2.0, Japan

20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope

New York Asian Film Festival2009 / Yukihiko Tsutsumi > We’ve established that Japan’s incapable of making a proper blockbuster by looking at the treatment the first chapter received, and now that the second chapter’s here, there’s no need to beat that dead rabbit again. But there’s another dead rabbit worth beating, however: Some comics, mangas and books are theoretically unfilmable. They’re considered so because most minds can’t grasp how such works should be portrayed on the screen. In these cases, the director needs to have an innate understanding of not only the work in question, but also the intent of the author as well as a personal vision and style that doesn’t deviate from the aforementioned intent. And that doesn’t happen often, otherwise we wouldn’t be hellbent on panning so many adaptations that’ve peeped through Hollywood’s budget books over the years. But two examples that pop-up instantly in my mind are Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Both utilize different angles of approaching classic works in transforming them into something magical. You could make the argument in each case it was not necessarily the technology that was lacking, but the imaginations. To add further fuel to the fire, consider the creativity that went into Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, a grand gesture of the cinematic medium even before sound arrived!

Tsutsumi just hasn’t done that. Chapter Two is confusing, with terrible pacing and mediocre acting. Even the few dubbed dialogues in Thai aren’t synced properly! The show’s a bloody mess, and really, what more can you expect from a manga that jumbles back and forth, each time letting small pieces of information flow through the storyline. Another thing that’s missing is the sense of scope that the manga provided. Compared to the dystopian vision that Naoki Urasawa intended, the recreation here is childish and almost laughable to the point where the whole plot seems ridiculous. But the manga finds ways to make you believe, and that, above all, leads the movie into a realm of failure. All of this, sadly, I still attribute to terrible production value. In the right hands, this is a masterpiece. But here, it’s just box office fodder.