AsianMovieWeb logo
Original Title:

Japan 2002

Sci-Fi, Action

Takashi Yamazaki

Takeshi Kaneshiro
Anne Suzuki
Goro Kishitani
Yukiko Okamoto

Search AsianMovieWeb


Story: Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is a mercenary, who gets rid of criminals for money. On one of his missions he runs into the organ dealer Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani), who he is looking for since being a child, because he killed his best friend. However, just when Miyamoto can finally take his revenge he is interrupted by the appearance of a girl in strange clothes named Milly (Anne Suzuki), who he accidentally shots. Mizoguchi can escape and Miyamoto takes care of the girl, bringing her to his home. When he discovers that she was lucky and her wound isn't serious at all, he is just going to show her the door. But the girl starts to tell him an unbelieveable story.
Milly claims to be from the future, in which mankind lost a war against an alien race they call "Daggra". The last survivors invented a time machine with which Milly traveled back through time to kill the first of the aliens here in Miyamato's present, before it could call its mothership for help.
Miyamoto thinks that Milly has just gone nuts, but he is left with no other choice than to help her, because she placed a miniature bomb on his neck.
Over time Miyamoto has to find out that Milly is right after all! A crushed alien spaceship and its pilot are kidnapped from a secret lab by Mizoguchi. Now it's up to the odd team Miyamoto and Milly to stop Mizoguchi and prevent a war...

Review: "Returner" is a Sci-Fi-Blockbuster that makes use of many ideas of other popular representatives of the genre without batting an eyelid. The end product is a movie with a great story, even though several parts of it are well-known, and breathtaking special effects, which make the action sometimes look almost epic. This is the more surprising as apart from that the movie can't deny its special B-movie charm. Yet, this isn't bad at all, since one had the finesse to present all of this with a wink every now and then. So at the end there is a well entertaining Sci-Fi popcorn-flick - no more, no less.

It's astonishing how rudely "Returner" makes use of the ideas of some classics and yet manages not to feel ridiculous. The main plot reminds us of a mixture of "Terminator", "Independence Day" and "E.T.", but later on there are also some signs of influences of movies like "Back to the Future" or "The Matrix". Some of these "hints" are almost so obvious that one could make a really good drinking game out of the movie. Who recognizes the next innuendo, e.g. in form of a spinning motorcycle right out of the chasing scene of "Mission: Impossible 2"?
What may sound as being really cheap and uninvenitve proves to work out extremely good. That is because director Takashi Yamazaki ("Juvenile") manages to imbue his work with a lot of unique charm and comes up with some nice twists that keep the viewer interested until the ending credits.

Nonetheless, besides all the praise, the story also has some downsides. This is because of the good old time traveling issue. Since I'm very fascinated by this stuff, I can be of help with some backgound knowledge and there are some questions that did come to my mind more than once. The scriptwriter of "Returner", however, didn't go through that much effort, as it seems.
For example, how can one corroborate the theory, that one just vanishes when one succeded in altering his present in the past? And how could you still keep possession of your memory that you attained in the past, even though you just altered your present and by doing so also caused your own travel to the past not to happen anymore? As a matter of fact there is no reason for traveling through time, now!
Well, apart from all of these logical flaws, which are just typical for sci-fi movies (there is only "12 Monkeys" that comes to my mind, which dealt with the problem in a satisfying manner) there are also some other mistakes. High security gates are opened by just shooting at them and the aliens need more than 80 years to eradicate humankind, despite all their technological superiority. And above all else for whatever reasons they are not able to travel through time themselves?

Well, it doesn't matter, as the rest of the movie does more than make up for these flaws. Told in greyish and gloomy pictures there is a cool atmosphere, there is always something going on, frequent flashbacks reveal the past/future of the protagonists and several small details pamper the eye. Which brings us to the special effects. One word: Impressive!
Concerning the special effects "Returner" doesn't need to hide behind his big Hollywood rivals. Everything looks real and as if a good amount of many was available when making the movie. The mother ship including its transforming abilities is as amazingly animated as the aliens themselves or the post-apocalyptic world. Sadly, we don't get to see enough of the latter one.
The CGI-effects really surprised me since one even nowadays can expect only little out of Asia in regards of realistically looking special effects. They add a lot to the movie's atmosphere and with their range of small details will definitely have you watch in awe.

The efforts of the actors are somewhere between good and decent. Takeshi Kaneshiro and Anne Suzuki give a solid performance and a nice job in bringing the movie forward. Their characters are written with heart, which is why it is easy for the viewer to sympathize with them. Kaneshiro also has some pretty cool action scenes, e.g. when he slows down time with a little tool of Milly, dodges bullets, takes down his enemies and reloads his weapon in a damn impressive way. A scene that will stick with you for quite some time.
Apart from that, there are also some other very nice action scenes. Being only 15 years old at the time of shooting, Suzuki also does some of her stunts herself, but the coolness factor is definitely brought into play by coat-wearing Miyamoto.
The villian, portrayed by Goro Kishitani, may be a little bit of a stereotype, yet he is a great lunatic opponent, who every now and then beats up his subordinates and for whatever reasons moves in the gunbattles as if he could dodge bullets with ease.
The good overall picture, however, gets spoiled by the gruesome performances of the english-speaking survivors of the future. Here, there is without a doubt B-movie flair in the air...

"Returner" is actually a strange mix. The humour which is periodically thrown into the movie blends perfectly into the serious atmosphere of the film, only the always changing music style is a bit confusing. At the latest when hearing Lenny Kravitz while the ending credits roll over the screen, you'll get aware of this.
Sometimes the film is quite gory, there are not that many action sequences, the dramatic moments doesn't always look convincing a 100 percent, and yet there is something about the movie that will let you condone all of these flaws without having a bad conscience. Sure, the movie looks a little bit familiar, but at least the several ideas are derived from other movies with a system and in a well done way. At the bottom line, there is just a very entertaining Sci-Fi movie, that guarantees a nice evening.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
Buy this movie:

Yesasia Logo