As a fan of the original anime, not to mention someone who enjoys the work of Mr. Mamoru Oshii, watching Patlabor: the Next Generation was not a choice - it was destiny.
Though the film is originally a series of ambiguous scenes, the feature quickly finds its feet. Set in modern times, Captain Keiji (Toshio Kakei) heads Section 2, a mobile police-force under threat of removal by the government. When the Rainbow Bridge is destroyed by Gray Ghost, an experimental helicopter stolen by a terrorist group, the Patlabor unit, comprising Akira (Erina Mano), Ekaterina (Rina Ohta) and Yuma (Seiji Fukushi), amongst others, must work with a mysterious Public Sector agent, in order to stopper future attacks, perpetrated by a woman from Keiji's past.
Though the philosophical ideologies Oshii is known for remain ever present, these are occasionally kept to a minimum, the conversations often capturing the fun of the original anime, the use of humor heightening this effect. Moreover, conversations often seem authentic, with characters becoming distracted mid-sentence, or spontaneously announcing what comes to mind, before returning to the topic at hand. The included poetic language, though hardly colloquial, is very artful, however, the focus on communication pivotal to the thematic concepts, means characters are provided insufficient depth.
The soundtrack adds poignancy to the film's atmosphere moreover, accentuating themes of solace, regret and mystery, and though some of the slow motion shots occasionally lose their appeal, other times, their execution develops the characters and emotions present in the scene. Additionally, a number of the aerial and wide angle shots are well directed, though at the same time, shots of the city, which encompasses greys and blacks, often appear quite dull.
Moving on, over half an hour goes by before the first official action scene takes place, though it is certainly worth the wait. The collection of gun fights, explosions, hand to hand combat and car chases are incredibly entertaining, the female characters stealing the show during these moments with their dedication and proficiency. The included special effects generally appear not half bad, though every so often they seem quite exceptional. This aside, it is disappointing that the Patlabors, for which the movie is named, appear only in a minimal capacity.
The film's final scene predictably ends inconclusively, with a possible future existing in this live action universe. Though criticisms could be made regarding the lengthy conversations and vague character backstories, this particular feature feels very much like an Oshii project, and for those who have appreciated his other live action films (Assault Girls) alongside the anime he is so well known for (Ghost in the Shell), this film is an enjoyably relaxing way to spend just under 100 minutes of your time.
Review by Derek Childs from the Internet Movie Database.