05 September 2008

20th Century boys movie 「20世紀少年 第1章」

The first of the trilogy 20th Century Boys (or 20 Seiki Shounen) live action movies has been released in Japan from last week. The next movie is planned for January 2009, with the third planned for Fall 2009. The movie is based on the manga authored by Urasawa Naoki, who also wrote Monster. I don't think there are many impression on this movie in English yet, as the manga doesnt is not released in English yet, and its not yet adapted into an anime series either.

Quick synopsis (full of spoilers):
The story basically follows Kenji and his childhood friends fighting against evil that wants to destroy the world (how many movies/games have this theme before?)
The twist is that the evil organization is doing its evil deeds based on the prophecy book (予言の書) written by Kenji when he was a still a kid. The prophecy book is nothing but a child's fantasy of good fighting against evil, so why would anyone want to base their actions on such a book?

The evil organization is even using the symbol that Kenji and his friends used for their group when they were still in grade school. The leader of the organization, who named himself the "friend" never shows up his face, and no one knows his identity. Kenji suspects this "friend" has been doing all the evil acts that has been happening all over the world, yet he does not know the identity of this person, who most likely is one of his friends during grade school.
As they head up to the last day of the year 2000, Kenji and his friends is preparing for a showdown, as was written in the prophecy....

So the first movie covers the manga up to the last seconds of the year 2000. There is also a very short scene on the year 2014 in the end showing Kanna running away from the cops.

I think the movie is quite enjoyable if you already know the story. Otherwise, it can be quite confusing, and may not make much sense. Even when you read the manga, the story is not straight forward, as it is not meant to be. A major part of the story is the mystery of the story itself. A lot of flashback is used, and the whole story would cover a very long period of time. A lot of the scene in the manga doesn't make it into the movie, as the story have to be compressed. This would just add to the confusion to those unfamiliar with the story. Additionally, 20th Century boys also has lots of characters. As a result, the viewer may feel they barely knew the characters at the end of the movie, with the exception of Kenji and one or two other characters.

I think the same problem is occurring, for instance in the Harry Potter movies. I regard most of the scenes in the movie is well executed, but because the story is so long, many important scenes cant be included in the movie due to time constraints.
In my opinion, one of the best adaptations of a long novels/manga into a movie is The Lord of The Rings. I watched the movies years after I read the novel, so I don't remember many of the details of the story. Yet, I didn't feel anything missing as the story in the movie flowed from one scene to another very well. Its a rarity in long novel adaptations, unfortunately.

So, 5 months until the next movie.
20th Century boys movie official website

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