Friday, May 30, 2014

Review of Platina Data (movie)

After all that anticipation before the screening, it is extremely disappointing for me to say that this movie really does not match up to the excellent novel by Higashino Keigo. At the point when cast announcements were made, that set off the first warning bell for me because I saw some very significant and radical changes in the lineup and was wondering what the production crew was up to. I tried to brush off the nagging thought that the movie would be very different from the novel and these differences may result in the downfall of the film but never did I expect it to be till this extent. Although I watched this movie more than a year ago, it has taken me so long to post this because I kept stopping halfway and re-writing it. I don't want to appear as overly-critical but yet, I think this movie needs a good thrashing for spoiling the well-crafted source material.

From this point onward, there will be lots of spoilers so please skip this post immediately if you haven't watched this movie and do not wish to find out about the ending. In addition, this post will be rather long so in case you do not wish to read this lengthy post, please skip this. Last but not least, the usual disclaimer: this review is purely based on my own views so please do not get overly upset over this. You may not agree with my opinion but I hope that at least by reading this, it offers a different perspective on the film and I welcome all forms of constructive comments on the points raised.

If you've read my earlier post about Platina Data's novel, it is obvious that I was very impressed with it. On hindsight, this makes me wonder if it had been a bad move for me to read the novel ahead of watching this movie. Then again, after watching the movie, there were still question marks hanging around because the story had chose to skip some important facts or alter them which somehow did not make a lot of sense. As such, I think even if I had not read the novel first, it would not have helped or boost my liking for the film anyway. The only thing it would have done was to cover the illogical parts of the movie so that I wouldn't notice them.

To begin with, let me start with a brief synopsis of the movie. The story is set in an unspecified year in the near future where the development of a DNA investigation system helps to reduce the likelihood of false accusations to zero and the rate of arresting criminals raised to 100%. As the system captures the DNA information of everyone in the nation, there are concerns over privacy and abuse of the data but due to the amazing results it achieves, the system is seen as an absolute necessity rather than a potential evil. At the centre of this system is its developer Kagura Ryuhei (Ninomiya Kazunari) who has total faith in what he has achieved and is sure that it can do no wrong. On the other end of the spectrum stands police detective Asama Reiji (Toyokawa Etsushi) who is somewhat convinced that the system is indeed useful but also holds doubts towards its legitimacy and how it has affected the way police do their work i.e. being over-reliant on the system's results.

The film starts with Asama visiting the crime scene of where the body of a child was found where he is then called back to the police headquarters to attend a briefing by Kagura where he declares that the DNA investigation system had churned out the possible match of a man who was responsible for the serial murders of a number of children. During the briefing, it is also mentioned that this man is a relative of a woman named Yamashita Ikue. True to what Kagura had said, the police manage to nab the culprit whose characteristics match the DNA matching results. However, alarm bells ring in Asama's mind as Yamashita is not a criminal nor a victim of crime so there was no way Kagura could have obtained Yamashita's DNA to match with the criminal. And that is what leads to Asama finding out about the DNA investigation system and having concerns over the legitimacy of collecting people's DNA samples and using them for this purpose. However, Kagura has no qualms over doing this and says that even though the method of collecting the DNA samples is illegal now, there will be new legislation passed to make it legal soon. Kagura clearly is proud of his system and its usefulness and likens the information stored in this system as "platinum data".

Soon after, the Tateshina siblings i.e. Kosaku (Wada Soukou) and Saki (Mizuhara Kiko) are found dead at the hospital ward where Kagura has been receiving psychiatric treatment from his doctor Minakami Eriko (Suzuki Honami). The siblings had been staying there while Saki, an autistic mathematics genius, developed the DNA system together with Kagura. Just before they died, Kosaku had told Kagura that the DNA investigation system was flawed and they were developing this patch named "Mogul" to make the system complete. However, before they could tell Kagura more about Mogul or pass him the information, they were murdered. What's astonishing is that the DNA sample found on Saki's clothes match Kagura's which effectively pinpoints him as the most likely suspect of the murders!

Kagura cannot believe what the system has come up with and starts to wonder if it has anything to do with the other personality residing inside him. Years ago, after Kagura's father committed suicide, he started to have some periods of time where he would pass out and had no recollection of what happened during then. Later, after receiving treatment from Minakami, it was found that there was this other personality named Ryu residing inside Kagura and Ryu would come out from time to time thus rendering Kagura unaware of what he did. As Kagura is convinced that he did not kill the Tateshina brothers, the logical explanation was that Ryu could be responsible since his own DNA was found on Saki.

