Patlabor: The Movie 2 (1993)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Country: Japan
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Writer: Kazunori Itô
Cast: Mîna Tominaga, Toshio Furukawa
Running Time: 100 Min

Plot: A Japanese police unit who use giant anthropomorphic robots (called Labors) is caught up in a political struggle between the civilian authorities and the military when a terrorist act is blamed on an Air Force jet. With the aid of a government agent, the team gets close to a terrorist leader to stop things from going out of control when after the military is impelled to impose martial law.

The first Patlabor film took place in the summer. Mamoru Oshii took advantage of that by giving us a bright color pallete, and scenes that always managed to describe the heat to us. This second film, very similar in story structure, takes place in the winter. And again Oshii has revamped his production design to suit the season. This film has a greyed-down, sleeker look, and it fills its scenes with unexpected snowfalls and people crowded around heaters for warmth. The mood of the film is similarily toned down; whereas the first film closely resembled the original OAV series, this second one is a lot sleeker. The characters are older and more sedate, and the situation depicted is perhaps more cleverly crafted.

Essentially, the Patlabor films are cautionary tales against the dangers of our dependence on machines. But Oshii arranges these films with a genial flair for entertainment; the cautionary tales are under the guise of deft political thrillers, featuring the lovable Patlabor characters (led by Commander Goto, a modern-day Sherlock Holmes). It is the combination of clever and endearing characters and tight mystery-thriller plots that gives this series its luster.

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