Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Devilman


  Being a fan of the character, and at least the three OVAs that have been released, I was excited to find out that a live action Devilman movie had been made. The first warning sign should've been that I'd never heard about it before... and it was made in 2004. The second warning sign probably should've stopped me in my tracks, but no- the painfully low imdb score didn't deter me either. The trailer looked so cool, and well, the OVAs were friggin awesome, so how bad could this really be? I think the movie took that question as a challenge. Although I love Asian cinema (to an extent) I'm not really familiar with a lot of their actors and celebrities, so it's not like I could've offered up casting ideas on who should've played these characters but according to people who seem to know better, they only cast celebrities based on pretty faces, and to hell with acting talent. From what I've seen... I think this was definitely the case. Oh man...

  At first glance, things aren't so bad. The movie seemed to follow the story I knew more or less. I was genuinely excited to see how things went. Well, they went... bad. Fast. In the OVA (and the manga as far as I know) the main character, a young highschooler named Akira, is pulled into a plot to battle demons by his friend Ryo. See, Ryo's dad died trying to implement his theory that a person with a pure heart could 'merge' with a demon and take control of it's powers and strength whilst still remaining in control with a human heart. So Ryo proposed this plan to Akira, the most pure hearted person he knew. Akira agreed, after seeing proof of the demon horde's existence. Eventually, the plan worked, turning Akira into the super powered demon-killing machine, Devilman. HOWEVER, in the movie, Ryo takes Akira back to his house and tells Akira that his Dad turned into a demon and that he's one too. He asks Akira to kill him, and then... I dunno, Akira sorta just merges with a random demon on the spot?

  It was so underwhelming. For one, in the original story, there was purpose and a real drive behind Akira's transformation into Devilman. In this movie, it just sorta... happens. In the original story, they had to elaborately prepare for him to merge with a demon, even setting up a ritual and finding the right location. Again, in this one, it happens on the spot in Ryo's house. Like... what the hell? Then Akira just sorta... feels the urge to find an enemy so he can fight, and this demon bird lady shows up and says he should remember her. He's like, nope, sorry. So she flies him back to Ryo's house to jog his memory. He's like, still nope, sorry. I kid you not, she then says, fine, we'll fight. I have no idea what's even happening! Except that's not entirely true. I saw the OVAs remember?

  According to the OVAs, the demons are after Akira because the demon he merged with was basically the ultimate hero of the demon horde, and they want Akira dead so they can reclaim their hero. This is where the demon bird lady came in- in the second OVA. Akira's merging with the demon Amon was wrapped around a massive climatic action scene of it's own in the first OVA, involving a nightclub full of people who'd been turned into demons. It was long, brutal, gory, and jaw-droppingly cool. Since they changed the circumstances surrounding his merge in the movie, that scene is entirely absent. Thus, they skip right into the story of the second OVA. It feels like a slap to the face, and a major hack job to boot. The demon bird lady fight, which was the major show-stopping battle of the second OVA, is reduced to a lame two-three minute skirmish, followed by a ton more padding.

  This movie is a full-ass two hours. It would feel long even at 90 minutes. Anyways... then Akira encounters another villain from the second OVA. This encounter was terrifying and super important in the OVA, but in the movie, Devilman defeats this creature with one punch, and moves on like nothing happened. So you can see, the movie has a trend of taking the best, coolest moments from the pre-existing stories and completely dulling them down to nothing. Certainly nothing worth watching. If there are any other movies I can compare this to, it would probably be Spawn, and The Last Airbender. Spawn manages to be a better movie surprisingly/not-surprisingly. Better casting, better acting, better effects, it's short, and has a more coherent story. Comparing it to The Last Airbender makes even more sense, and on a whole nother level too. Both are adapted from amazing source material, and both manage to suck all the fun and creativity out of the concept, leaving us with a flashy looking- yet ultimately lifeless hunk of celluloid.

  If the comparison to The Last Airbender wasn't enough for you, or if you didn't loathe that movie (as you should), consider this...

  There is an infamous moment in the manga and the OVAs in which one of the main characters is brutally slain. It's a gut wrenching moment that is hard to look at, and even harder to accept it even happened. When Akira finds the culprits, he 'hulks' out and eviscerates them- then taking the time to grieve on the spot for his fallen friend. In the OVA you can FEEL his anguish. His screams are devastated and I had to cover my mouth because I could feel myself on the verge of unleashing some manly tears too. Yet... this same moment, brought to life with REAL people... ends up completely inert. Akira sorta kinda yells? I mean, Stallone yells better than this brat when his friends die in movies. Apollo Creed in Rocky IV? The chick in First Blood Pt.II? This kid just looked mildly annoyed, and sounded like he was trying to scare a mouse away. The actor was supposed to be reacting to the sight of the decapitated head... but it looked like he was reacting to a shocking tabloid headline instead.

The most devastating thing about the scene was how painfully underwhelming it was to the point of eliciting hopeless laughter from me. I wasn't laughing because it was funny, I was laughing because I realized how utterly bad this movie was. I wanted to like it. I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to. I wanted to walk away from this movie and say, this was actually fun. Maybe it could've been on par with Spawn, as a guilty pleasure? No, just... no. It's entirely devoid of merit. It's just plain bad. So bad. So very very bad. Bad. Super bad. It's super bad man. Totally bad. Save yourself. HOWEVER.. I do urge you to check out the OVAs. They're friggin amazing.

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