Patlabor 2: The Movie is often referred to as one of Mamoru Oshii’s most underrated films. After watching it, I have to disagree. It simply isn’t accessible or enjoyable enough to make it a fan favorite in my opinion, and certainly not one I’m willing to recommend, unless you are one of those really, really intellectual film viewers who turns up their nose at the stuff normal people watch.
This fairly philosophical film plays out in Japan, as a terrorist group blows up an important bridge but attempt to frame the American military in the process. These incidents escalate and eventually police turn against the military as a potential coup threatens to destroy the very stability of the Japanese nation.
In the midst of this, the Metropolitan Police Labor academy under Kiichi Goto’s lead, attempt to unravel the events and find the true cause of the issue, with the help of a shady government official who appears to be hiding as much as what he is revealing!
Despite the title marking this as being a Patlabor movie, there is actually very little Patlabor in it. Instead, the movie is slow-paced and methodical, as Oshii stresses out all the political and back alley machinations to build up to a strong story, but ultimately a fairly boring movie if you came here for something a little bit more action orientated, based on the name alone. Sure there are some brief gun fight scenes towards the end, but outside of those, this is one long plod, interspersed with a few brief moments of humour.
Of course, all of that said, this actually is a very well written movie, with a good cast of characters and a solid premise, so even though I didn’t really enjoy watching the film, I can’t say it is because it’s no31t a polished piece of work.
The animation as you can expect from Production I.G. is top class, with beautiful backgrounds, military vehicles, and of course character designs. Clever lighting adds to the beautifully muted colours and as such, Patlabor 2 looks everything like a Oshii movie should.
Similarly the music score by Kenji Kawai backs up the story well, with a competent and enjoyable vocal artists rounding off what is a very polished package.
In summary, you’ve really got to like the heavy, intellectual stuff to get the most out of this movie, which of course means it isn’t for most people. Nevertheless, it is a strong movie and certainly skillfully made, meaning that if you are able to enjoy something like this, go for it. It is after all an Mamoru Oshii production.
As for me, the fact that a mecha movie (based on the franchise name) didn’t deliver what a mecha movie should, it did leave me quite disappointed, and with the feeling that I had just wasted two hours of my life. Oh well, can’t win them all I suppose.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patlabor_2