today I watched Takuji Endo and Fumihiko Takayama’s WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 (2002)
Patlabor 3 can be seen as the red headed step-child of the Patlabor series, what with Mamoru Oshii’s departure taking much of the thoughtfulness out of the picture. This film takes place in between the first and second film and follows the two detective side characters as they investigate a number of mysterious events. Robots and machines are being destroyed, possibly attacked, and the occupants and operators are often found horribly mauled. While certain members of the law enforcement groups believe that the attacks could be caused by terrorists, the investigation soon shows that a mysterious giant monster has arrived in the Tokyo bay.
While the previous Patlabor movies had existed in a very grounded and futuristic world, a lot of that sense has been lost in this film. Firstly the giant monster plot makes this much more of a horror film than the previous entries and the grotesque scares totally override a lot of the mood the previous films had. Furthermore the world of this film feels, well, old, like late 90’s old. The Patlabor series up until this point had been partially defined by how well realized it’s vision of the future was, how they integrated the technology of giant robots into every day life. This film has none of that and aside from the giant robots which only appear in action scenes, this film could take place in the 90’s. All the phones are land lines, all the computers seem to be running Windows 95′ and all the buildings display turn of the century Japanese architecture. I actually found this very distracting, in the previous films I had seen mecha working in construction and demolition while in this movie they are still using backhoes.
Now all that said, I don’t think this is a bad film, just a disappointingly average one and not one that lives up to the name Patlabor, or even seems to try. I would not be surprised if this story started off as an original project that was then lazily adapted into the Patlabor franchise for the popularity. If I was not being constantly distracted by the attempts to put this in the same world as Patlabor I may have been able to enjoy the film more. The monster story humanizes the creature in some really disturbing ways later into the film and I think if the film had moved more away from attempts to recapture Oshii’s meditative tone and instead focused on the horror elements, it would have been a much stronger piece. 3/5