Posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
Some reviewing critics were irritated when, last year, Paramount screened Iron Man for press without the post-credits scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson. But that was just a kicker, and the movie held together without it. In Japan, Toho is doing something a bit more extreme with screenings of the last film in the 20th Century Boys trilogy. According to Variety, the distributor is showing the film to press…with the last ten minutes cut. Wha?
20th Century Boys – The Last Chapter: Our Flag is the third film in the trilogy which faithfully adapts the manga of the same name. It is one of the biggest film projects ever to come out of Japan, and follows six friends who, as boys in 1969, build a clubhouse and imagine a future in which they must stand up to a band of villains who want to destroy the world. As an adult, one of the boys learns of a cult led by a mysterious figure called only Tomodachi (‘friend’) whose evil plans eerily parallel those written as fantasy by the boys decades earlier. In a story that has vague shades of Stephen King’s It (on a much larger scale and, I expect, without all the kids having sex to banish evil) 20th Century Boys looks in on the characters between 1969 and 2017 as they eventually attempt to unmask and stop Tomodachi.
And it’s the identity of Tomodachi that Toho wants to preserve. Supposedly, only ten people knew the true identity of the character while the film was in production and post, as the story was tweaked and revised. (Similar to the ways in which other movie and TV secrets have been preserved — the big Twin Peaks revelation comes to mind.) So the press will see the movie without the revelation so they can’t spoil it for anyone. Which begs the question — if the adaptation is so faithful to the original manga, wouldn’t everyone know the secret already?
I haven’t seen either of the films that are already out (trailers are below) nor have I read the manga. But how could anyone properly review a film without seeing how the end of the story is handled? Imagine sitting through the three Star Wars prequels without even the payoff of seeing Anakin become Darth Vader, or of the Lord of the Rings trilogy without seeing the ring and Gollum destroyed? It’s crazy, and positions the series as a set of movies that just builds up to that one secret; everything else is immaterial.