Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

There were series of original Hong Kong cuts of titles by John Woo and Jackie Chan and bizarre titles like Sex and Zen. It wasn’t all Asain cinema, though. There were several films by Aki Kaurismaki as well. But it was at this time I first discovered the art form known as anime. In a matter of a few weeks, I had seen Akira, The Castle of Cagliostro, Fist of the North Star, Roujin Z, My Neighbor Totoro and Golgo 13: The Professional, amongst others. And although the anime series was very popular, that calendar ended, the theatre moved on to another series and I caught a second case of Jackie Chan-itis, which I still haven’t been cured of.

Despite the explosion of cable channels in the last decade, I decided to get rid of my hookup. As Springsteen said around the same time, there were 57 channels and nothing on. Friends would tape me shows like South Park, but the non-Pokemon amine movement happening on channels like The Cartoon Network and Fox Kids fell way below my radar. I would catch an anime film if one just happened to be in theatres at the time, so I was able to see Ghost In The Shell and Princess Mononoke in theatres, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to catch a film. As time would have it, I ended up moving to New York City and getting myself engaged to a wonderful woman, who just happens to be a big fan of anime. If given the opportunity, she would dress as Asuka or San or even Faye Valentine… and not just for conventions and such, either. So, over the course of the recent past, I’ve rekindled my interest in anime.

When the Big Apple Anime Fest announced its 2002 schedule, there were two films that we made plans to see. One was Millennium Actress and the other was the brand spanking new English dub of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. Myself, I could care less about dubbed versus subtitled. With the anime titles we have at home, I will more often than not watch the film the first time with the English dub, so I can watch the movie without spending the majority of my time reading the subtitles. I’ll watch the film with the subtitles from then on, but the first time around I want to see all the pretty art. However, the two people I went to this screening with (my fiancee and a friend who flew in for the wedding a couple weeks early so he could attend the Big Apple Anime Fest with us) spend good time before and after the screening arguing the pros and cons of dubbing.

After a nice dinner, the three of us head off to the theatre. Even though we were still there an hour early, we still ended up at the back of the line to get in. And while it’s no Ziegfeld, the big house at the State seats about 450, so it was pretty crowded. Add to the crowd dozens of unfortunate souls who didn’t buy in advance and were looking for one ticket to this screening. Did they know it would be showing again the following nightr Does it matterr This is the world premiere of the English dub, man. You’re still not going to be first to see it. Slowly, the crowd is allowed into the theatre. We’re each given nice little gift bags which include a Big Apple Anime Fest promo DVD (pretty lame), a Big Apple Anime Fest program (very nice), a Cowboy Bebop: The Movie postcard (cute), a Cowboy Bebop Anime Guide (very nice) and a set of Animatrix promo cards (extrememly cool on its own, even more os since the director of CB directed two of the nine short films). I end up reading everything… twice, since the screening begins almost a half hour late.

After a short introduction of director Shinichiro Watanabe and composer Yoko Kanno, the screening began. Almost instantly, we are clued in that this is going to be slightly different from the TV series. Or, at least, this English dubbed version of the movie is. After the obligatory set-up of the lead characters Jet and Spike, the title credits begin with some weak soft rock/pop ballad thing instead of the crazy and cool jazz intro music from the show. How thrown was the audience from this faux pasr Although they cheered heavily when Watanabe and Kanno were introduced moments earlier, the entire audience was quiet when their names flashed on screen.

The story of the movie follows the storyline of the series only rudimentary, in that the crew of the spaceship Bebop (Spike, Jet and Faye, along with genius child hacker Ed and the genetically enhanced Welsh Corgi Ein) are bounty hunters on a terraformed Mars circa 2071 which looks suspiciously like New York with a bit of Paris thrown in for good measure. The group is still surviving on mostly bottom of the barrel processed foods, and Faye continues to blow whatever she earns at the racetrack. Following up on a tip as she returns to the Bebop after another losing morning at the track, Faye becomes witness to the huge explosion of a tanker trailer which was supposed to be driven by the bounty she was tracking. Despite that hundreds were killed by the explosion, the driver (who looks much like former wrestler Mick Foley) is able to walk away unscathed. We learn that the mystery man is named Vincent and he was an elite soldier before supposedly trying during a war on Titan two years earlier. Vincent has a plan to destroy the world and Spike will naturally find a way to become embroiled in this huge mess.

Yes, it’s Cowboy Bebop, so it’s a very entertaining movie. And because it’s Cowboy Bebop, this film shares many of the same implausibilities the series had. The bad guy has no real motivation to do what he is attempting to do, and Spike consistently stumbles into the clues he needs exactly when he needs them, and is able to figure out what should be the next step even though he wouldn’t properly be able to link it all together because he was never privy to certain information.

But once again, we come down to the simple fact that this is Cowboy Bebop, and in the end, the journey taken is more important than whether or not it makes any sense. And don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the film as I watched it, and I would definitely see it again. And I’m going to recommend it to anyone who enjoys having a good time at the movies. It’s two hours of fun, and I can’t complain about something that I enjoyed when all is said and done.

I give Cowboy Bebop: The Movie a B for effort and an A for execution. IDP Pictures is scheduled to release the film in selected American theatres in March 2003.

Rating: A