AKA Patlabor WXIII, Wasted 13: Patlabor the Movie 3
Starring Hiroaki Hirata, Katsuhiko Watabiki, Miina Tominaga
Directed by Fumihiko Takayama
Though Mamoru Oshii has left the scene, the third Patlabor film definitely inherited his influence. And although I wish I could say that it inherited his stylish visuals, oddball sense of humor, or knack for finding unique thematic content, I’m afraid that all this film inherited was his sluggish pacing. It’s clearly trying to imitate Oshii’s distinct flavor, but it learned all of the wrong lessons from him and none of the right ones. It uses a lot of Oshii’s techniques from the earlier Patlabor films, but where Oshii used them for a reason, WXIII only uses them to disguise itself as a Mamoru Oshii film.
The story centers on two police detectives (I’ve already forgotten their names) trying to figure out who or what has been wrecking all the labors, the giant robots of this particular series. One of the guys is young and inexperienced while the other guy is old and grizzled. It turns out that there is a giant monster swimming around out in the bay, and soon the creature graduates from wrecking vehicles to eating people. The investigation turns into a quest to find out where it came from and how to stop it. It has elements of a police procedural, horror film, psychological thriller, buddy cop flick, and just a dash of giant monster action. All this doesn’t mesh so much as it turns into a pile of mush. In its attempts to accommodate all of those things it winds up sabotaging all of them.
What is undeniably bad is the dragging story. The Oshii films used a very dry style, true, but this crosses the fine line into emotionless. At no point did I feel attached to the characters or their struggles. So when it tries to build tension I just got bored. And when it tries to be exciting, I just got bored. And when it tries to be sad, I just got bored. You might be noticing a pattern here. It’s not going to change.
Nor do the action scenes play a significant role. Even the big climactic showdown feels rather weak, suffering from a severe lack of tension. It doesn’t even seem like a critical part of the story. It certainly doesn’t have much for the main characters to do. They spend the whole fight dealing with the young detective’s new girlfriend-turned-suspect, which is actually the main purpose of the story. Unfortunately, that isn’t dealt with to any greater degree of depth than the various subplots. Their romance is barely touched upon, and you get no feeling that these two have any genuine connection. They certainly didn’t have any chemistry together. Nor does there seem to be much of a team dynamic between the two detectives themselves. It has the bones of a buddy cop relationship between them, but it never tries to develop that relationship, either.
I’m afraid this film didn’t renew my faith in the series. It drags way too much, and it’s too disjointed and unfocused to tell the story. Perhaps the best part of the film is the Hollywood director that gets pissed off at the cops when they commandeer his set. But that’s a pretty flimsy bit of entertainment and definitely not worth the price of admission. I didn’t care much for Patlabor 2, but WXIII is sadly a further step down from that one, and even fans of the series won’t find much to enjoy here because it barely features the principle characters of the series at all.