January 14, 2004 -- Based on the popular Japanese animated TV series, “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie” (Tengoku no tobira AKA Knockin' on Heaven's Door) features many of the strengths and weaknesses of the genre. The colorful crew of the spaceship Bebop chases down a megalomaniac with slow pacing, an incongruent musical score and a lot of static scenes in which only the mouths of the characters move.
The crew is after a mysterious character named Vincent who wants to destroy humanity. He is a crazed terrorist who is a victim of bioengineering. Vincent feels he has already died, and he thinks if he exterminates humanity he might speed the coming of judgement day. There is a strong attraction between the protagonists and the antagonists. Loyalties are divided. Motives are complex. These are all common themes in Japanese anime. Spike Spiegel, the main protagonist, is a bounty hunter on the Bebop, along with his shipmates, the voluptuous Faye Valentine, cyberpunk kid Ed (a girl), serious hunk Jet Black and super intelligent dog, Ein. There is also a mysterious woman named Elektra who is after Vincent for reasons of her own.
The Bebop bounty hunters (or “cowboys” as they are known in this universe) hope to catch Vincent and collect the huge reward the government is offering for him. They're not too interested in saving humanity, but that's the only way they can collect their reward. Although the action takes place on the planet Mars and there are some futuristic elements to it, the science fiction aspects of this story are minimal. It could just as easily have taken place in any city. There is a chase involving some kind of rocket or jet vehicles which could have just as easily been a car chase. The locations depicted are not very exotic.
When the action gets going, almost all of the characters drop by the wayside, leaving only Spike and Vincent to carry most of the action. None of the other characters are ever developed beyond a very superficial level anyway. The plot is very thin and it is not character-driven. The animation is good, but not great. The music is interesting to listen to and it has a lot of variety, from pop tunes to jazz, but it is a distraction. It doesn't really supplement the film all that well. In sum, this is a film for fans of the series and for other hardcore anime fans willing to turn a blind eye to this film's many flaws. This film rates a C. It darned near put me to sleep.
Note: Before watching this film, I got a short lecture on the series from Nathan, a friend of mine. Nathan has watched many episodes of the series. This gave me a much-needed background on the characters and the world they inhabit. The movie itself doesn't provide much background, so I was glad to have the information prior to seeing the movie. I have not seen the TV series. The time frame for this movie is reportedly set between episodes 22 and 23 of the TV series.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.