'Parasyte – Completion': Film Review

Yet another example of stretching too many films out of too little source material.

Box office favorite Takashi Yamazaki and stars Shota Sometani and Tadanobu Asano return with the concluding half of the popular manga adaptation.

When Japanese box office staple Takashi Yamazaki (The Eternal Zero, Space Battleship Yamato) took on Hitoshi Iwaaki’s popular manga series Kiseiju, it seemed like a tall order. But Yamazaki and co-writer Kosawa Ryota managed to strike a balance between goofy gore, action and black comedy in the first of a two-part film set. Parasite – Part 1 (which was released in Japan in the fall of 2014) was a surprisingly entertaining romp and a box office hit, with strong action set pieces, good pacing and a kicker of an ending that actually left viewers with a hankering for more—even if it was a lot of set-up. Just what you need going into part two. But proving that sometimes a single 140-minute feature would do just fine instead of dual two-hour films Parasyte – Completion is a conclusion in search of a movie—and a pay-off.

The two-part feature is always a risk, and relies, first, on audiences actually responding to the initial film and, second, on a strong finish coming soon enough after part one to be fresh. Audiences do forget; there’s a reason two-parters work best on television. Kill Bill mostly succeeded and Gangs of Wasseypur had foreign film/art house cachet on its side, but it was also one long film cut in half. The less said about Gantz and Iceman the better. Parasyte – Completion’s less humorous tone and dreary preaching (humanity is awful, the Earth would be better without us, etcetera and so on) take the wind out of any momentum part one generated after roughly 20 minutes, and spirals into tedium from there. The film is a prime example of filmmakers, production houses and distributors hoping to squeeze one more box office hit out of their source material that doesn’t always demand it, the net result being a struggle for content (this says nothing, of course, of unnecessary trilogies and quadrilogies). Taken together the films could find a home in genre festivals as a marathon “event,” and should find DVD interest among Iwaaki completists. Regional box office will rely on returnees, but overseas release seems unlikely unless a radical re-edit materializes.

Picking up after the explosive final moments of Parasite – Part 1, our young hero Shinichi (Shota Sometani, The Snow White Murder Case) is still struggling with his faltering humanity in the wake of his mother’s death and a parasite massacre at his high school (the first film’s standout sequence). He still has his alien parasite friend Migi (voiced by Sadao Abe) on his right arm, and the duo are still trying to stop the random parasite psychopath murders. In the meantime, the conquering parasite cabal, led by the mayor Takeshi Hirokawa (Kazuki Kitamura) is mediating between the scientifically curious Ryoko Tamiya (Eri Fukatsu, Villain), once a teacher, and the aggressive penta-parasited Goto (Tadanobu Asano, who had about 10 seconds of screen time at the end of part one). Tamiya is also an advocate of cooperation, even more so now that she’s given birth to the human baby of her host. Elsewhere, journalist Kuramori (Nao Omori, Ichi the Killer himself) is threatening to reveal the parasites to the world while simultaneously being manipulated by Tamiya into spying on her rivals.

That’s a lot of narrative for the relatively little action that unfolds. Taking the film to task for its lack of thrills is nearly blasphemous in an age where explosions are gold and character moments are the kiss of box office death. Technically Completion is strong and its few effects-heavy moments are as polished as any of Yamazaki’s films. But Completion doesn’t exploit its quietude and leaves the most interesting elements of the film underexplored (if at all) and its potentially richest characters underdeveloped. The one-time teacher turned invasion leader Tamiya deserves far more thought than she gets (as does actress Fukatsu). What’s made her a believer in coexistence? How much does the baby influence her? How does she reconcile the contradictions within humanity she witnesses? Character details like that would ultimately bolster the narrative and make Tamiya’s change of heart less jarring, but Yamazaki and Ryota abandon them in favor of one lecture on environmentalism after another. Omori and Asano are more archetypes than characters—the wounded milquetoast, the Big Bad—and are mostly wasted in what little time they have. Given the recent events in Japan the Earth Day sermonizing is thematically relevant, but even that remains unexplored in full. Parasite – Completion ultimately becomes a series of closing arguments without a context to argue them in.

Production company: Robot, Toho Pictures, Office Abe Shuji

Cast: Shota Sometani, Sadao Abe, Ai Hashimoto, Tadanobu Asano, Nao Omori, Kazuki Kitamura, Eri Fukatsu, Hirofumi Arai

Director: Takashi Yamazaki

Screenwriter: Kosawa Ryota, Takashi Yamazaki, based on the manga by Hitoshi Iwaaki

Producer: Genki Kawamura, Keiichiro Moriya, Takahiro Sato

Executive producer: Seiji Okuda, Shuji Abe, Akihiro Yamauchi

Director of photography: Shoichi Ato

Production designer: Yuji Hayashida, Eri Sakushima

Editor: Junnosuke Hogaki

Music: Naoki Sato

World sales: Toho

 

No rating, 118 minutes

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