Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion Review


Whereas the first film in the Mardock Scramble trilogy felt very focused and deliberate with every choice it made, the second entry, The Second Combustion, unfortunately feels more like an awkward transition between the opening chapter and the trilogy’s inevitable conclusion. Gone are the hard hitting emotional issues and the intense action scenes, instead replaced with a slower tale focusing mainly on Rune grieving and seeking repentance for putting Oeufcoque’s life in danger.

In this second film we learn where Shell’s memories are being stored and that they could be used to convict him. We see our heroes head off in search of them, and they do get close to finding those memories, but they don’t actually get them. The plot feels much thinner on the ground than the first film, largely feeling like it was an attempt to stall until they could get to the conclusion, which is a real shame.

Contrary to my initial fears, The Second Combustion does a great job of jumping back into the story exactly where the first film left off, maintaining the amazing sense of tone and emotion that had been built up. Whereas the first film opened with Rune exclaiming “I want to die”, the second film brilliantly frames her development by starting with her screaming, “I don’t want to die”. The contrast reminded me of just how much she has developed and served to strengthen my enjoyment of it retroactively. Unfortunately, this opening scene only lasts a few minutes and the rest of the film feels like it’s lacking in both action and emotional narrative depth when compared to its brilliant opening minutes.

One of the other problems here is that both nudity and violence are still present, but neither serves a real narrative purpose the same way they did in the first film. When Rune’s having a conversation, she doesn’t need to be fully naked. When she’s floating in a large body of water, we don’t need full female nudity. There is no reason to show a shark exploding when any other film would have simply let it go. It just feels unnecessary and at times left me feeling pretty uncomfortable.

The second entry does give us an interesting window into the lives of Shell and Boiled, which is definitely one of the film’s strengths. We get a great glimpse into Shell’s emotional state, Bolied’s hatred and blood-lust toward Oeufcoque and where the trilogy’s finale is heading. Unfortunately, there was a real sense that we only saw half the story, and in the kind of way that left me feeling unfulfilled rather than like I was on an amazing cliffhanger.

Much of the second film is devoted to Rune using her newly acquired powers to advance through a casino. While these scenes were a little predictable, the scenes at the roulette wheel provided a nice back and forth with a character who ended up having much more depth to her than I ever expected.

All in all Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion feels like a middle to a story that would have been better served with scenes removed and inserted in the opening and closing chapters instead being a part of their own stand alone film. While it sets up the final entry nicely, it’s a shame that it doesn’t stand on its own merits as well as the first film did. I still have high hopes for the finale, but I really hope that it returns to its roots and remembers what made the first entry so fascinating and recommendable.

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