Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Psychoanalysis of terrorists must certainly consider the catalyst(s) for such behavior.  Childhood abuse? Being bullied to a breaking point? Having your "past taken away from you"?

COWBOY BEBOP THE MOVIE explains the actions of Vincent Volaju, who seeks to destroy civilization on the planet Mars, colonized in the late 21st century following devastation on Earth. Vincent, an ex-soldier, was a guinea pig for a military experiment involving a mysterious pathogen and its vaccine, the administration of which rendered him an amnesiac. He suffers from an inability to discern what is real.  Yet he is keenly aware of what has happened to him, what he lost.

Is Vincent inherently evil? Had these events not occurred would he be a productive member of society? What keeps anyone from hatching plots to annihilate the world if the former is true? Is "evil" separate from a mental disorder?  These are questions that beckoned as I watched this 2002 anime feature, based on the '90s television show that ran on The Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" block years ago. I watched the program intermittently, not very familiar with its details.  This does not prevent engagement in the movie.

"Bebop" is the name of the spaceship piloted by a group of bounty hunters: Spike, a former criminal,  Jet, a former cop, and Faye, once a target of bounty hunters herself. Joining them are Ed, a young girl with a shrill voice and considerable computer hacking skills.  There is also a synthetic dog named Ein who may be as smart as the lot of them.  The movie - which is said to fall chronologically between episodes of the television program - follows the team as they attempt to learn why an explosion carrying the aforementioned pathogen was released from a pharmaceutical company truck in  the capital city.  Spike will have encounters with a company informant and later an agent for Cherious Medical named Elektra, who has a past with Vincent.  The bounty hunter will also see a version of himself in his target.

Keiko Nubomoto's screenplay is loaded with nicely developed scenarios.  The story is bleak but humor is never far away, some of it mordant.  Director Sinichiro Watanabe successfully makes this strikingly drawn anime feel like a live action feature, with intricate shots of edge of your seat action sequences such as the monorail pursuit and the climax, involving a fleet of old airplanes that can barely remain intact (with nice touches of humor).

In fact, the entire third act of the film is edited expertly, recalling earlier Hollywood features that knew how to keep viewers riveted both with hairpin scrapes and well timed dialogue - note Faye's lines in the weather control center, "forecasting" the falling action that also has some nice metaphorical overtones for those so inclined.  The use of butterflies throughout and Vincent's final line will also prompt some essays and debates from series buffs.
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