Bebop: The Movie (1998)
The central characters of Cowboy Bebop are, for the most part, engaging, even though many viewers will have encountered persons very similar to them in other films. Spike is arrogant, aloof, and lackadaisical. Faye is beautiful and dangerous. Jet is a worrying father to the others. Edward, an androgynous teenaged girl who works with the bounty hunters as a computer hacker, is annoying. Characters with infantile speech patterns and childlike behavior, like Edward, are occasionally encountered in anime and almost invariably detract from the appeal of whatever work into which they have been inserted. While her behavior is not particularly bothersome, Ed's voice, in both the English and Japanese versions of the movie, is horribly grating. She is, however, no more irritating than the average comic sidekick found in any one of a large number of American films.
The animation used to bring this group to life is, by and large, accomplished. I cannot say that I was ever awed by the film's beauty, but the animation style employed in it is attractive and nicely realized. The world in which the characters live is rendered in considerable detail and given a dark and gritty vitality. While it is not film's most imaginatively conceived vision of the future, being essentially a slightly altered version of contemporary society, as is often the case with the fictional worlds found in science fiction movies, it is still infused with a real sense of vibrancy and life.
What is more, the movie is generally fast paced, and its frequent action sequences are consistently entertaining. They do not, however, so dominate the film as to overwhelm the story being told. In fact, the director has included a number of quiet moments of introspection. Several of these help to engage the viewer with the characters or to develop strands of the narrative. Others, unfortunately, are less successful, especially certain vacuous and puerile dialogues intended to introduce philosophical content into the film.
Despite its occasional misstep, Cowboy Bebop is an intelligent, engaging, and visually attractive adventure movie. It is not a great film, but it is an enjoyable one.
Review by Keith Allen
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