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Publication Date : 14-05-2014
Thermae Romae II offers more laughter than the original film
It’s just a myth that sequels are always boring—is it going too far to say that? There are countless cases in which the second film is as exciting as the first, if not more so. Take Terminator or Alien, for example.
Of course, the types of excitement they bring are different. The first film usually wins in terms of setting up the characters and the story, and the charms of the sequel lie in its thorough pursuit of the essence of the first film.
The essence of the Thermae Romae series is the ample laughter produced by the mismatch between its vast scale and the highly familiar episodes in Japan.
Once again the central character is Lucius, the bathhouse engineer from ancient Rome played by Hiroshi Abe. The story is set in the glorious days of the Roman Empire, with a fighting arena and other ancient Roman buildings constructed at a Bulgarian film studio at a magnitude almost unheard of for a Japanese film. The gladiator battle scene with several thousand extras has enormous impact.
In contrast, how about the humbleness of the scenes in Japan? As in the first film, Lucius craves new ideas for building bathhouses and travels through time to modern-day hot spring resorts in places like Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture, and Suwa, Nagano Prefecture. It’s always hilarious to watch the dissonance between the familiar scenes in Japan and the wonder and inspiration felt by Lucius, who shoulders the fate of the empire.
It doesn’t matter if the effects look cheap. Sequels are allowed to include all sorts of fun as a treat for the fans, even bringing in sumo and a parody of Tokujiro Namikoshi, the so-called god of shiatsu massage.
At the end of this big feast for the audience, the film concludes with a moving scene between Lucius and Mami (Aya Ueto), a writer and sort of aide to Lucius. It sent me out of the theatre with a light heart.
Thermae Romae II
Dir: Hideki Takeuchi
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Aya Ueto
Running time: 113 minutes