Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SPEC - Heaven (劇場版 SPEC~天~ / Gekijyohan SPEC ~Ten)

Stand Off

I have to admit that the first time I saw this film, I couldn't last more than 20 minutes on it, partly because it was viewed from an aircraft's inflight entertainment system on a 10-inch monitor, and partly because what transpired didn't quite have anything to do with its synopsis. SPEC - Heaven draws heavily from its television series on which it is adapted from, continuing the story from that point as with how some other Japanese feature films have done, and comes with the requisite background that you should have already established from the series, spending no time in bringing you up to speed on the characters and their motivations, other than some very quick flashbacks.

The premise will intrigue just about anyone, since the prologue spent time in explaining the three secrets of the Fatima apparitions, and setting up the third one which is quite unexplained, for the story. However, this turned out to be a complete cop out, because nowhere in the film is this referenced again, until the end credits, through a series of still drawings. It's quite the pity though, because it would have been quite intriguing to watch what the filmmakers here could have spun from their imagination.

What we have instead is an investigations by the leading, bickering duo of Saya Toma (Erika Toda), a female detective with an incredibly high IQ, and her partner Takeru Sebumi (Ryo Kase), a career detective. For the uninitiated, they were introduced in a very quirky manner beginning with their building of toy models, before being given a case involving the mystery behind mummified bodies being found on board a luxury cruiser in the ocean. So the chase is afoot, it seems.

Only that it didn't turn out to be half as interesting or promising as you would think it could. A little digging into what this series is about, draws up quite the blank answer, not having watched any episodes from the drama. As far as what I can infer, "SPEC" seems to be a little bit like the X-Files, dealing with unknown criminals who bear certain special mutant-like abilities. And this required the stretching of a bit of imagination, because the investigative duo hardly have any special prowess, but yet were able to fend off really aggressive psychic, or physical attacks.

Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi, responsible for films such as the 20th Century Boys trilogy, and my favourite film Beck, seemed to take his fractured timeline a little too literally, bouncing the film back and forth in time which didn't come with much purpose other than to try and set up some suspense (which fizzled out) in letting on a finale, and how the film would progress to that point. And the finale was also perplexing, suggesting a continuation into a sequel, done in segments that made it seem the filmmakers were reluctant to call it quits at the end of this one. If anything, this was really like 20th Century Boys, starting off really brightly, but fizzled out toward the end.

Still, there were enough crowd pleasing moments interspersed throughout absurd situations, and mild comedy that ventured into slapstick territory. There were numerous illogical moments passing off as comedy, with big, fantastical action sequences showcasing the multitude of special effects, especially when characters exhibit unique abilities. One that stood out involved Madam Yang and Madam Yin (Yûko Asano) in her battle with Sebumi and Toma, with the enemy being the personification of fire and ice, and everything really got thrown into the fray, complete with an extremely gory moment, and bewildering moves that will make you wonder if SPEC - Heaven could throw up any larger surprises than the suitcase utilized here.

Supporting characters come and go, and there's a nagging suspicion due to the fact that they could have come with baggage from the series, and being suddenly introduced, had mixed things up too much, akin to being invited to a party, but not knowing any other people invited, who tend to stick to their own cliques. Still, judging by the response during the screening, fans will certainly lap this up as it continues from where they had last left off on television, but unfortunately for the rest of us, you need to possess plenty of patience in order to stick through to the end.

SPEC - Heaven opens exclusively at Filmgarde Cineplex.

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