THE RETURNER, directed and co-written by the award winning Takashi Yamazaki, is a time-traveling, extraterrestrial, stoot-em-up, sci-fi, action, Asian flick heavily borrowing cinematic elements from Japanese Animation. The film is so characteristically Japanese that most American moviegoers will be confused by the lack of continuity between scenes and conflicting themes. The audience often missed the genre’s style and laughed during the serious and sentimental moments because of this apparent lack of connection. Although this movie is not made for an American audience, some viewers may like the movie because it took the vivid visuals of Japanese Animation and translated them to film. Not since THE MATRIX has a movie borrowed so heavily from this genre, and do so convincingly. This movie is reserved only for those who enjoy and appreciate Anime; the average moviegoer will be lost and will not find this movie entertaining in the least.
The movie opens in the year 2084 and the human race is fighting a vastly superior alien army in the last stages of the destruction of mankind. Secretly hidden in the mountains of Tibet are the last remnants of the human resistance. Just before total annihilation by the aliens, a team of scientists constructs a time machine to send one lone warrior, the last hope of mankind, back in time to stop the alien invasion before it starts. Unfortunately, the chosen warrior is killed, and a young teenage girl named Milly (Anne Suzuki) takes it upon herself to complete the mission in present day Japan. A chance encounter with Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a street-smart gunman embroiled in a crime war with Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani), Japan’s most powerful crime kingpin, provides Milly with the help she needs. Teamed up, Milly and Miyamoto fight to protect a marooned alien whose death will trigger the 80 years of war.
THE RETURNER has little to contribute morally nor does it try to do so. A major stylistic break from American movies, this Japanese film does not expect you to understand the movie until it’s over. It is so culturally rooted that the pace of the movie may seem incongruent and off balance. As evidenced by the awards that the film and the director have earned, Japanese audiences seem to understand and appreciate what Americans would not find understandable.
The worldview of this movie is very pagan. There is no right or wrong; only circumstances dictate what stance the characters take. Milly’s ally, Miyamoto, only gets involved with saving the world because she lies to him and tricks him into helping her. The crime leader, Mizoguchi, demonstrates his depravity by his rampages of senselessly killing but this is hardly a moral statement.
Revenge is an overarching theme of the movie. Eighty years of alien invasion are precipitated by the death of their leader and the revenging of his death on the human race. Rather than taking her own revenge, however, Milly has compassion on the stranded alien. As she fights to save him and the future of the human race, she demonstrates the power of forgiveness and understanding. Thus, the premise of the movie has a redemptive aspect.
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SUMMARY: THE RETURNER is set in the year 2084 when a team of scientists use their untested time machine to send one person back in time to stop earth’s invasion and save mankind from annihilation. The worldview of this movie is very pagan, although the premise of the movie has a redemptive aspect.
(PaPa, C, LL, VVV, D, MM) Strong pagan worldview with a redemptive premise; 13 obscenities and three profanities; very strong violence includes brutal shooting of children (off screen) and a body count surpassing the run-time of the movie; no sex; no nudity; no alcohol; mild tobacco use; and, strong miscellaneous immorality, notably the implied rounding up and slaughtering of street children for their organs and continuous wanton murder.
GENRE: Animation/Science Fiction