A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 371 – Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie – March 6th, 2011

I should preface this review by stating that Cowboy Bebop is by far one of my favorite television shows ever made. It is the coolest of cool, with fun and interesting characters and plots that manage to combine humor, melancholy, philosophy and action. And this movie follows suit. But the series (and thus the movie) is a very specific style of noir crossed with Western with a jazz/funk soundtrack and if that’s not your thing, you might as well step back. But it is my thing, so I love it all. Every bit of it.

I feel as though I’m going to have to do a mini-review of the series itself to really review this movie. But that’s how it is, I think, when a movie gets made from an established series. Similar to something like Firefly and Serenity, while you could watch this movie on its own and get a decent feel for the characters and the world even if you’d never seen the show, you’re better off with more background. It gives it all a richer feel. The movie introduces the characters well enough, but there are things you know from the series that give some moments and interactions a bit more depth.

For example: Spike Spiegel is the main character. He’s a lanky and laid back bounty hunter with wild hair. He and his partner, Jet Black, have been working together for a while and along the way they’ve picked up the compulsive gambler, Faye Valentine and hacker prodigy Edward Hong Wau Pepulu Tivruski 4th (Ed, for short, and also Ed is a girl). Also, they have a dog, Ein, an unnaturally intelligent Welsh Corgi. And we meet all of them in the movie and we get to know enough about them to put them in context. Ed does her rubbery dancing around while hacking, Ein plays chess with Jet, Jet meets with an old friend from his police days, Faye mentions gambling and has a few scenes where she hunts down a bounty and Spike, being the main character, is Spike all over the place. Seriously, give Han Solo more of a sense of spirituality, better hand-to-hand moves and get him high and you’ve got Spike. But while you get all that and it’s all good, you don’t get much in the way of backstory for Spike and how he was in a gang and his former best friend is now his nemesis and you get the barest mention of the woman he loved and nothing about what happened with her and why it’s important. You don’t know that Faye’s actually super old and was in stasis and that makes lines about her being young and living forever a little more meaningful.

Then again, while it does make it richer for the characters, the backstory isn’t truly necessary for the plot. I just think it makes it more interesting. The plot centers around a terrorist named Vincent who’s using government-made nanobots to attack civilians. Of course Vincent is ex-military himself and is immune. He’s got a lot of spiritual things to say about heaven and hell and purgatory and how he’s doing this to free humanity. Spike, being something of a lost soul himself, sees something interesting in Vincent and knows that he has to be stopped. It’s nothing revolutionary, at least not if you’ve seen the series, because the series does similar things, just in shorter episodes. It’s a good plot and it’s done well and it is nice and big but the thing is, the series had done some fairly sizable plot arcs by this point. Things that spanned multiple episodes and revealed things about characters and long-term questions and plot points. This is a big plot, with plenty going on, yes. But it doesn’t reveal much about the characters so it comes off as a little less than some of the series episodes.

Still, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The animation is incredibly well done, with some nicely placed CG backgrounds. Specifically, the fight sequences are a joy to watch. They’re fast-paced and complicated but easy to follow, which is fantastic. One of the things I love about the show is Spike’s fighting style, which is almost floppy at times. I can’t imagine it’s easy to animate but it’s done so well here. Ed is similar in her movements all the time. She’s got a looseness I love (of course, I love Ed in general). And then there are all the incidental characters and settings. The movie takes place on a terraformed and heavily inhabited Mars, in one of the major cities. It’s a lot of fun to watch the people on the trains and sitting in the background because they’re always different. They seem like characters instead of background, which I adore. And then setting the stage is the music. And I saved the music for the end here on purpose, because I think it deserves a big round of applause. Yoko Kanno did the music for the series and the movie as well and she is without a doubt one of the most brilliant composers I have ever heard. Every bit of music in this movie captures just the right mood and tone. It’s expertly done and while, like the plot and animation, it doesn’t set the movie far apart from the series, it also maintains everything the series did. And the series is wonderful, so there’s really nothing at all wrong with that.

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March 6, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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