Cyborg 009 is a manga by Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of other works such as Skull Man and the various Tokusatsu superhero shows in Japanese television, such as Kamen Rider and Super Sentai (aka Power Rangers).

Cyborg 009 tells the story of a group of people abducted and transformed into Cyborgs by the international arms-dealing organization Black Ghost to sell as weapons. The cyborgs escape and take the fight to their creators and try to save the world from them.

The manga has been adapted numerous times, as TV series and films, the latest of which I just saw yesterday. 009 RE: Cyborg, which I thought was going to be a revival but turned out to be jumbled mess of a farewell.

It takes place some thirty years after the end of the original story and since then some of the 00 Cyborgs have gone back to their own countries to serve in the various military and/or intelligence organizations, with a few doing other stuff, like Pyunma aka Cyborg 008 becoming an archaeologist and Chang Changku, Cyborg 006, creating a chain of restaurants (which apparently put him at odds with their Xavier-esque mentor Dr. Gilmore and resulted in some bad blood and lawsuits, both are only mentioned in passing but aren’t referenced again in the film, even when these two characters meet, making the backstory worthless.). Joe, aka Cyborg 009, took a different path than the rest. Having an immortal body, Dr. Gilmore thought the best idea was to reset his memories every 3 years so he wouldn’t have to live with the burden of his immortality and as a side-effect making him go through high-school like 9 times if the math’s right, which isn’t at all suspicious, you know. Jet, Cyborg 002, became an NSA agent and holds a grudge against the rest of the group for the most bullshit childish reason ever seen in any piece of fiction this side of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The film starts out with a plot about serial suicide bombings around the world, the people responsible working under instructions of “His Voice”, Joe himself being under that influence for the first few minutes of the film, thus providing a link and piece of information the rest of the group seriously lack.

For the first hour or so a bunch of exposition is thrown at you, building this international conspiracy, from the NSA using Cyborgs made from corpses aka Zombie-Cyborgs or Lazarus, to a PMC somehow behind this bombings and the USA government giving their silent approval, using the terrorism as a way to gain back the favor and power it had lost in the 30 years since the end of C009’s main plot.

This seemed the right stuff for a Cyborg 009 movie. International organizations, mind control and cyborgs. It had all the elements for a fantastic movie.

But then it heads into nonsense territory with the discovery of Angel fossils. I’m not making this shit up, Angel fossils that somehow influence those around them making them hear “His Voice”, like it was the Marker from Dead Space, and going out to kill people all over the world.

From that point on, even more exposition is thrown your way, with mention of historical fanatics and Freud, with notions such as the human brain is God and what people might be hearing is God’s voice, and that somehow God might be behind the bombings. In a way they tell you the bombings aren’t only religiously inspired but also divinely directed and from then on things start making even less sense when the evil PMC turns out to have been working under direct influence from HIS VOICE the whole time.

The film ends with 009 flying up to space to destroy some high orbiting nuclear missile shot from a submarine where everyone went bat-shit crazy and decided to follow “His Voice” and just like every other person in the movie before them, carry out their “duty” for the sake of the rebirth of humanity. Lofty goals with nothing to back it up, no great intelligence explaining the point or even an organization revealed as behind it. Just “His Voice” and that’s it.

The most egregious of it all is the ending. There’s a sacrifice involved and our main character blows himself up with the missile, but not before shouting at the sky aka God about the value of human life, but after the blast somehow wakes up OK in an apartment in Venice and everyone who’s vanished/killed in the movie does as well, completely turning the previous sacrifice completely void and meaningless, and you are left with some vague philosophical argument by one of the characters and a most definite bad taste in your mouth.

As far as Deus Ex Machina endings, this is the worst of the bunch. Any explanation and mystery is thrown out the window for a bullshit semi-religious spiritual ending that not only doesn’t match the premise of the movie but is completely incoherent and doesn’t fit with Cyborg 009 and its universe and genre. If they’d done this with another set of characters and using another universe as setting, an original one even, the movie wouldn’t leave you with such a bad taste. This is the kind of stuff you expect from Evangelion, not 009.

When your final scene involves every character confused on how they got there and can’t make sense of the plot, then maybe it’s time to rethink the whole thing. Even more if this is a farewell sort of story (the movie isn’t a setup for a new show).

As a 009 fan, the movie is actually insulting. Aside from the nonsensical plot, the characters seem to have lost everything that made them unique in the first place. They all seem to have become extremely serious and no-nonsense, in sharp contrast with the humor that made Ishinomori’s work so wonderful and that worked to make their personalities distinct. It’s most apparent with Great Britain, Cyborg 007, the funny man of the group and usual comic relief. Here he’s a stern Hardboiled sort of character and is actually disposed of quite early in the movie. A truck hits him and you’re never told what happens to him until he shows up in “Heaven Venice” at the end, with no explanation of how he got there. Worse even is Pyunma’s disappearance. He simply vanishes, no explanation given and no one even gives a damn, which goes against everything these characters have stood for since they were first created over 50 years ago. Jet’s extreme-patriotism, the main reason for his antagonism to the rest of the group for 90% of the movie is another example of the wrongful characterizations this movie has in excess.

Visually the movie is CGI animated and while the scenes looks amazingly beautiful, the characters look extremely fake, flat and stiff in any non-action scene. Francoise and Joe’s impromptu “sex scene” is the worst of the bunch and something you don’t expect to see from a 2012 movie. For most of the movie most of these characters are just standing around throwing out exposition and they look like mannequins, completely lifeless. I wonder if hand-drawing might have made things better.

The action scenes are fantastic and the characters’ powers are beautifully displayed, from Jet’s, well, jet-like body to 009’s Acceleration. I particularly loved the bombing of Dubai where Joe runs beyond the speed of sound, the nuclear bomb’s blast literally at his heels.

I can’t by any stretch of the imagination recommend this movie to anyone, even less to Cyborg 009 fans. The movie just doesn’t pay off, the characters are all flat and one-dimensional and the plot while starting strong and building a good group of villains, sadly falls off building in favor for a pseudo-religious-psychological Deus Ex Machina ending that leaves you disappointed and wishing you could take back the time you spent watching this movie.

 

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