DVD Review: PlanZet – A CG Sci-Fi Thriller By Jun Awazu
Humanity fights back from an alien invasion!
Another month and another mecha anime, this time a CGI animated movie from CoMix Wave and Media Factory. It is the year 2047 and some aliens known as the FOS have invaded Earth and destroyed all the major cities in one fell swoop. The Earth manages to build a Diffuser shield over the next 3 years to protect the planet from further attacks. Three more years on, in 2053, the FOS are about to attack one final time, and so a plan is put into effect that could just save the world, but it requires the Diffuser to be shut down and a last-ditch effort by some young pilots.
Let’s get this straight from the very beginning… this is a bad film. A really bad film! There are a few saving graces, but in all areas that matter, PlanZet is a truly horrendous movie. As other reviewers have commented, the Japanese studios seem to be unable to create anything close to realistic CGI humans, and PlanZet is possibly the worst offender to date (at least the others try to add some ‘life’ into their creations!) There are nearly zero emotional nuances in the facial expressions of the human characters. A speech that may convey love, passion, anger or fear is performed by the CGI equivalent of a shop mannequin. The eyes are dead, with a lifelessness that not just fails to express feelings, but which actively makes you fear some sort of Cthulhu-esque creeping terror within. Arms hang limp and lifeless, body movements are jerky and animatronic, and while effort has clearly been made to design and build these characters, you simply have no reaction to their presence. To be honest, they are way too creepy and far too unreal for comfort.
This is not to say all the CGI is so badly handled. Bizarrely the background designs are often sublime works of art, with layers and textures, fine detailing and a flair for originality. It is heartbreakingly sad that the creators of this beautiful background art have had their hard work destroyed by the hulking Frankenstein monsters that inhabit the world.
PlanZet is billed as a mecha movie, so what is the mecha like? To put it simply, it is nothing we haven’t seen several hundred times before, albeit with some technically proficient CGI and occasionally interesting all-action poses. But PlanZet isn’t really a movie about mechas, or the pilots that fly them. It doesn’t seem to know what it is… a family drama, a warning about over-reliance on technology, a hymn to the need to rely on the younger generation to save the world… it could be any of these, all of them, or even none! Why the confusion? Because it appears the script for PlanZet was written by an 8 year old child, using an Etch-a-Sketch. The dialogue often fails to follow any form of linear logic, while the plot careens from one ham-fisted expositional nugget to the next. Why have the FOS attacked? Why have they allowed the Earth a 3 year break to build a shield? Why is the one device that could save the Earth hidden away in a mountain? Every character is one-dimensional (often not even that), a mere cipher representing a basic plot requirement such as ‘hero’, ‘hot babe’, ‘angry soldier’, ‘failed son’. The secret machine at the heart of the storyline, the so-called saviour of mankind, is a shining example of failed narrative. Whilst it clearly represents a father’s trust in his son, it makes no sense why our hero character (Akeshima Taishi) is able to operate it and understand its myriad functions and controls. It is, quite literally, a Deus Ex Machina writ large with glowing weaponry and CGI twiddly bits.
There is an attempt here to make a hard-SF mecha movie that takes time to think and philosophise. Sadly the writers forgot to make it comprehensible, logical or original. If you want a film that does all these things well, go watch the superb Voices of a Distant Star by Makoto Shinkai. PlanZet is a mess of a movie that will waste your money and your time. If you must watch it, wait for it to appear on Crunchyroll or Netflix… just don’t spend your hard earned cash on it, there are far better mecha movies to be found.
Label: Manga Entertainment
Release date: 27th August 2012
Director: Jun Awazu
Review written by Neil Gardner