So the other day I was at my local used DVD store searching through their titles for some superhero movies and among some overpriced “rare” titles like Doc Savage and Remo Williams I found this DVD. I recognized the name from an anime series, though I never actually watched it. The cover looked pretty interesting for a live action anime movie so I picked it up. I should also mention that part of the reason why I’m reviewing this title is that I started putting what I should watch next for this site up for a vote. Every week or so I’ll post three different posters of movies I’m considering reviewing on this site’s Facebook page and you are free to vote for which one you want me to watch next. This movie won the last vote and I will have a new vote up tomorrow so be sure to “like” my Facebook page if you want to help influence which movies show up here.
Anyway, back to the movie. I’ve seen only a couple other live action anime adaptations and so far I’ve enjoyed them quite a bit. This one, however, left a pretty stale taste in my mouth. The biggest thing this movie had going for it was the character designs. The story in a nutshell is that there is an invasion of demons who are infesting the human population and turning them into human/demon hybrids. Two best friends are at the center of this conflict: Akira and Ryo who have been infested by the demons Amon and Satan, and for some reason Akira calls himself Devilman, yet most everyone still calls him either Akira or Amon. The designs for the demons are pretty fantastic with the odd choice of having wings on their head, and yet I think it works. Devilman, Satan, and the angelic looking demon that shows up for a moment early on look the best, but are really hampered by the poor CGI work.
There are a handful of decent action sequences, along with what I thought was a nice touch of flashing to a manga-style sketch during some of the blows. Unfortunately, they are too few and far between and half of them are done with unnecessary CGI except for the fact that they cast teen pop stars instead of stars who could actually learn fight choreography. I admittedly watched the dubbed version rather than the subbed version, but while it was not a very good dub in the least, from what I’ve read the acting in the subbed version isn’t much better.
The overall plot isn’t really much better, and not at all what I expected based on the blurb on the back of the box and the fact that it was an adapted anime. It starts off like it’s going to be a typical Demons vs. Humans battle with Devilman being the superhero half-demon savior of the humans. But it abandons that plotline pretty quickly in favor of a McCarthyism witch hunt showing Japan becoming a martial state and allowing the shooting of any suspected demons. There’s a random creepy neighbor who spends most of the early part of the movie spying on Akira’s stepsister, and the later part of the movie fingerpointing to people he doesn’t like as being suspected demons and joining in with the Demon Squad made up of citizens in white medivac suits with machine guns. And as a sidestory there’s also a love story between Akira and his stepsister that everyone seems ok with. By the end of the movie, the world becomes a hellish apocolyptic state to set the stage for a final battle between former best friends Akira and Ryo. And on top of all of those plot threads, there are about a dozen other ones that pop in and out of the movie with little regards to rhyme or reason.
I think the most damaging thing this movie has going for it is that there is no cohesion anywhere in the story. The side characters pop in and out and are barely developed, or even there long enough for you to care about them before the movie jumps to the next plot thread. Akira as Devilman barely does anything worthy of being a demon with a human heart and savior of the human race. While I do admit that the movie had my attention through the entire almost two hour runtime, I think that most of that was because if I didn’t pay close attention I would be completely lost as to what was going on. Even so, there were still moments during the movie where I wasn’t sure what was going on, and there’s an entire sense of strangeness over almost everything, especially the giant black NFL player who was broadcasting the news on a giant television screen in English for some reason. Even though I was watching the dubbed version, I could tell that he was speaking in English, and even though he was played by a real actor he felt like he was rendered in CGI for a reason I couldn’t tell until near the end when he reveals himself to be a three faced demon in a laugh-out-loud moment, especially when one of his faces is perpetually crying and the other face is perpetually laughing.
It was an interesting experience watching this movie, that’s for sure. In the hands of a better script writer and a better visual effects department, this could have been something pretty special. Unfortunately it ended up being as ugly as the cheap CGI they used on their characters. I imagine that the anime is much better based on the long lasting popularity of it, but as a live action movie it tries to pack way too much into the running time and almost none of it works. Too bad. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.