According to the official press release, ”Returner’ combines the hyper real action of ‘The Matrix’ with the futurism of ‘Minority Report.” These comparisons are no exaggeration. Add to that elements from the ‘Terminator’ and ‘Independence Day.’ ‘Returner’ is the resulting synthesis. Its risky attempt at successful fusion of its blockbuster brethren manages to hit the mark.
The heroine of the movie, a young girl named Milly (Ann Suzuki), lives in 2084, where the human race is on the verge of extinction by alien invaders. Nearly escaping death, Milly warps back in time to present-day Japan. Now ‘a returner,’ Milly assumes the responsibility of saving the earth from its apocalyptic fate. Her unlikely companion is Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a lone killer at war with Japan’s crime leader, Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani). Milly persuades Miyamoto to help her find and rescue an earth-bound alien to prevent humanity’s tragic demise.
Besides its cheesiness factor and corny dialogue, ‘Returner’ still manages to succeed in delivering an entertaining experience. I half-expected ‘Returner’ to be a low-budget, B-movie with nothing new to offer, but these expectations were in error.
The CGI software used to bring the movie’s alien marauders to life shows a stunning display of visual effects. Like the painstakingly realistic renders of ‘Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within,’ ‘Returner’ dishes out just the right amount of eye candy without sacrificing plot and character development.
‘Returner’ is well-paced and manages to maintain a good balance throughout the movie. As more intricacies of the plot are slowly unraveled, equal attention is given to the development of the two protagonists, Milly and Miyamoto.
We get to witness Milly reluctantly assume her role as mankind’s savior while Miyamoto struggles to resolve his haunting past and fulfill a personal vendetta. As the film progresses, Milly and Miyamoto adopt an almost brother-sister relationship. Their playful and humorous interactions serve to lighten the mood in even the worst situations.
Goro Kishitani delivers an exceptional performance as the fiendish and ruthless Mizoguchi. He seeks to thwart Milly and Miyamoto’s efforts at every turn. Mizoguchi mercilessly executes a countless number of people. He’s so spontaneous in his killings that one can expect him to shoot anyone who gives him a funny look. He never breaks stride and exudes coolness, especially as he marches down the corridors of a laboratory in a suave strut, wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigar, while surrounded by his own personal SWAT team.
There are many ‘Matrix’-esque moments in ‘Returner.’ Milly wears on her wrist a device that can be used to slow time around her. It is an integral accessory as Milly and Miyamoto both rely on it to escape from some rather bleak situations. The device is not abused and logically activated, resulting in some cool scenes where Milly sprints past a swarm of guards and Miyamoto dodges bullets as they slowly fly towards him. Sure we’ve seen it before, but it’s still fun to watch.
Maybe it’s partially due to my extensive exposure to subtitled anime, but even though the majority of the dialogue in ‘Returner’ is in Japanese with English subtitles, I never found them to detract from the action happening on screen.
Despite the often cheesy delivery of many lines, which may be attributed in part to the localization, the quirky dialogue is sure to evoke some laughter.
Some of the more far-fetched scenes made it near impossible for me to ‘suspend disbelief,’ forcing me to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the stunts being performed. I hope ‘Returner’ was trying to inadvertently poke fun at itself, because there is only so much one can swallow.
If you’re looking for a hip, clever, stylish, sci-fi fiction movie with an edge, ‘Returner’ is sure to delight. You won’t find an intertwining love story or highly emotional drama here, aside from the sentimental ending, so approach the movie with that in mind.
‘Returner’ opens Oct. 17 in select theaters across the country, including the theater across the street at Edwards University Town Center 6.