Having started in 2012, this third entry in the ‘Iron Girl’ saga of action/sci-fi films carries on the post-apocalyptic themes and settings from the previous films, while managing to tie together the franchise in a potential final package. Once again helmed by Kenichi Fujiwara, the director of the previous installment as well as several other returning characters, this new film is screening at Japan Film Fest Hamburg.
In the middle of a war-ravaged Japan, Chris (Kiara Asuka, from “Ultraman Ginga”) manages to meet up with Joe (Takaya Aoyagi, from “Crows Zero II”) who is part of the resistance corps looking into why the Artificial Intelligence program JUDA is sending out murderous cyborgs looking for a specific girl. That leads her to young Sara (Jun Amaki, from “Flower and the Beast”) who’s also part of the resistance group but is continually fearful of the dreams she has of Chris dying in battle even though they never met before. After battling the JUDA movement’s latest cyborg Diana (Saki Akai, from “Kaiju Mono”) they both learn the true meaning of their connection and race to stop the two groups from unleashing Armageddon on Earth.
Overall, there was quite a lot to like with ‘IG: Final Wars.’ Among its better qualities is the fun and engaging story that offers up quite a lot of wild and frantic action scenes. From the opening shootout at the bar that starts the film off in a flashy manner, the influx of cyborgs into the animated fight scenes has a lot to like. The low-budget nature doesn’t allow for much beyond the grounded brawling to be featured here so we get continuous flashes of brief fights, shootouts and confrontations that get a special boost due to the addition of a cyborg to the scenes. That leaves this with some solid action, including the raid on the alliance headquarters that lets the two cyborgs get together as well as the soldiers squaring off in order to protect Sara. The finale take place within the terrorist headquarters which manages to get plenty of fun swordplay and some rather big special effects for the cyborgs to have some solid set-pieces.
As well as this fine action, ‘IG: Final Wars’ also gets some great reasoning for all this fighting. This is due to the fun story by writer Yasutoshi Murakawa that has quite a lot to like with how well-detailed it really is. Concerning the exploits of the various groups left alive after an apocalypse has affected mankind and the eventual discovery of cyborgs created by dead people that have altered the resistances’ plans, this setup works nicely to generate the motivations for the action. As the Resistance tries to ascertain the truth about the terrorist group JUDA’s intentions to kidnap Sara to use for their own evil deeds in trying to get to their headquarters, there’s some better than expected work here at detailing the various tactics employed to gain the upper hand. The flashbacks to their human selves and the memories that are given here really fill in the blanks for a lot of the extra beats in the story and come together nicely and give this one a lot to like.
There are a few issues to be had here. The main problem is an absolutely frustrating and maddening pace that really leaves a lot to be desired. The film tends to stop and go several times at various intervals, employing action scenes only to stop them to drag on to other tangential storylines during these moments. For example, the fight scenes involving the cyborgs going at each other and then follow those scenes up with the unnecessary and overlong sequence of the loner going through the weapons demonstration with the excitable haggler. This scene has nothing to do with the rest of the film, isn’t all that funny and just serves to enhance the running time. Other scenes include the strange meeting held between Joe and Chris that introduces a romantic interest to their relationship but goes nowhere with it and forces ‘IG: Final Wars’ to keep shrugging off the action to later parts of the film so it’s running time is quite unbalanced with more setups in the finale. That these action scenes manage to showcase how ill-at-ease Asuka is as an action hero, barely able to perform rudimentary martial arts moves and blocks or really look at that impressive in the swordplay scenes, also undermines this, making it hard to believe she’s a capable fighter. These issues hold the film back.
With plenty of enjoyable elements and only a few minor flaws that are somewhat more detrimental than expected, there’s enough to make this watchable enough if not being an altogether impressive effort. Give this a chance if you’re into these kinds of low-budget Japanese action/sci-fi films or want to finish off the rest of the series, while those that are looking for something more substantial should heed caution.