A vicious space-outlaw Zeiram, escapes to earth, and has been followed by an attractive female bounty hunter, Iria, and her assistant, Bob (a computer). When she sets a dimensional trap so she can fight the monster without raising the awareness of the earthlings, two power company employees accidentally stumble into the trap, too. Iria now has to save the earthmen and defeat the monster before her Dimensional trap closes on them all forever.
Directed by: Keita Amemiya
. Starring: Yûko Moriyama
, Kunihiro Ida
, Yukijirô Hotaru
, Masakazu Handa
, Mizuho Yoshida
, Yukitomo Tochino
, Riko Kurenai
, Naomi Enami
, Mayumi Aguni
, Masakazu Katsura
, Robert Axelrod
, Steve Bulen
, Juliana Donald
. Music by: Hirokazu Ohta
When this Japanese sci-fi monster-action -comedy first reached the US, it very nearly developed a cult following. That it didn't probably had to do with the widespread distribution of anime, Japanese sci-fi fantasy thriller cartoons intended largely for adults.
The manga-anime phenomenon has disturbed me ever since I first bumped into it in 1973. back then, Japanese cartoons had absolutely no stylistics variance whatsoever. Ever face by every artist looked exactly same, the stories all followed the same formulae, regardless of writer - to be fair, there was a cultural ethic at work in this - at the time, many Japanese actually felt that individualistic styles projected a kind of arrogance. It wasn't until about 1990, with a whole new generation of Japanese artists, heavily influenced by material from America, that individual differences and variations became first tolerate, and then admired. Still, even today these differences and variations occur within very restrictive limits. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the more individualistic the artist's style, the more violent and offensive the material presented - to have an individualistic style is still recognized, to some extent, as transgressive and rebellious. However, the curious thing now, is why many Americans - from whom the Japanese learned to be rebellious - have grown attached to the variation-less similitude of traditional manga.
It is well to bear this in mind when approaching Zeram. The film - not animated by the way, and employing surprising little CGI - is a curious blend of sameness and difference. The female alien bounty-hunter who is the real hero of the film is actually derived from a fairly well-known manga type; unlike her cartoon sisters however, she has a real sense of humor, and her strength is not portrayed as in conflict with her femininity, but a part of it.
Her Earthling sidekicks are also remarkably different from the usual dumb-earthling sidekicks of the common manga. They fumble and bumble their way into the story, but they have their own kind of intelligence and their own kind of bravery - enough so that these contribute to the film's finale in a decisive manner.
But if there is offensive transgression to be found here, it certainly involves the title character. As rubber-monsters go, she is extremely violent. this sort of violence has become quite typical for manga (and one reason Japanese comics are not for kids); but most manga monsters are overtly sadistic, usually laughing when their victims suffer. Zeram is really a ruthless, but emotionless, unstoppable force. One can easily be shocked and disgusted with her, but one can't really feel any hatred or pity. despite the organic matter used in her construction, she is pure machine, with one function - the destruction of everything in her path that lives. Which is exactly why our unlikely team of heroes really need to have a sense of humor. Their situation would be unbearable if they didn't.
After an ultra-violent pre-credit sequence, the first 15 minutes of the film are a little dull, but that's because, unlike manga and manga-influenced action films, our heroes here have real personalities to be developed. Part of what will decide whether or not the viewer likes the film is whether the viewer likes these people, and I confess I do.
The film depends a lot upon - and is served well by - its editing and its soundtrack. There are also a couple of truly disturbing moments when the film forces us to confront the question of what it might really mean to be 'organic', i.e., human. And the bounty hunter has a computer-assistant with a dry slacker-like sense of humor ("yeah, whatever").
Over all, sci-fi entertainment beyond the usual from Japan.
PS: there is a sequel out, but it's pretty much like sequels everywhere; I do not recommend it.
Review by winner55 from the Internet Movie Database.