More noise than signal

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

First, a confession. We had a few films on our initial coverage the list that were Mars related, but not quite Mars-ey enough – something like Capricorn One, which is an excellent film but fits more into a Conspiracy episode than a Mars one. Nonetheless, 2001’s anime feature of the series Cowboy Bebob, variously subtitled as The Movie or Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, remained due to petitioning by me, because I love Cowboy Bebop, although it’s set on a Mars so distinct from the Red planet we know and tolerate that by the rationale mentioned earlier it ought not to be part of this episode. But it is. Consider it payback for some of the rather less enjoyable films we’ve spoken about, even if this Mars might as well be Earth, for all the difference there is in this fully terraformed, urbanised Mars that looks like a fusion of New York and Morocco.

For the uninitiated, Spike Siegel is a spacegoing hitman turned bounty hunter, the rather laid-back captain of the good ship _Bebop. He’s joined by Jet Black, a former space-cop, Faye Valentine, a space-con artist, “Ed”, a space-hacker girl-boy thing, and Ein, an intelligent, genetically engineered, implausibly cute space-corgi.

The TV series fleshes out these characters quite a bit, and deals quite a bit with existential emotions that’s perhaps a bit outside of what you might be expecting from a cartoon, but for the most part this film dives straight into the narrative and does a decent job of letting you pick up on what’s needed of the characterisation without reference to the series.

The narrative concerns a terrorist threat made to the good people of Mars, after an explosion spreading an entirely new and unknown pathogen leaves hundreds dead. The Mars Government offers a tremendous bounty for the capture of these terrorists, and serendipitously Faye has a lead in the form of a hacker who eventually leads them to the leader, Vincent Volaju.

He’s a ex-special forces bod, marked down as dead after the last war but who’d actually undergone a secret, presumably illegal trial of a vaccine – the only survivor of a test of the pathogen he’s now using, partially as revenge, partially as a deranged vision of helping humanity after the vaccine left him unable to tell dreams and reality apart. Tracking him down does not go well for Faye.

Meanwhile, Spike and Jet are chasing another angle, the exploding truck belonging to a pharma company that, on probing, has a suspiciously high level of security, headed by Elektra Ovirowa, who’s also on the trail of Vincent as a matter of urgency, what with them having created the pathogen and would very much rather that didn’t become a matter of public knowledge, which would probably happen if Vincent executes his plan to viro-bomb the the Halloween parade.

So, naturally, it’s up to Spike and co, eventually aided by Elektra once she figures out they’re on roughly the same team, to stop this, which also uncovers the past relationship between Elektra and Vincent.

So, as mentioned at the top, I love Cowboy Bebop, which in attitude at least I can best describe as the space western that Firefly very much wishes it was. It’s a gorgeous looking film, with lovely, fluid animation of the action sequences. The music, of course, deserves special mention – the soundtrack is one of the elements that set the series apart from its peers, and it’s fusion of jazz, opera, country and western and rock is distinctive and enjoyable.

It’s very well paced, with a great mix of character moments and plot progression mixed in with the action, and it’s deftly written, with some great lines for most of the characters – only Vincent comes across as a touch too generic, even by director Shinichirō Watanabe’s own admission.

Not that this hinders my enjoyment any, as it’s a tremendously fun, entertaining movie that should be enjoyed by anyone, and I heartily recommend that y’all do so.