Friday, July 11, 2014

AFFD 2014 Review: BLACK BUTLER- Jonesy's Take

Directed by Kentaro Otani and Kelichi Sato
Starring: Hizo Mizushima and Ayame Goriki    
Synopsis: A demon butler makes a pact with a young aristocrat to help her seek revenge.

BLACK BUTLER plays again tonight at The Angelika Dallas at 9:45.

When a film is based on an existing property, such as a book or TV series, it's difficult to create a film that satisfies the fans and can draw in outsiders. BLACK BUTLER started off as a manga series in 2006, then became an anime series in 2008, and now, like most successful stories, has its own feature film. Set roughly 130 years after the manga series, the film follows the elusive butler, Sebastian (Mizushima), as he serves a young aristocrat as she tries to get revenge on the people who killed her parents.

Shiori (Goriki) witnessed her parents brutal murders when she was a young girl, but then she disappeared. A couple weeks after, she returned, but this time she disguised herself as a boy so she could take over the family business. She returned with a mysterious demon butler, with whom she has made a pact: he gets her soul once she meets her objective of getting revenge. She also has become one of the watchdogs for the Queen and has been charged with solving a strange string of murders where the victims turn into mummies.

The tone of the film is dark but also has some (albeit strange) comedic moments. Most of those moments stem from Mizushima's performance. As a demon butler, he doesn't show much emotion and has a piercing stare. He wields butter knives, talks to cats, but is the most devote servant that has ever existed. Goriki is also fantastic as Shiori. Her determination is palpable as her parents murders are always in the back of her mind. Goriki and Mizushima have great chemistry together, and even though their agreement is he will eventually take her soul, he seems to genuinely care for Shiori. He's intrigued by her human decisions, and there's some underlying tension that maybe he wouldn't be able to take her soul when he's supposed to.

The plot is a typical mystery of trying to figure out who's behind the murders, which end up escalating the political ladder. The mystery itself is intriguing enough to keep the film interesting. There are a couple of action sequences which are quite fun. The way the camera moves around and changes perspectives is one of the more innovative action scenes I've seen this year.

However, the film falls apart a bit during the last act. There's a typical confrontation between the good guys and bad guys, but the confrontation takes up so much time, and we're end up just being spoon fed endless exposition and explanations. After a while, it feels tedious, unnecessary, and kills the momentum the film had built up to this point.

BLACK BUTLER is an entertaining film which, from what I can gather, pays homage to the original material but can still be enjoyed by anyone who comes in blind. The performances by the two leads are strong, and even though there are problems towards the end, the story will still draw you in.

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