Over the past few years, Takashi Miike has gotten a lot of praise in cult film circles (I'll include myself in that). The man's output of 50+ films in a decade and often aggressive over the top, grindhouse style has justifiably gained him attention in an increasingly commercial and cult-unfriendly international movie market. Plus his range is such that anyone watching gentler films like Young Thugs: Innocent Blood or Bird People of China may not be prepared for Visitor Q, Fudoh: The New Generation, Audition, or Happiness of the Katakuris.
But, that isn't to say he doesn't have some really weak films in his resume. Being a largely direct to video /low budget director does afford him the odd stinker here and there and, even in the stinkers, there will usually be some halfway worthwhile bit. A scifi flick for not one but two Japanese kiddie pop star bands, the girl group speed and the N'Syncish boyband Da Pump (thats right- boyband- named- Da Pump- can't make that up, folks), Andromeda is what I would qualify as a stinker.
Mai and her friends (or should I say Speeds most popular member and the rest of the group), Rika, Yoko, and Nao are moving into adulthood, most notably signified by Mai's relationship with her boyfriend Yu. Anyway, one day Mai decides the perfect place to answer her cell phone is in the middle of the street and she subsequently gets squished by a truck. But, Mai's father is a programing genius who has saved Mai's memories and transferred them into a digitized being called "Ai" that looks like Mai and has her memories. Convenient huh? Well, not really because we'd all be better off if she remained dead.
Mai's long lost brother, Satoshi, reemerges with a brain tumor and a plan. Satoshio has fallen in league with a crazed programming mogul (Christopher Doyle) who wants to use the Ai program to digitize himself and take over the world. Satoshi has his own plan to use the program to save himself from his terminal disease. So, now it is up to Yu and the girls to keep Ai?/Mai?, who has been downloaded into a laptop, from the clutches of the evil goons out to steal her.
Well, it could have been an interesting premise. That is, the idea of losing a loved one only to have them virtually come back in some altered form, that form being an independent digital intelligence that can basically manipulate anything plugged into the cyber system. The film does take the standard virtual memory/reality/being sci fi bits from other films like Strange Days and Lawnmower Man, but Andromeda actually has pre-Matrix agents, which in the virtual world look all mech-spidery and in the real world appear, just like the Matrix's agents, stoic, sunglasses clad, men in black. But, Andromeda isnt as innovative as it is clunkly and ends up being more like Small Wonder.
As evidenced by the extended dance video for Da Pump (where, I swear, there is a lyric that sounds like "I wanna' be your mouse"), this is a kiddie film, though probably more sober than they intended. Unfortunately, despite the slip into a teeny bopper video territory, it isn't exactly that exciting or lighthearted. Much time is spent with Yu whining and professing his love to Ai, all despite the fact that even the program insists she isn't his girlfriend. But, there just isn't much of a script. To compensate for its lack of depth, the scenes just play out an plod along instead of quickly moving on to the next bit. It is all just a bit clumsy and tiresome, be it the action, goofiness, and the hackneyed villain played by ace cinematographer and lousy actor Christopher Doyle, who proves he should stay well behind the lens.
The DVD: Pathfinder
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The image looks pretty good. It isn't as noisy as many Miike related releases, and Pathfinder should be commended for getting decent elements to work with. The films budget does come across in the odd grainy or soft scene here and there, but mostly the transfer shows good details in terms of color, sharpness and contrast.
Sound: Japanese language Dolby 2.0 Stereo with optional English subtitles. Good sound. The fx and music tracks are crisp and the dialogue is nice and centered. Get ready for "I wanna' be your mouse" or whatever the hell that song was.
Extras: Trailer— Bios---- Film Essay by Tom Mes— Still Galllery.
Conclusion: This is one of those movies that makes my position as reviewer hard. That is, I've got a dual personality about it- hate the actual film but the DVD presentation is okay. Deep down, I gotta' say this is one to avoid. If you are curious, either because you are a extreme Japanese teeny bop band fan or a Miike fan, this is, at the most, a rental.