Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Cast: Yumiko Shaku, Takao Ozawa, Shosuke Yahara, Naho Toda
Similar to many comic adapted movies, Sky High is a visually stunning flick, the characters look classy and the actions are glaring. But unfortunately, it also possesses all the flaws that are common in this "genre".
Originally a popular comic, Sky High quickly became a successful franchise and found its adaptation both on TV and the big screen.The movie version came out in Japan in 2004, featuring Yumiko Shaku, the same lead of the TV version, as the protagonist. The director is Ryuhei Kitamura. As a young filmmaker, Kitamura rose to stardom with his critically acclaimed small-budget action thriller Versus. In 2002, he took on Azumi, one of the biggest budgets period action drama in Japan, the movie was well received as well. His achievement then attracted the attention of Toho and won him a deal to direct the supposedly finale of the legendary movie character Godzilla - Godzilla: Final War in 2004.
The story of Sky High centers on a young girl called Mina (Yumiko Shaku). Just before she is ready for her wedding ceremony, she is ruthlessly killed by a mysterious man, her heart is even extracted. Her morose finance, who also happens to be a detective, decides to drag out the killer by all means. The deceased Mina enters the gate of death and confronts the gatekeeper who offers her several choices... Having a fruitful plot, which contains elements of romance, action and fantasy, the movie should be interesting, but somehow, with the generally disappointing direction of Kitamura, and the highly expected and naive plot twist, it just fails to garner the attention as well as the patience of the audience to sit through the movie.
The movie starts out in a pretty engaging manner, from the murder of Mina to the beginning of the investigation and Mina's first encounter with the gatekeepr, everything seems to fall right in place, but then when the plot continues to unfold, it just gradually runs out of control. Not only is the rhymthm getting slower and slower, the suspense is also gone as the focus of the story has turned from a more realistic world to a totally comical diegesis where a logical plot is no longer the concern of the filmmaker. It seems that what he cares most is to make up different excuses for the characters to fight. Although we all know that this is a comic adaptation, yet the incoherent style of the first and second half of the movie is still quite distracting. Talking about the action choreography, Kitamura does disappoint his fans this time. Most of the sword fight scenes are long and dry, no matter the moves or the camera works, there is nothing impressive or innovative at all. Together with the weak drama scenes, I am sorry to say that I really couldn't find anything interesting.
I have to admit that I am not a fan of Yumiko Shaku, and in fact, I just found it hard to understand why she could become so popular in Japan, despite her ordinary appearance and rather mediocre acting skill. From my biased view, I really couldn't find any improvement of her acting compared to her similar role in Princess Blade several years ago. Luckily, The two lead males, Takao Ozawa and Shosuke Yahara, have done a better job, but again, I wouldn't say I enjoyed their performance very well.
If I were still a 10 year-old kid, or the fan of the comic (which I believe are the target audiences of this movie), I guess I might enjoy it little more, but unfortunately I am not. To conclude, Sky High does remind me of a famous quote of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, "It is too simple, sometimes naive."
Reviewed by: Kantorates