Warning: spoilers ahead. 009 Re:Cyborg is a new anime film based on Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori. It was written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the director of Blood: The Last Vampire and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Based on those previous works, I went into the movie expecting a military-related story that explored what it meant to be a cyborg. Needless to say, it was not at all what I expected. But my expectations aside, was it worth a watch?
Note: This review contains major spoilers as that’s the only way to really discuss the movie.
Good — Amazingly Beautiful Action Scenes
During the action scenes, this is a beautiful movie. The use of colours is astounding and the effects used to show off each of the cyborgs’ special powers are stunning -- especially 009’s time-slowing ability. The direction for these scenes is also spot on, and everything feels dramatic and action packed.
Mixed — Exposition Heavy
The talking scenes, on the other hand, are numerous, static and sometimes boring. To explore the movie’s more complex ideas, the characters in 009 spend over half of the movie just standing around talking. While what they talk about is often interesting and necessary for deciphering the movie’s mystery, there are far more interesting ways to convey this information to the audience. As we were all taught in grade school, good writing is all about “show, don’t tell”. This is where the movie’s visual style falters a bit as well. All the characters in this movie have been created using 3D models. During the actions scenes, the models look amazing. Just standing around, however, they often look cheap and out of place.
Mixed — Heavy Religious Supernatural Themes
The movie begins as an investigation into thirty “9-11” style terrorist attacks that have happened across the world, seemingly at random. However, it is quickly discovered by the cyborg cast that the attacks are not only religiously motivated but perhaps divinely instigated. Worse yet, any of them could be the next potential terrorist and never even know it. It is through this context the movie explores what exactly it means to hear “the word of god” and what it would do to the mortal mind in trying to interpret it.
Bad — Deus Ex Machina
When you have so many overt religious/supernatural elements coursing through the story, it should be no surprise that many of the plot twists and revelations are caused by a quite literal deus ex machina -- with the ending of the film being perhaps the most blatant example this side of Bruce Almighty. Frankly, if all it takes is your protagonist yelling at god (read: the sky) to get things to go your way, perhaps you need to rethink your movie.
I went into 009 Re:Cyborg expecting a look at human psychology and instead got a strange lesson in amateur theology. While I applaud the director for trying something new, I feel the film’s message was almost trolling the Western world as it basically insinuated that 9-11 and similar terrorist attacks were divinely caused -- if not flat out divinely controlled. For all that, it is a great-looking movie whenever there is action going on and is worth a watch on that level alone. But in closing, I feel I must point out that it is hard to get into any movie where they discover an angel skeleton—I just kept waiting for it to announce the opening of a new mall.
009 Re:Cyborg was released in Japan (as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea) on October 27, 2012. There is currently no word on a Western release.