Sunday, October 16, 2011

20th Century Boys 3: Redemption (2009)

Before I talk about the final film of the 20th Century Boys trilogy you need to know a couple of things:

First there will be spoilers about the first two films

Next you need to know that the manga and the films don’t end the same way. Requirements of productions forced them to diverge from the source.

Lastly the end is really good but really messy, there are bits unresolved and things are sped through and it’s ragged, but it’s okay.

With Friend seemingly back from the dead, and Kenji returned from exile the move to stop the madness, save the world and reveal who is the madman is. It’s a wild action packed battle to the end that lasts literally until the last credit rolls.

I saw the first two films on July 4 2009. I had to wait almost a year to see how it all came out when the film hit DVD overseas in the spring of 2010. When the film arrived in the mail I instantly cleared the decks and went off and curled up with the film. I had to see how it all came out.

I was not disappointed. Things played out at a fever pitch and things ended with several really cool set pieces, one of which was a giant robot that mirrored the one that ended the first film. I liked that the film maintained a balance between action and food for thought.

The final revelation of who Friend is was a revelation that brought a great deal of mixed emotion to me; on one hand it feels kind of like a cheat (especially when you consider the ending of the first part) but at the same time it feels right. The WTF nature of it is kind of keeping things real. (who Friend is and what happens in the manga is different, and I recently read that --- who wrote the original admitted that things spun out of his control and he had to play catch up with a story that was writing itself. I don’t know if that is true but having read what it is but not the actual ending, I realize it’s even more messy than the one in the film.)

I like that the film deals with notions of how we are our pasts and how some small event for some people are a game changer for others. I like how the notion of how what we perceive is not always what other people do. Actually what I like is how we have these themes and ideas and riffs running through the film (friendship, perception, religion, greed…) and that they change over the course of the film. This is the rare series that uses it’s great length of time to really explore these themes. I’ve seen the series twice now and it wasn’t until the second go through that I started to notice all these little things going on; complications and twists that make the films greater than they first appear.

It’s also great that the characters arc over the course of the film, how could they not when the film covers many decades of time.

If there are any real problems with it they are ultimately minor. Yes, the films are jagged with bits and pieces left dangling and unresolved. Yes on some level things don’t make complete sense (the end of the first film with the revelation of who friend is doesn’t really jibe) but mostly they work.

For me the only thing that kind of is disappointing is the sequence that runs through the end credits. It’s an okay coda with some potential game change for everything after, but at the same time it’s kind of disappointing. For me it doesn’t really make a hell of a lot difference to the story since by that time things are done and over with by that time and it just drags everything out and kind of feels like an effort not to end everything. In a weird way I find I kind of ignore it.

Ultimately taken as a whole the three 20th century boys films are magical story telling on a scale that no one is doing in film. Its nice to see a huge story compactly told with out digressions of the sort that episodic TV requires to fill the weekly allotment. It’s the sort of intelligent filmmaking that most American studios would shy away from. If they are going to do something this big they are going simplify it to the point of stupidity.

If you like epics and science fiction and food for thought give these films a shot, they won’t disappoint you.

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