However, before he can actually attempt to prove his innocence, the police realise that Kagura's DNA matches what was found on Saki and launch a manhunt on him. With the help of Kagura's superior Shiga (Namase Katsuhisa) who launches a digital hunt on Kagura using the surveillance cameras everywhere, they manage to pinpoint Kagura's whereabouts so accurately but by a stroke of luck, Kagura manages to evade the police. Asama is not entirely convinced that Kagura is the killer but the DNA match is proving to be such a strong piece of evidence that it is difficult to prove otherwise. At the same time, Kagura's subordinate Shiratori Risa (An) renders some help to Kagura in the hope that he can retrieve the Mogul which the US government is also interested in. Having no choice, Kagura decides to go and look for the Mogul in a bid to prove that he's not guilty of the murders. However, before he can find anything, Shiratori is murdered by someone which leads Asama to conclude that someone else is the killer and wants to push the blame to Kagura instead.

Asama attempts to get in touch with Kagura who is sceptical about the offer of assistance but now that Shiratori is dead too, Kagura decides to enlist Asama's help in finding Mogul and the true killer. Little does he expect that the culprit is the person he trusted most i.e. Minakami who actually has the ambition to create humans without any genetic deficiencies or flaws in any way and that the "best" humans should be the ones living in this world from now on. The DNA system itself is flawed because it conceals the data of the rich and powerful thus resulting in NF matches. The Tateshina siblings came to realise the flaw and wanted to correct the mistake so that those in power would not be able to get away with anything so Minakami had to kill them in order to prevent the Mogul from being implemented into the system. At the same time, Asama finds the Mogul patch concealed by Saki in one of the paintings Ryu did and manages to put it into the DNA system thus churning out the matches against the previous NF samples. In the end, Kagura has no choice but to kill Minakami whose warped ideals even leads her to combine the DNA of Kagura and Saki (she stole a rib from Saki's body when the latter was murdered) to form a baby who she deems as the perfect human.

As I list down the key differences between the movie and the novel, I will explain why I think the omission or amendment to some of these developments or settings affected the movie:

Kagura and Asama's first meeting was under different circumstances as compared to what the movie had depicted. The novel describes the first meeting as Asama being at the crime scene of a woman found dead in a hotel room and this type of case where women were found to have used a device called "Dentori" which introduces a weak electrical wave through the body by putting its metal clips on the ears to give the user a "high" feeling different to that experienced when taking drugs. Although it was assumed that the victim had used Dentori prior to her death possibly to heighten sexual pleasure, there was no trace of semen from her body. Thankfully, the investigators found some strands of hair which Asama was told by his superior to bring to SARI (Special Analysis Research Institute) where Kagura and Shiga work at and that at this point in time, Asama knows nothing about the DNA investigation system yet. It is only two days later when he attended the briefing that he comes to know about the system.

The same process of nabbing the criminal happens in the novel but the case which this guy is responsible for has been changed in the movie. And in actual fact, the Dentori was never mentioned in the movie which I assume to be related to the gender change of Minakami's role. A woman would not have been able to have sexual intercourse with the female victims mentioned in the novel so that was why I didn't understand at first why Minakami's gender was changed. Due to the fact that the case used in the movie was different, that made the gender change reasonable but I still don't see why it was necessary in the first place. I would have preferred what the novel had as compared to the warped motive in this movie.

In the novel, the relationship between Asama and Kagura was depicted in such a way that when the latter grew to trust Asama in his moment of crisis and vice versa, it was believable and understandable why they would behave in this manner. Even though they held different stands towards the DNA investigation system, they did not have any ill will against each other and probably had developed respect for each other towards the end of the story. However, in the movie, there was no indication or evidence which led Asama to start believing in Kagura and for Kagura to trust Asama so it felt as if they suddenly decided that what they saw i.e. the DNA evidence was not the truth.

Shiratori Risa isn't Kagura's subordinate nor colleague as featured in the movie. In the novel, she is sent by the US government to Japan on the pretext of learning more about the DNA investigation system which explains why she wanted Kagura to find Mogul for the US government. However, the movie omits this part about her background thus making it bewildering why a Japanese civil servant like Shiratori who is working under Kagura should order him to find Mogul for a foreign country instead. As such, when she was able to avoid arousing any suspicion earlier on when helping Kagura escape from the authorities, it was stranger because an ordinary civil servant like her should not have been able to do that.

In the novel, there is this character Suzuran who is obviously missing from the movie. She is actually a very important character but the complexity of the subplot involving Suzuran, Kagura and Ryu would have meant that the movie needed to deviate a fair bit from the main storyline. Actually, Suzuran is not a brand new character but rather, she is a product of Kagura's imagination which was modelled on Saki. Given that the limited time in a single movie, this was probably why this essential subplot was taken out of the movie. Frankly speaking, I think it was a pity that this had to be done. There was really too little about Ryu in the movie and coupled with the elimination of Suzuran's presence, there were only random scenes like this meeting in the rain between Ryu and Saki which hinted at their emotional connection. I thought they were a rather cute couple especially in that scene where they did not kiss but were merely putting their faces close to each other and rubbing their noses.

