TL;DR – This feels like a very respectful translation of the manga, but that also shows that what works on the page does not always work on the screen.
Score – 2 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene near the start of the credits
Have you ever watched an adaption of something and gone “this looks like a faithful adaption but it just not for me”? Well, I had that experience this week with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I should start by saying that I am coming to this film not having read the Manga or seen the Anime, so beyond the name recognition I had no idea what I was walking into. As such, this is a review coming from a first-time entrant into the world of Stands, and how well the film did bringing me into this universe. Manga and Anime are one of the areas that have yet to really find its feet when adapted to live action on the big screen, especially when it is Hollywood doing the adaptation, see Ghost in the Shell (see review), and the less said about Dragonball Evolution the better. Like video game adaptations it just feels like it is missing it moment genres like comic books have had. With that in mind, today we are going to take a look at what things translated well into film and what aspects really didn’t.
So to set the scene, we open in the town of Morioh somewhere in Japan that looks nothing like any city in Japan. Kōichi Hirose (Ryunosuke Kamiki) is a transfer student and our point of view character at the start. He gives us a tour of the town and people that we will get to know as well as the news that there have been murders across the town recently. For you see someone, Keichō Nijimura (Masaki Okada), is firing arrows into people, but not all of them die. On this tour of Morioh we are introduced to Jōsuke ‘Jojo’ Higashikata (Kento Yamazaki) an elder classmate, grandson of the local police officer Ryōhei (Jun Kunimura), a bit of a local icon, and someone who is very protective over his hair styling. When we first meet Jojo he takes down two bullies in the blink of an eye, but yet leaves them with no injuries after the battle. All is going well until one of the arrow survivors, the serial killer Anjūrō Katagiri (Takayuki Yamada) starts killing people with water and then the world of Stands erupts into the foreground.
From the review score, I don’t think it is a big jump to say I didn’t really enjoy JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure all that much, and most of that was just that it was a style of Manga/Anime that I don’t enjoy. However, there were some parts of the film that I did find fascinating. The first big thing is the choice of filming location, which was in Spain, this gives the film a look and feel that you don’t often see. It is also interesting to see the filmmakers convert southern Spain into a Japanese city with a different level of success, it created a unique juxtaposition that will be memorable. As well as this, there were some really well-shot action sequences, especially around the use of water that really captured the feel of the universe while being visually stunning. The design and implementation of all the Stands were also really well done, which makes you what to know more about this world.
However, while there were parts of the film that I liked, on the whole, I left the theatre feeling more than a little meh about it. The first major issue is the pacing, there are just long stretches of dullness that just drag on and on. This is a common problem when adapting a big work onto the big screen, you have to pack so much world building and plot points that it almost takes over the film, for example, it feels like Kōichi’s only real role in the film is to spout exposition. Now I don’t know if this is reminiscent of the actual manga, but it felt like I was watching a soap opera with people talking/yelling at each other, but not conversing. This is a style of anime that I have seen before and I haven’t been a fan of it in the past and I wasn’t here either. One of the issues when fictional work, especially one set more or less in the real world, is that things that work on the page might not work practically, so while Jojo’s hairstyle is one of the iconic aspects of his character, in the film it just looks like he is wearing a bad wig. The film also had an issue with its female characters, in that when they were there they were just supporting and they all fell into really out of date tropes. Indeed, for the most part, they just existed to be a cheer squad for Jojo and at one point you had Jōtarō Kūjō (Yusuke Iseya) talk about how he hates “noisy chicks”. All of this dragged out story and plot points could have been fine if the ending stuck its landing like the other film we saw this week Red Sparrow (see review), but it just does not happen. Instead we get a third act battle that could have worked if they had reigned it in, but instead, we get an overly long constant rehash, like one of those bad filler episodes in the Dragon Ball Z Anime.
In the end, do we recommend JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter I? No, no we don’t, well maybe. If you are a big fan of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and you know all of the lore going into it then I think you will get a kick out of seeing your favourite characters recaptured in live action. For anyone else, I can’t really recommend it at all, maybe try the Anime or Manga first, but I would not jump into the live film at all.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter I
Directed by – Takashi Miike
Story by – Itaru Era
Screenplay by – Itaru Era
Based on – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Diamond Is Unbreakable) by Hirohiko Araki
Music by – Kouji Endo
Starring – Kento Yamazaki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Nana Komatsu, Masaki Okada, Mackenyu, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Alisa Mizuki, Jun Kunimura & Shinta Nitta
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: na; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: na; United States: na