Note: The English dub is the version viewed.
Movies adapted from video games have earned a bad name for themselves. Usually terrible films that even fans of the source material tend to rebuke, video game movies are generally something to be avoided. Still, there are exceptions, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, being one of them. While Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva isn't perfect as well as being heavily flawed, it's still an entertaining and satisfying film that goes above what is often expected of video game films.
In a condensed form, the plot follows brilliant detective Professor Layton and his young apprentice, Luke Triton as they find themselves, as well as a large crowd of people, trapped in an opera house and slowly being picked off one by one in something of a tragic game. By solving puzzles, Layton and Luke, as well as their friend Janice Quatlane, must survive these puzzles in hopes of apprehending the culprit responsible.
Japanese anime (or really any form of anime) has never been my particular cup of tea. And if you truly detest the genre, I recommend staying far away from this, as it's unlikely to change your mind. In fact, it may cement that opinion. However, keeping an open mind through the quirks and oddities one finds in anime, I found myself actually enjoying myself somewhat.
The film opens with a one minute intro that more or less explains that this films is based off of a popular video game series, among a few other things. This feels very much like a commercial, and it's hugely unnecessary. Thankfully, it's short.
The plot is surprisingly engaging. While it starts a little slow, it isn't too long before the ball gets rolling and in true 'And Then There Were None' style, groups of people and disposed of repeatedly. The film becomes more frenzied and more intriguing. At times, the film is surprisingly creepy.
At times, the film feels very much like a video game. And there are things the film does that would only work in a video game, and simply doesn't work in this film. Some things that don't work is the utter improbability of much of what's going on. For example, Layton at one point, builds a helicopter out of materials he finds in a shed and uses it to fly to a nearby island. This would be acceptable in a video game, but in a film, viewers are much more unlikely to suspend their belief in reality.
Some elements of the mystery seem hugely obvious, and some characters are far too oblivious of them for far too long. Also, those who have not played some of the Professor Layton games will not know several characters whom are in the film, but without proper introduction.
And despite being a mystery, there are many things left open ended and unexplained. While this may not bother some, others may feel disappointed.
Attempts at humor are made, but it's all painfully unfunny. Never did I laugh, but humor is not the primary focus, so this can be excused.
What cannot be excused (and this is the primary reason that I'm not giving this a higher score) is a tedious, dull, and improbable action sequence near the end. It lasts 20 minutes, and frankly, it was 20 minutes too long. This represented the lowest point of the film.
I may be saying a lot of negative things about this film, but I did enjoy it. The plot is intriguing, characters are interesting, but what got me the most, is the ending. An absolutely beautiful and poignant finish. I won't spoil the details here, but you'd be surprised at the emotional depth displayed here.
Voice acting is will make those unexposed to anime cringe. The fact is, it's all hugely exaggerated and often laughable. The more bearable of the voice talents are Christopher Robin Miller as Professor Layton, Emma Tate as Janice Quatlane, and Robbie Stevens as Oswald Whistler.
While the animation isn't stunning, it's serviceable. Mixing hand-drawn animation and CGI, the animation is pleasant, if far from eye-popping.
Perhaps the best aspect of the film (other than the beautiful ending) is the score, composed by Tomohito Nishiura and Tsuneyoshi Saito. Utterly charming and wonderfully inventive, the music is fun, unique, and quite breathtaking at times. While parts of the 20 minute action sequence at the end go overboard with the synthesizers (as this represents not only the low point in the film, but the low point in music), the score is surprisingly effective, and even stunning.
There's a masterpiece somewhere in Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva. Somewhere, there's a beautiful and perfect film trapped in it's heart. Unfortunately, only some the majesty this film tries to produce is executed, leaving a flawed and utterly improbable film in it's place. But for all I dislike about this film, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva still provides a mostly entertaining story, with an ending that's better than it has any right to be.