The original “Zeiram” must have made money for somebody somewhere, because a sequel was released three years later. They really shouldn’t have bothered on our account, since the resulting film is more akin to a bloody “Power Rangers” episode instead of a science fiction/action film.
“Zeiram 2″ reunites us with intergalactic bounty hunter Iria, her computerized partner Bob, and her idiot man-child co-worker Fujikiro. After the trio recovers a stolen alien artifact, Iria is sent to an abandoned industrial site to test out the combat capabilities of a new robot. What she doesn’t realize is that the robot is a new Zeiram model, quite advanced and extremely deadly. Problems arise when the Zeiram malfunctions, and begins playing its war games for real. Further complicating matters is Iria’s traitorous co-worker, who is planning to eliminate Iria and keep the recovered artifact for himself. Iria must destroy the robot before it rampages through the population while staying one step ahead of Fujikiro…
In short, Haijime Matsumoto’s script is a mindless but entertaining piece of work. The plot is simplistic and predictable, with dialogue that is frequently funny (although whether that was intentional or not is anyone’s guess). Aside from Iria, the majority of the characters behave as if they have a collective I.Q. of 50. Fortunately Matsumoto packs in plenty of nifty fight sequences and robot action, so it’s frequently easy to switch off your brain and enjoy the carnage.
The direction by Keita Amamiya is competent in terms of pacing, and he certainly knows how to film battle scenes and blow things up. In certain scenes, he even seems to be paying homage to the works of Sam Raimi and James Cameron. Unfortunately the visuals make “Zeiram 2″ look rather cheap and bland, and the film mostly resembles an “Ultraman” episode that was rejected on terms of violence. There’s nothing aesthetically wonderful about the film, and most of the scenes have an annoying blue hue about them.
As the heroine Iria, Yukio Mariyama is a terrific lead. She has a wonderful onscreen presence, projecting an athletic fearlessness that overshadows every other performer around her. Thanks to Mariyama’s efforts, Iria becomes the courageous force you’d want beside you whenever killer robots appear. Dave Mallow is wonderfully calm as the voice of Bob, and bears an uncanny resemblance to HAL 9000. If they ever do a remake of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Mallow is the first person they should call. As for the rest of the cast, words can’t begin to describe their inept performances. Hopefully, they have another career to fall back on.
The special effects, under the direction of Hiroshi Kidokoro, are well done considering he probably had a limited budget to work with. The Zeiram unit, when finally revealed, is a nice piece of craftsmanship that exudes an almost eerie aura about it. Also fairly decent is the art direction by Yoshima Hosaka, who manages to make the industrial complex look desolate and foreboding. Their efforts elevate the film and they are appreciated for raising the enjoyment level, if just slightly.
In the end, “Zeiram 2″ is an unnecessary sequel that is mostly fun to watch. As such, it’s nice brain candy, but is easily forgettable. Parents should be cautioned, though, since despite resembling a kids TV show, the movie does have scenes of gore that may upset very young children. More critical viewers, on the other hand, will just be upset by the quality of what they are seeing.
Keita Amamiya (director) / Hajime Matsumoto (screenplay)
CAST: Mitsuo Abe …. Hagi
Shuta Hiromoto …. Shaman
Yukijiro Hotaru …. Kamiya