Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki, Kirin Kiki, Goro Kishitani, Yukiko Okamoto,
2002, 118 Minutes, Directed by: Takashi Yamazaki
Eighty years in the future, time is running out on mankind. The only hope
rests with a brave time traveler who must return to the past to change
history...and alter Earth's destiny. 2084. After decades of intense
fighting, an alien invasion force is close to destroying what's left of the
world. In a last-ditch effort to save the human race, a guerrilla fighter
named Miri leaps into a waiting Time Shifter. With the Alien Wars set to
begin in 72 hours, she tricks Miyamoto, a skilled martial arts expert and
gunman, into joining her cause. Together the two launch an all-out assault
on the local crime lord who's captured a spaceship - and imprisoned its
extraterrestrial pilot. Now the Returner and her partner must free the
captive alien before warships begin to attack the planet —
A young girl is sent back in time to prevent an 80-year-old war between
humanity and aliens from ever happening. Along the way she teams up with a
martial arts and weapons expert, replete with swirling leather jacket
The Matrix. In the process she becomes involved in
the life-long vendetta between our hero and a Yakuza crime boss (don’t ask –
at least the plot is more comprehensible than
Ghost in the Shell).
Why did it take a superior
and advanced alien race this long to subdue the Earth? I don’t know, but
this is only one of many plot points and wild coincidences that are never
explained in this live action Japanese movie, which was also the biggest
grosser in that country upon its release in 2002. Then I’m not even
referring to the usual logic paradoxes that stymie time travel stories here.
mention that it is live action movie because if you’re in the West you’d be
forgiven for mistakenly thinking that Japan only produces anime features.
Returner might as well be an anime movie though with its over-the-top
action sequences and crammed plot.
You might have gathered
from my brief plot synopsis above that Returner doesn’t have a single
original thought in its head (a bit like Roland Emmerich, the director of
Independence Day). Returner wantonly mixes
plot elements and visual cues from the Terminator
movies, The Matrix, Luc Besson action flicks,
E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial and, yes, even
Not that it matters much
though: the movie just barrels pig-headedly ahead and mixes its various
influences in a way that almost approaches a kind of inspired lunacy.
Despite consisting of bits from other movies (like the recent
Equilibrium) Returner is however never
all that predictable.
The special effects are
also unexpectedly good (you gotta love those Transformer 'bot
things!) and the fresh-faced cast is game, especially Goro Kishitani as the
Yakuza psycho bad guy. Although proceedings begin to drag a bit past the
half-way mark, action movie and anime buffs ought to check out Returner.
Personally I liked it
better than the recent Terminator 3 – Rise of the
Machines sequel, which seemed like a tired rehash of the previous films
in the series. If you want to rehash things, you have to be ambitious and
steal from a lot of other movie and do it energetically, like
Returner does . . .