For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Sci-Fi, here’s a review of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001) -by SG of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Natasha of Life of This City Girl for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Dan of Slipthrough Movies We will be reviewing our favorite Crime Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of February by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org Try to think out of the box! Great choice Dan!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
Out in space, the cowboys wait,
The bounty hunters lying low
For news of money as the bait
To catch a crook or fight a foe
And then collect on what they owe.
But both the hunters and their prey
Have pasts they do not wish to face,
Lovers lost and debts to pay
And griefs that only fuel the chase
To hate or save the human race.
MPAA rating: R
For those not familiar with one of the most acclaimed anime series of all time, let me just say a word about Cowboy Bebop. This 1998 fusion of bounty hunter westerns and mature sci-fi themes has earned quite the cult following and with good reason. It features quality animation, momentous action, and a hero both tragic and undeniably cool in the character of Spike Spiegel, who’s like a combination of Clint Eastwood and Bruce Lee. Set in 2071, the series follows Spike and his crewmates aboard the junky spaceship called the Bebop, including the ship’s gruff but caring owner Jet Black, the femme fatale amnesiac Faye Valentine, and the weird young computer prodigy Edward (who is a girl). Oh, and there’s a cute Welsh corgi named Ein too. Beyond bringing the team together, the show focuses on their missions to catch criminals and collect bounties even as they struggle with their tumultuous pasts. The music by composer Yoko Kanno is one of the show’s biggest assets and drives home the jazzy neo-noir aspect of the storytelling. Its unique and confident style and occasionally frank violence have even drawn supposed comparisons to the work of Tarantino (I wouldn’t know), and fans are still waiting for a rumored live action adaptation.
If we don’t get said adaptation, though, at least we have Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, basically a full-length animated episode set between episodes 22 and 23 of the series. (This was a good move since, let’s just say, it would be hard to continue the story past the final episode.) Its status as a film also fixes my main complaint for the series, namely that each episode is so packed with plot that it sometimes seems rushed. Here the themes, twists, and motivations are allowed to play out over almost two hours and thus feel more fleshed out. In addition, since most episodes of the show are, um, episodic, the movie fits in well and manages to stand on its own, even for those without prior knowledge of the series. For example, the very first scene establishes Spike as downright awesome, cool as a cucumber, tough as nails, and with a selfish, casual swagger that has earned interplanetary bounty hunters the nickname of “cowboys.” At times, Spike even seems superhuman; in the show, he’s been shot, drugged, poisoned, exposed to space, beaten to a pulp, and stabbed and thrown out a window yet always comes through with a smirk and a cigarette.
Science fiction is a very broad topic, one that can encompass anything from time travel and robots to dystopias and aliens. Cowboy Bebop is more down-to-earth than that. For the most part, the film takes place on Mars, which has become so urbanized that it’s essentially a stand-in for New York or Chicago, albeit a technologically advanced city with spaceships and upside-down hanging monorails. This metropolis is threatened by the sudden emergence of a bio-terrorist named Vincent, who plans to unleash a nanomachine pathogen on the populace. This naturally attracts a huge bounty on his head, which naturally attracts Spike and the gang. Also on Vincent’s trail is Elektra, a woman working for a pharmaceutical company with a special interest in this new biological weapon.
Like the show, the film’s plot fuses many elements of different cultures, which would be expected when most of Earth’s population migrates to other planets. While the capital of Mars looks like an American/Japanese metropolis, there’s an Arabic quarter that impacts both the story and the score, as well as a brief Native American aspect borrowed from the series. Kanno’s soundtrack upholds the cultural blend, perhaps to appeal to western audiences; despite the film being Japanese, the outstanding songs at the beginning and end are in English. These songs fit in well with the excellent English dub, which is just as good as that of the show. The film’s original subtitle was Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, but to avoid copyright issues with Bob Dylan, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie had to suffice in the West. Even so, the end-credits blues-rock theme “Gotta Knock a Little Harder” blows away Dylan’s song, IMHO.
Just listen to this song, complete with scenes from the series:
The film does have its downsides, with inconsistent pacing and some pseudo-meaningful talk about heaven and dreams, which applies to Vincent’s confusion about reality but doesn’t really make much sense. Also, the rest of the Bebop crew get short shrift compared with Spike, the obvious hero whose tragic love life is even touched on, and there is some gun violence and sexual menace, though mercifully brief. Despite these weaknesses, the film’s style overcomes its faults, whether it be the sci-fi crime drama or the epic fistfight in Mars’s version of the Eiffel Tower. Contrasting with the fantasy and wonder of many anime, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie offers science fiction that is at once hard-boiled, nuanced and, above all, cool, a worthy taste of the Bebop style.
Best line: (Elektra) “The more that you know, the shorter your life will be.” (Spike) “I love the kind of woman that can kick my a**.”
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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