with time travel), it is a great entertainment. The chemistry
between the beautiful Anne Suzuki and Takeshi Kaneshiro is excellent,
and Goro Kishitani is a great villain. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "O Retorno" ("The Return")
An excellent movie, with a lot of Japanese clichés, like transforming robots, ningas, and strange new technology. I swear, this must have been the best bullet time I've ever seen. It's even better than The Matrix. No only do you see the bullets, but also the streamers of air coming off of them, and they can be moved if something passes through them. Also, it accurately shows bullets going though flesh, and many other cool things in bullet time. The ending was strong, and tied up many plot holes and paradoxes. The ending was very surprising, yet touching. Overall, excellent film, with unique storyline, cute aliens, realistic special effects, and believable action.
I know that I will definitely have to see this film again. Japanese movies
are getting that sleek futuristic look and Returner is chock full of it.
Although I have to admit, there seem to be a lot of "homages" ranging from
Matrix, Men in Black to Fifth Element, X-Files and so on. Still, it's an
action packed with cool style to boot.
The main hero and butt whooping babe work well together. From martial arts, lasers, guns, explosions, action scenes are so rapid that you're left blinking in awe. I definitely think towards the final 30 minutes, it does seem to go on a tangent and a friend and I were trying to piece together what we could and keep up. The CG is used well in enhancing the style of the film, especially the futuristic technology stuff.
If possible, catch this in the theater or on a good home system and you won't be disappointed.
I can forgive this film for it's derivate nature. I have no real concerns
with it pinching elements from a myriad of films. (If you see it you'll know
which films) What annoys me is even with the blatant plagiarising going on
it could have been so much better than it turned out to be. Three main
factors murder the film in cold blood. One is the sorry excuse for a script.
Just because the premise was unoriginal didn't mean they had to throw in
every cliche in the book. It's awful, awful writing. Plain embarrassing. I
squirmed on many occasions. Secondly the soundtrack. What a mess. Bouncing
from heavy rock to dance fused rock to serene piano and strings all within a
few scenes. It's one of the worst soundtracks ever and seriously disrupts
the film. Lasty are the character inconsistencies. Our hero flits from being
an unstoppable, brutal, emotionless killing machine with no fear to a scared
kid getting freaked out by a fire alarm. It just doesn't sit right at all.
His character arc is all over the place. All these factors, not the story
itself, contribute to dragging Returner down to straight to video hell. A
shame as the production values ain't too bad. One last thing. The director
handles the action well but seemingly has no idea what type of film he wants
to make. The tone of the film zig zags from one extreme to the other leaving
you completely bewildered. If you can ignore the poor writing and the messy
structure then you may get some enjoyment from this little flick. The action
scenes ain't too bad after all. Don't expect too much from the film itself
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