Ritaanaa (2002)
AKA: Returner (2002)

(Release Date: August 19, 2002)
(October 17, 2003 in the USA)

3.5 Stars... the best retread in HISTORY!3.5 Stars... the best retread in HISTORY!3.5 Stars... the best retread in HISTORY!1/2

Returner is an action packed, smart Thriller
(That You'll find oddly familiar!)

J.C. Mašek III... Greatest Critic Living or Dead!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!


In Japan there's an interesting tradition in entertainment media to repeat oneself until the tokage come home. For example the self-same Tenchi Muy˘ origin story has been made (and successfully sold) with only minor differences at least three times (so far). A "sequel" to a successful film sometimes will follow the exact same story line as the original. It's common to borrow elements from other successful franchises as well, sort of like if Magnum PI suddenly featured the guys from Starsky and Hutch! That's why writer/ director Takashi Yamazaki's Returner was probably received in Japan in the nature it was intended, as a rip-roaring sci-fi actioner with incredible special effects and acting to boot. To many American Audiences, Returner much more resembles a remake of Terminator and The Matrix with a liberal helping of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Transformers thrown in for good measure. There's no question about it... Returner is derivative and borrows some of its more successful elements from arguably better movies. However, once that grain of salt is taken, Returner is a hell of an exciting movie to watch, and the original and borrowed elements mesh together like matching jigsaw pieces featuring the faces of both Presidents Bush! Maybe it's been done, but it's done well this time too!

In the year 2084, the "Daggra" a seemingly malevolent Alien Race has subjugated humanity A La Battlefield Earth and all the remaining humans hole up in Tibet attempting to survive the occupation. When things seem bleakest a young girl named Miri (the English Subtitles call her "Milly") time travels in a Terminator-esque lightening ball to just before the Daggra land on Earth and begin treating it like Keith Moon treats a Holiday Inn Suite!

Eighty-Two years in the Past (that being 2002), Miri (then 15-year-old Anne "Ankoromochibe" Suzuki of 1999's Snow Falling on Cedars) finds herself in the midst of a vendetta between the Chinese Triad-controlled gangster Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani from the Rasen TV Series) and the gun slinging vigilante Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro looking more Neo than Takezo). When Miri (Milly?) enlists Miyamoto into her efforts to thwart the Alien Invasion she finds that both she and her new ally share a common enemy in Mizoguchi!

Like I said, it's true that this film has mostly been done before, but it's amazing how incredibly well Yamazaki blends these elements into an exciting, smart and interesting whole. From the spectacular Star Wars-quality Special Effects to the cooler-than-you-are imagery to the storyline that twists more often than a Chubby Checkers fan! The Special Effects are shockingly brilliant in this movie, especially surrounding the disguised Alien Space Crafts that transform into Earth Airplanes and back. It's like watching a big-budget version of The Transformers for adults! Likewise the Fight scenes and the look of the Daggra themselves is just about perfect.

The Acting here is also pretty good. Though this is a Japanese-language film all of the scenes from 2084 are spoken in English (and I thought in the future we'd all be speaking Japanese... well I hoped). While Suzuki and Kaneshiro do a good job of acting, some of the scenes in English sound like pure late-50's B-Movie Sci-Fi! There's the occasionally Cringe-worthy moment in the Japanese as well, but luckily that's rare.

Kishitani's bad guy is Very bad! Looking like a cross between Toshiro Mifune and Jim Jarmusch and viciously murdering anyone and everyone he feels like murdering, the guy does have a tendency to overact and express insanity humorously, but it's all in good fun! Further, Takeshi Kaneshiro is the coolest human being I've ever seen in my life! He could be playing "Booger" in a Japanese version of "The Return of the Revenge of the Nerds" and I'd go see him! The guy rocks in Martial Arts and gun slinging to the point that you can't help rooting for him to take his boot off up the next bad guy's ass!

An additional Honorable Mention HUZZAH has to go to Akihiko Matsumoto's music. While the occasional fight scene is marred by your standard Kung-Fu Techno music, Matsumoto surprised me by filling his score primarily with good, old fashioned American Blues! Not only is the music really, really good, but it also fits the Quasi-Sci-Fi themes strangely as well as the Techno does. Good choice on the Score!

Aside from the occasionally campy line and the derived nature of the plot concepts this film is pretty violent to the point that you're going to want to wait before letting your 14 year old check it out. There's also a bit of a lacking as far as the development of anything but the three principal characters. Where did all this remarkable technology come from? Why does everyone in Tibet speak English? Who was the Intended President in Florida? We're left wondering!

Still, though, this movie is great fun to watch and is exciting as fat-free sugar-free ice cream is when on sale! Oh, this might seem very familiar! Very familiar! However, this isn't just a retread, but a riff on a similar theme! Give it a shot!

Three and One Half Stars out of Five for Ritaanaa! Stunning visuals, good acting and likeable characters elevate this film from the Rip-Off it technically is! It also boldly answers the question of "What if Aliens come to visit our planet and the first people they meet are just... Jerks!" What if, Indeed! What if, Indeed!

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Returner (AKA: Ritaanaa) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
who alone is responsible for his views
and for the Humboldt County Massacre.
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