Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mystified By The 20th Century Boys

It was an impromptu decision to watch the '20th Century Boys', the
first installment of a trilogy.

The story evolves around Kenji Endo and his group of childhood friends from the 60s. The group build a hideout in a field and spend much of their childhood days at the 'base-camp'. As they day dream their days away, they create a childish but imaginative "Book of Prophecy".

The book is filled with simple sketches depicting the science-fiction inspired future in the year 2000. The group imagine that at the turn of the century, the world would be attacked by robots and only they can stand up to fight them.

The kids grow up and go separate ways. A series of strange events somehow bring them back together again. They continue to be puzzled by the similarities between the mysterious events and what they have 'predicted' in their childhood book.

Meanwhile, a cult known as "Friend" takes control of the political scene in Japan. The leader of the cult group stays behind a ridiculous looking mask throughout the show. His true identity is not known but the group thinks that he might be one of their childhood friends who is fascinated by the 'Book of Prophecy'.

I supposed his mysterious identity is one of the lures for the upcoming installments of the trilogy.

The storyline is based on a successful manga series of the same name. I did not read the manga and in fact, I had the faintest idea what the movie is all about. True to its Japanese manga style, some laughter was drawn when manga-like humor is peppered throughout the show.

I shall not reveal much more about the story lest it becomes a spoiler review.

I find the movie rather patchy with many plots left unexplained. I assume that it is intentional for there are 2 more movies coming along to close the gaps. Zipping to and fro the timeline between the 60s and the 21st century can be mind-boggling. I also struggled to keep track of the numerous characters introduced at random order. The trilogy involves more than 300 people and 200 of those appear in the first movie. Utterly confusing.

I had to remind myself that the story is manga-based and there may not be any logical explanation to many plots in the movie. It appears simplistic that a group of untrained childhood friends can put together impressive resources to fight against the robots. The fight back seems to have proceeded without any proper plan. Given that it is a 140-minute movie, the plots could be better organized.

The total budget for the project is a massive 6 billion yen, making it one of the biggest domestic productions. With that kind of mega budget, I do have a higher expectation of an epic scale production. Somehow, Part I has not delivered that. Let's see if Part II and III will make it up.
Part II will be released in 31 Jan 09 and Part III, Autumn 09.

All is not lost. The soundtrack is great! Check out the "20th Century Boy" by T-Rex.

"Friends say it's fine, friends say it's good
Ev'rybody says it's just like rock 'n' roll
I move like a cat, talk like a rat
Sting like a bee, oh babe I wanna be your man

Verdict: Watch it if you are a manga or Japanese movie fan.

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