20th Century Boys (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/02/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 142 mins

An enjoyable Japanese film that blends childhood adventure, superhero fantasy and apocalyptic sci-fi epic to chaotic and confusing, but nonetheless frequently exhilarating, effect.

What's it all about?
Based on Naoki Urasawa's hugely successful, award-winning manga series, 20th Century Boys stars Toshiaki Karasawa as Kenji Endo, a young man who attempts to reunite his gang of childhood friends when one of their number dies in mysterious circumstances. When other strange events occur, Kenji realises that a doomsday prophecy his gang invented as children appears to be coming true, with their predicted date of mankind's demise fast approaching.

As the film cuts between several different timelines (including 1969, 1997, 2000 and a bleak, post-apocalyptic future, where the whole story is narrated by an unseen figure in a jail cell), it becomes clear that one of the gang has become the mysterious masked religious cult leader Friend and is orchestrating the terrifying events. Attempting to fight their own prophecy, Kenji and his gang team up to stop Friend, but their increasingly powerful nemesis has them framed as terrorists.

The Good
Like the recent Death Note films, 20th Century Boys is the first part of a planned trilogy, with part two filmed simultaneously (stick around for the final credits to see a mouth-watering trailer) and part three due towards the end of the year.

The performances are excellent, particularly from the children playing Kenji and his gang in the 1969 scenes. Similarly, director Yukihimo Sutsumi pulls off some jaw-dropping and frankly bonkers action sequences, most notably a giant robot attacking the city of Shinjuku.

The Bad
Despite the lengthy running time and a plot that's almost impossible to follow, 20th Century Boys has a sense of energy and urgency that keeps you hooked throughout, even if you don't understand what's going on.

Worth seeing?
20th Century Boys is an enjoyable, impressively directed and frequently exhilarating fantasy adventure, providing you can handle the brain-meltingly confusing plot and the arse-numbing running time. That said, fans of the original manga series can probably go ahead and add another star. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 23/09/2018 13:01

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