One of the biggest flaws with this movie was how they handled the issue of Kagura's father's death. In actual fact, he didn't die just because his son had mistakenly thought that an imitation pottery work was his own creation. There was a far stronger reason which hurt his pride as a pottery artist but the film chose to gloss over the fact and simply brushed off the issue like this. This is actually no small matter considering that the dual personality problem in Kagura appeared after his father's suicide. You can argue either way that Ryu was the original childhood personality in Kagura while the latter was one born out of the necessity to survive against the harsh truth. In another way, Kagura could have been the dominant personality in the past but Ryu was born in a bid to hide from the truth. Either way, the suicide of his father was a big thing to him and the reason behind him was what led Kagura to believe so strongly in science or rather the DNA investigation system which has no grey areas and is supposed to be 100% accurate. If the time spent on that very long motorcycle chase scene could have been cut, it could have been used on more important developments in the story.

Last but not least, the ending of the movie left much to be desired as it made Kagura responsible for the killing of Minakami whereas the ending in the novel was much more realistic and acceptable, albeit a bit unsatisfying due to the fact that justice wasn't really upheld in the end. I also didn't like the fact that in the final scene, Kagura and Asama were dressed in black and white as they said their goodbyes as if to emphasize the message of good vs. evil or show the positions of these two men at opposite ends of the spectrum. If they had followed the exact storyline in the novel, it would have been a much better ending for both men. At least, that's how I feel about it.

As for the performance of the cast, I thought that Ninomiya and Toyokawa both fitted their roles' image and showed reasonably good acting. However, due to the poor script which was full of loopholes, I think it hampered the development of the characters to the extent that Kagura felt like someone who was arrogant and confident about his work for no apparent reason while Asama was stubborn about not believing the DNA system and suddenly believed Kagura's innocence. The truth is, there were various happenings in their background stories and thoughts which were not fully represented in the movie thus it made these characters feel one-dimensional and their actions incomprehensible at times. At the same time, I simply didn't think that changing Minakami's character to a woman helped the story in any way and honestly, I think that was the biggest reason why this movie flopped. Nothing against Suzuki Honami but if the change was logical and made the story better, I wouldn't mind it. However, looking at how things turned out, I must say that it was a change done in vain. Likewise for An's character Shiratori, she was a bit more interesting in the novel because of her identity as someone working for the US government. In the movie's setting, her status as a civil servant and Kagura's subordinate just made her actions seemed odd. There was very little An could do to change the situation. Mizuhara Kiko does leave quite a deep impression on me whenever I see her works but alas, her scenes as Saki were so limited that there was nothing much we came to know about this character except that she was a soulmate to Ryu and a great help to Kagura in the DNA investigation system project.

And my ratings for this movie...

Story: 2 out of 10 (The basic framework from the novel was there but the story's development itself was too messed up to convey the essence of the novel)

Acting: 6 out of 10 (The two leads were OK but could have been better if the script could give them the space to flex their acting muscles)

Theme song/BGM: 9 out of 10 (I like the theme song especially in the chorus part which resonates with Kagura's unhappy past and what lies ahead a path of pain)

Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out 10 (The DNA investigation set which was used in SARI and the computer system used in Saki's room looked very futuristic and impressive. Other than that, nothing else really caught my eye)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 3 out of 10 (It would have been better if the relationship between Kagura and Asama could be developed further so as to show how they started as people who didn't believe in each other to a relationship built upon trust and understanding.)

Total: 26 out of 50


ltgmars said...

As a fellow pre-movie book reader, I felt quite the same way you did, and I agree that it was a mistake to have read the book and had such high expectations going into the movie. I was especially upset about the omission of Suzuran (who gave both Ryu and Kagura critical depth and development as the story progressed), and the relative one-dimensionality of the characters who remained. The difference in the father's death was also incredibly disappointing, because it changed what was essential about Kagura's character and his relationship with Ryu. I also thought the "reveal" at the end about Ryu being the true personality was pretty absurd, and in a way, it undermine what Kagura had achieved as a scientist.

Long story short, I was also incredibly disappointed, and I've since become very cautious about reading books before watching their movies.

Anonymous said...

More news, pleeeese!!!

chan said...

lt's beginning able to be glad.but feel badly watching later on.

Salonik Filmowy said...

It's a very bad film. Ninomiya is a good actor (Letters from Iwo Jima, Gantz) but in this movie he is rather funny.