Returner

“Hey, they washed my face!”

The Scoop: 2002 NR, directed by Takashi Yamazaki and starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki, and Kirin Kiki

Tagline: Who cares about the future?

Summary Capsule: Humanity in the future is kaput, so the Terminators send back one lucky girl in time to make things right. Wait, that’s not right.

Justin’s Rating: [flailing my arms] Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Justin’s Review: I hate to boast of my natural superiority, but I have to say that I am so much smarter than movie people. Movie people wouldn’t know a certain haunted house death trap from a haunted hole in the ground, and movie people never blindly accept when a person says that they’re from the future, and they’ve traveled back in time and need your help. Myself, I’m all about insta-belief. Every purported time traveler that has approached me learns that I can be their best friend. And I’ve only regretted helping them about 45% of the time.

It’s so frustrating, then, when movie people are slower to believe the obvious facts of the movie world, when we the audience have accepted it as truth from about minute one on in. Returner stars a time travel orphan from the future who comes back in time and then tries to spend the next hour convincing thinly-mustached Matrix-clone guy that she’s not completely off her rocker. It’s the sort of situation that demands the skills of a movie intervention.

Returner is a fairly bold attempt by the Japanese to make an American-style big budget summer blockbuster. And by “fairly bold”, I mean “makes a Frankenstein monster out of parts of most major scifi favorites that we’re quite familiar with.” While some critics seem to be upset with this liberal plagiarism of classic film material, it doesn’t phase me much at all. After all, if the Japanese steal ideas from our movies, it comes back to the fact that some of our movies (like said Matrix) were obviously ripped off of Japanese entertainment in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle of buggery.

Milly, the girl from the future, is sent back after humanity is losing a war with aliens, and only she can change the past to set wrong things right. Hello, Terminator, right down to the time travel-bubble that she falls through. She falls into league with Miyamoto, who, despite sounding like a brand of motorcycles, is actually some sort of bounty hunter/superhero/martial arts expert who likes to wear black trenchcoats and shoot things up with his pistol. Bonjour, Matrix. This unlikely duo bonds over a warm, friendly game of “hide the explosives on each other’s necks”, and they go after a maniac-laughing bad guy who’s responsible for starting the alien-human war. Then, it goes without saying that the aliens have a mothership and designs that might as well be the step-sister of the ones in Independence Day, and there’s a highly cute telepathic alien with a huge noggin (konichiwa, E.T.).

Nothing in Returner is excellent or high-class, but I don’t think they were trying to make this last for the ages, either. It’s effective, glossy entertainment that mashes a lot of older (and better) ideas together and regurgitates them into a fairly nifty mess at the bottom of your love nest. The acting — particularly with the horrible English dubbing — is nothing to appreciate, but the action and special effects (when they arrive) approach some of the better B-movie blockbusters that we release around mid-August every year. Little touches, such as a watch that slows down time around the user or airplanes that transform into alien spaceships, are a dose of geek sugar.

I think it’s just good general policy, even if you don’t believe in the possibility for time travel, to just play along with the notion if the person claiming to be from the future is a cute girl who finds your noodle-cooking to be scrumptious. Take a hint from me and Returner, and you’ll do just fine.

Of course, you could be Kyle, in which you’d case your decision to rent Returner on one fact, which he shared with me during a recent phone call: “Is the girl hot? I mean, does she clean up well? Yeah.”

I wish ALL movies would do this for me.

Intermission!

  • That’s one way to keep kids under control
  • It’s Die Hard on a ship… within three minutes!
  • Trenchcoats mean business
  • It’s the Terminator time travel bubble!
  • When all else fails, growl angrily at the bad guy
  • He doesn’t check on where she’s hit until she’s awake and asks her about it?
  • That’s one way to get his attention – neck bombs!
  • A time-slowing watch… cool!
  • She’s got cuuuuute eyes
  • Well, he’s pretty hands-on with sticking his hands into an alien… hope that works out for him
  • A ninja squad! I wanna join the ninja squad!
  • The background for the TV news crew looks like someone’s kitchen
  • This store has food, clothes and a hairdresser… what is this place?
  • The “LOOK” sign the director had to show you… kind of really dumb
  • Painful personal revelation dialogue
  • Is she freaking kissing the alien?

Groovy Quotes

Bad Guy: [after shooting one of the children] What? What’s wrong? They’re quiet now, aren’t they?

Millie: If my life ends, BANG, your head will be blown up!

Good Guy: I didn’t believe a word of it, you moron!

Millie: Hey, they washed my face!

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1 Comment

  1. It’s so frustrating, then, when movie people are slower to believe the obvious facts of the movie world, when we the audience have accepted it as truth from about minute one on in.

    On the off-chance you weren’t being sarcastic, the reason movie people are slower to believe obvious facts is because they aren’t obvious facts. Unlike us viewers, movie people don’t receive the same levels of expostition we do. Therefore, the average movie person can be forgiven for being skeptical of some random joe claiming to be from the future.

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