Based on the success of the animated series also entitled Cowboy Bebop, it was only natural for the creators and animators to move forward with a full length animated feature. Cowboy Bebop follows Spike and his band of bounty hunters made-up of Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward, and Ein. No matter the job, as long as there’s money to be made these guys are up for the challenge.
The year is 2071; a large tanker is blown up on a major highway in Mars releasing a toxic virus that kills several hundred people. The powers that be fear another attack, so they put up a very large reward for the capture of those responsible for the bio-attack. As the gang spends their time chilling out on their ship called “Bebop,” the news of the reward hits them, so they decide they might as well get paid. I mean, what else are they gonna do, right?
First, I would not be surprised if Joss Whedon lifted elements of Cowboy Bebop and transmuted them over to Firefly and Serenity. There are many similarities, with the rexception of the latter actually having more of an actual western feel than what Bebop has. I’m a fan of both, but as far as Cowboy Bebop: The Movie goes, not as much as before. I’m a real big fan of the series, which ran for 26 episodes. The story, animation, music, were all tops for me. After the show ended, I wasn’t able to catch the individual episodes on cable, or in a complete set. There was an anthology that was put out on DVD that contained certain select episodes, but nothing complete. Then the film was released about ten years ago in theaters, but I didn’t get to it until it had already arrived on DVD.
I loved it when it came out, but had only seen it maybe twice on DVD during the entire time I owned the disc. Fast-forward ten years and here I am watching the Blu-ray. Well, I’d say that Cowboy Bebop: The Movie doesn’t quite hold up by today’s standards. It’s way too long and the plot is very convoluted. There are many “dead spots” throughout the film that had me looking at my watch every couple of minutes. I get that the filmmakers made Cowboy Bebop: The Movie as a standalone feature – and for those that were not already familiar with the show you really don’t have to watch any of the episodes to “get it,” but it would help slightly, because more depth would be added to the characters presented in the film.
The plot, complex in its presentation, is pretty simple: Terrorist attack, civilian casualties, and bounty hunters to the rescue. The way it plays out is not as simple or clear cut as my generic explanation leads one to believe. I think that’s why it hinders the final product.
That’s about as far as I’ll take it with the nitpicking and what not because Cowboy Bebop: The Movie does have a couple of good things going for it. The characters and the way they interact with each other are great. The audience is led to believe that they care for each other - all things considered. They may be bastards, but they’re not f*cking bastards. They have each other’s back. The animation style is way above average, or at least better than most of the stuff that’s out now. However there are exceptions with some of the other major works out there like Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust looking incredible as well. The action is pretty cool and the music fits what is onscreen. There’s rock ‘n roll and some jazz thrown in there for good measure setting the movie up for its very up-tempo story.
I’m split right down the middle. In retrospect, I didn’t hate the film, but I also didn’t love it like I did when I was much younger. Tastes change, but maybe it was due to a lackluster Blu-ray package? Whoops, I’ve said too much too soon. For that and other details on the Blu-ray keep on reading!
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 widescreen. Time really hasn’t been kind to the Cowboy Bebop source print. Either that or it was artistic intent, but I’m having a hard time believing the latter. The film is overly bright and somewhat faded. Colors should look rich and bold, but come off as drab and faded. Banding is another problem as is edge enhancement. The film is predominately 2-D animation, but in a few instances, the CGI used comes off better than the actual traditional animation. It’s weird. I’d go so far as to say that this is an upconvert from the DVD.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is presented in English or Japanese Uncompressed PCM Stereo. The hell? I used to own a copy of the DVD and that had a full Dolby Digital 5.1 track, while this one only has a stereo track? Regardless, it’s not a bad stereo track, but there’s certainly room for improvement. Dialogue reigns supreme on this disc, but that’s it. Sound effects often sound muddled and the depth of field is lacking due to everything being jumbled up in the mix. Music is strong and some of the musical cues do come off nicely, I just wished that this was given a full lossless 5.1 treatment – it would have helped it breathe a bit more.
There are no extras on the Blu-ray release of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie was really cool once upon time, but now not so much. Maybe if the Blu-ray hadn’t been such a buzz kill I could have gotten into it a bit more, but it’s hard to say. The technical specifications are extremely weak and the special features are non-existent. I hate to say this, but if you want a more complete version of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie then you’re better off getting the DVD of the film. That one is fully loaded and has a 5.1 audio track to boot. I'm still scratching my head on this one.