The Empire of Corpses Review (2015)

The Empire of Corpses Review (2015)

English Title The Empire of Corpses
Japanese Title Shisha no Teikoku
Kana Title 屍者の帝国
Director Ryoutarou Makihara
Release Date 2015
Distributor Toho

Based on a novel by award winning science fiction writer Project Itoh, The Empire of Corpses is essentially a late, big budget steampunk sequel to the novel Frankenstein. Animated by Wit, the company behind Attack on Titan, it’s natural to only expect great things from such a pairing.

The film opens with an astonishing vision of 1870s London, almost a century after the events of Frankenstein. The city is now powered by a work force of the living dead inspired by the deceased doctor’s experiments. The process, known as necroware, allows the dead to perform manual work, as well as to act as cannon fodder for the army, reducing the lives lost in war. The world economy rests on the labour of the dead. Enter Watson, a man who along with his deceased friend Friday, operates illegal necroware experiments hoping to discover the 21 grams that constitute the soul. When discovered by the British government Watson is forced to head to Russia in hopes of discovering the notes of Victor Frankenstein, the only man to have resurrected a corpse with the gift of thought and speech.

Sounds great, right? Well, unfortunately the film falls apart quite rapidly. Not quite content with existing as a follow up to Frankenstein, Empire of Corpses attempts to be League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, bringing together characters and references from all 18th century English literature. Not even 15 minutes in, the film speeds away from the London it introduces and takes on a globetrotting narrative. Rather than fleshing the intricacies of a world in which Frankenstein’s work becomes commerce and industry, we watch our characters hop from country to country in search of the Dr’s original notes, and eventually, Frankenstein’s monster himself.

The problem with making an anime sequel to a 150 year old book is that so much has happened to the property since then. The most obvious is that Universal Studio’s Frankenstein series from the 30s and 40s is Frankenstein to the great majority. So when the film references past events it’s hard to recollect what had happened in the novel and what had happened in the films (which this doesn’t follow). This wouldn’t be such a problem if the film stopped for just a moment to explain itself, but it never does. I’m a big fan of classic horror and Frankenstein, yet even I struggled to follow as the plot is endlessly muddled by pointless references to other classic literature and real world 18th century figures.

The execution is so muddled that Empire of Corpses really struggles to hold your attention. New variations of the necroware are seemingly introduced every ten minutes and then never spoken of again. There are at least three methods with which to create zombies, and a cyborg thrown in for good measure. The film just can’t seem to stay on one plot more than it can in one location. There is just no rationale or follow up to anything introduced. So Nicola Tesla made himself a robot daughter with no soul; so what? Even the protagonist being Watson from Sherlock Holmes serves no meaningful purpose. It’s a Kill Bill champloo style of storytelling that pulls apart a brilliant concept at every moment.

empire-of-corpses-zombie-attack

Author Project Itoh only wrote a 30 page draft for Empire of Corpses, before tragically dying of cancer at just 34. The book was then finished and released four years later by a friend of Itoh’s in 2013. I can’t attest to the quality of the novel but this adaptation certainly feels like an unfinished work cobbled together in to a releasable product.

The most disappointing thing about Empire of Corpses is that for almost every reason it should be a much better film than it is. It has a fascinating world, competent action, great design, fantastic animation, yet the plot is complete nonsense.  It’s quite a feat for a movie with so much going for it to be so remarkably average.

 

Where to watch The Empire of Corpses
Empire of Corpses can be found on Blu Ray on Amazon.

 

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About author

Craig Hatch
Craig Hatch 40 posts

<p>Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.</p>

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Editor review

Rating
2/5

2

Fair
2
Summary

The most disappointing thing about Empire of Corpses is that for almost every reason it should be a much better film than it is. It has a fascinating world, competent action, great design, fantastic animation, yet the plot is complete nonsense. It’s quite a feat for a movie with so much going for it to be so remarkably average.