Presumably at some point during pre-production, a bright spark (most likely from marketing) will ask the big question: ‘Why are we making this movie?’. The answers could be numerous; to make blockbuster levels of cash, to give people something they want, to tell a story that needs to be told, to push boundaries, to give Megan Fox something to do between pouting. Following the unreserved drubbing of the absolute turkey that was Parasyte Part 1, you would expect that question to be hot on the lips of any stakeholders in creating a follow up. Luckily for us however, the two films were made back to back so the moneymen didn’t get chance to retract their golden carrots. Why lucky? Because where Parasyte Part 1 was the perfect example of how manga can become a silver screen debacle, its follow-up is an absolute blast of an action movie.
Parasyte Part 2 picks up straight from the end of the first movie. A parasitic race of aliens has come to earth, using humans as hosts and taking control of their brains. This gives the alien-controlled host the ability to mutate parts of its body into giant mouths and weapons. Feeding on other humans, the aliens start to take a stronghold in society and control parts of the police, military, schools, and even city hall. Schoolboy Shin’ichi Izumi (Sometani) is inhabited by one of the parasites (Abe) but manages to stop it reaching his brain with a quickly assembled tourniquet, trapping the unwanted creature in his arm. This results in boy and parasite, now named Migi, having a symbiotic relationship; alien controlling the right hand, boy controlling the rest of his body, both helping each other’s fight for survival. Izumi’s infected schoolteacher and untrusted mentor Ms Tamiya (Fukatsu) attempts to gain the boy’s trust and work out a way that the two species can co-exist, while raising her fully human baby as an experiment in human emotion.
Whereas this kind of bat-shit craziness works brilliantly on the pages of manga, once it reaches the big screen it just looks downright silly. The first film gave the feeling that it was a hastily knocked together set up piece that hopefully wouldn’t burn too many bridges before it could get on with the real stuff. Where Part 1 felt daft, Part 2 feels dark and has the edgy noir of a Nolan Batman.
The biggest win for Parasyte Part 2 is the storyline. There are at least four huge twists that each alone would work well as the big finale in most films, and main characters are unexpectedly knocked off at will. Yamazaki and Atô put together some absolutely brilliantly fashioned dramatic set-pieces that some of the most recent disappointing superhero mash-ups could learn a great deal from.
Sometani still feels a bit flat in places and Migi’s high-pitched voice is grating, but the rest of the cast more than make up for any deficiencies. Fukatsu’s wonderful emotionless gaze is spine-chilling and unbeatable super-parasite Goto (Tadanobu) makes the Winter Soldier look like Charles Hawtrey. Detective Hirama (Kunimura) is the classic gnarled old cop and Kitamura‘s suave city mayor Takeshi Hirokawa plays the ultra-calm supervillain to perfection.
There is a constant message played throughout; that it’s actually humans that are the parasites, that we mindlessly kill other species for food, that we wage brutal war on one another, that we are destroying the environment, that the world would be better off without us. This constant preaching runs the risk of becoming patronising and annoying yet it somehow always keeps on the right side of the evangelism line.
Parasyte Part 2 is about as far away from its predecessor as The Dark Night Rises is from Batman & Robin, and is by far the best cinematic surprise of the year (Snyder and the Russo’s, read that carefully because this is a movie about a boy with a mouth in his hand that helps him make Miso soup). Great casting, a constantly twisting narrative and huge dramatic scenes make it one of the best action films of recent times.
4 / 5
Dir: Takashi Yamazaki
Scr: Hitoshi Iwaaki, Takashi Yamazaki, Ryôta Kosawa
Cast: Shôta Sometani, Eri Fukatsu, Ai Hashimoto, Asano Tadanobu, Sadao Abe, Kazuki Kitamura, Jun Kunimura
Prd: Keiichiro Moriya, Genki Kawamura, Takahiro Satô
Music: Naoki Satô
DOP: Shôichi Atô
Run Time: 117 Minutes
Parasyte Part 2 is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD from Manga UK