The Japanese are just weird. That's the conclusion we came to after watching Zeiram 2, the sequel to Zeram. It isn't often that one finds a movie that features monsters, kick-boxing women, intergalactic villains who wear mascara and lipstick, cowardly electric engineers, humanoid dog-creatures, and talking computers, all shoehorned into a plot that almost makes sense.
The first movie ended with Iria, spacefaring bounty hunter extraordinaire, killing the alien menace Zeiram with the help of the clueless-but-plucky Earthlings Tepphei and Kamiya. After the film, they all went on with their lives. As Zeiram 2 opens, however, Iria is back on Earth with her new partner, an annoying punk named Fujicrow. Her mission is to retrieve an ancient artifact called the Carmarite from the criminals who stole it, and although she succeeds in retrieving the object, the criminals escape.
Back at her base of operations in an abandoned building, Iria (still played by the most yummy Yuko Moriyama) is given a new mission by her employers. She is to go to a rendezvous point (the foot of a large Buddhist statue) and engage in a combat test with a new killer cyborg her employers have built.
"Yeah, we got the parts at
some millionaire's garage sale.
His name? Bruce something...."
Three sets of circumstances converge to put Iria over a barrel. First of all, the criminals from whom she retrieved the Carmarite are waiting for her, and they've brought about fifty of their meanest, most Power Ranger-ready alien friends with them. Secondly, Fujicrow double-crosses Iria by destroying the transporter and Iria's talking computer Bob. He does this because he wants the Carmarite, but he doesn't know that Iria took it with her. And thirdly, the cyborg her employers sent is a rebuilt version of Zeiram!
Upon arrival, the new Zeiram unit actually saves Iria's life by killing the criminals who have surrounded her. We would call it deus ex machina, but it's more like machina ex teleporter. Meanwhile Tepphei (who just happens to be getting married the next day, which explains his silly getup) accidentally comes upon Iria's base, and is taken hostage by Fujicrow, who needs someone to drive him to the big statue park (he destroyed the transporter, remember?) so he can finish stealing the Carmarite. In the final bit of wild coincidence needed to bring all of the plot elements together, the Zeiram cyborg becomes splashed with blood as a result of its battle with the aliens.
The laws of moviemaking dictate that when anything is splashed with blood, something bad must happens as a result. Movie blood turns innocent laundry equipment into carnivorous demon machines, transforms innocent-seeming dinner guests into menacing vampires, and, in the case of the Zeiram cyborg, overrides its programming and allows the evil alien symbiote-slug thing that is the heart of Zeiram to take control. Apparently the quality control team in charge of this combat android was on vacation -- what, no one anticipated that a fighting robot would come in contact with bodily fluids? At one point, it's even stated that the cyborg's creators knew there was a 98% chance that Zeiram would go out of control. Who are these people? Sure, a 98% failure rate might be okay for Microsoft, but most other technology companies hold themselves to higher standard than that.
As a result of Zeiram's sanguinary encounter, Fujicrow and Tepphei are trapped in "the zone" with Iria. (See our review of the original Zeram for more on the zone and its properties.) Will they survive against the Zeiram unit? Will Kiyama find a way to help his pal Tepphei escape certain death? Will Tepphei eat a giant cockroach again? (Ladies and gentlemen, the original Survivor!)
Well, of course all of these things are bound to happen, except maybe that last one. The events thus far are a mere prologue to the ass kicking that is about to take place, with Iria's tech-assisted kung fu putting the screws to Zeiram. Like a modern-day Abbott and Costello, Tepphei and Kiyama dutifully provide the comic relief by encountering Zeiram at inopportune moments and then screaming for their mommies. It's a retread of the original film, yes, but not one we can honestly say we minded. The filmmakers had the foresight and visual inventiveness to give Zeiram 2 a distinct look from its predecessor. Zeiram has been extensively redesigned and equipped with lots of new weapons, and the final battle, set in the rapidly disintegrating statue, is a set piece of which they can be proud.
Certainly, if you enjoyed the original Zeram, then you're likely to find Zeiram 2 a worthy sequel. There's just enough character development (particularly in the relationship between Kiyama and Tepphei) to make you feel like the story is actually progressing, but it's mostly familiar (and entertaining) territory.
"Avon calling! We're here about the
small matter of your account."
* The big Buddhist statue is certainly some sort of landmark in Japan, but we don't know what it's called. It's kind of like the Statue of Liberty with lotus flowers. Go back!
* We may not seem to being consistant with the names of the two films, Zeram and Zeiram 2. Obviously, these are two alternate spellings of the same word, and we're just using them to reflect the names that these two films were released on tape as. Back!