Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is a film based on a series of games about a top-hatted savant and a 12-year-old boy, who for some reason choose to express their ill-defined relationship by travelling the world together and solving mysteries. Sometimes these are diabolical secrets like "Who is kidnapping all the young women in our village?" or "Whatever happened to the mountain of gold mentioned on this chunk of ancient stone tablet?", but more often they are mundane brain-teasers like "How many eggs can this fat man fit in his mouth?" or "How make triangles can you identify in this ruddy massive diagram full of trangles?"
The plot begins when the Professor receives two tickets to a swanky opera. Naturally he decides to take his young partner along and they soon find themselves caught in a bizarre, puzzle-based trap, as some loon in a mask announces to the audience that they must all compete in a Battle Royale style puzzle-solving tournament or DIE!!!!! With a set-up like that you'd expect a meaty assault of riddles and algebra, but the film never bothers to deliver. I think this is the real mystery we are expected to solve - Why would somebody make a film about a game about solving puzzles, and then include only four puzzles unevenly spread out across 90 minutes? If you come to this film hoping for a mental work-out, you would be better off watching an episode of Countdown.
The most interesting thing about this adaptation is that Professor Layton himself exhibits exactly the kind of closet sociopathy you might expect from someone who spends his days obsessing over word games with pre-teen pals. Despite being told that anyone who fails to solve each puzzle will die, Layton seems quite happy to sit on his answers and watch all the other hapless victims throw their lives away. At one point he even allows his young protégée to loudly suggest an answer, which dozens of the remaining participants follow blindly to their doom while Layton quietly diverts his friends away towards his CORRECT solution. Imagine having that on your conscience, aged 12.
Besides all this, the film rumbles along in the melodramatic manner typical of family-friendly drama until the Professor inevitably wraps everything up into a distinctly Japanese bittersweet conclusion. I enjoyed the plummy English accents and the iron man cop with a pompadour, but would have preferred a clearer explanation of who the villain was and a bit more pace in general.
[The Professor Layton games are a sort of cross between mensa tests and newspaper puzzle pages, and I think they are jolly good fun.]