Transferring a beloved TV show to the big screen is a tricky business. Particularly when one is translating the actual show, as opposed to some vague reimaging that trades on name recognition. Transferring a show that had one of the most distinctive yet mercurial identities of any television show in ever made is significantly trickier. Transferring a show that had just ended in spectacular, not to mention rather definitive fashion, well that’s just plain asking for it.
Yet somehow Cowboy Bebop The Movie ends up being the rarity of rarities. A film that not only manages to keep the tone of the series undiluted, but delivers an experience that was on par with the best of the television episodes.
For those unfamiliar with the series Cowboy Bebop follows a group of bounty hunters vagabonding through the galaxy, not so much working together but with parallel contempt. The series was remarkable for its groundbreaking style, slick animation, nearly fetishtic level of affection for and understanding of genre filmmaking (all of them. The greatest part of the show was week in week out you had no idea if you were getting hong kong action, spaghetti western, blacksploitation, space opera, kung fu, or even out and out horror) and for the way it neatly eschewed all the usual beats of the team based storytelling. You really have to witness the form of dysfunctional functionality that the core team possessed. Against all odds they didn’t grow into a working family unit, but manifested any affection for one another as extreme passive aggression at best.
Cowboy Bebop The Movie ups the stakes, putting the fate of an entire planet at stake, but otherwise makes no concessions to the theoretically larger audience, both the crew and style against all odds remain resolutely themselves.
The film takes place in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. What first appears to be a biological attack is revealed to be something entirely more sinister. The crew pursues the person behind the attack, complications ensue. This might sound like a fairly standard action plot but the way its handled makes it superior.
Like many of its episodes Knocking On Heaven’s Door is about a buried secret of the old world (IE our world) coming to get revenge on the new. It’s a device that’s been done before, both with in the series and without. But rarely so well. Vincent is a hollow monster. Following the last impulse he has as his own.
It’s a textbook example of great Bebop plotting, done with just enough depth to give it real poignancy, and leaving enough questions unanswered to leave a real sense of mystery to the proceedings. Coupled with a great sense of atmosphere (the world of Bebop is a kind of multi cultural mélange, this time pulling on Moroccan architecture and culture) and some of the best choreographed fight scenes you’ll see in animation or Live Action, Cowboy Bebop The Movie lives up to the standard of quality set by the series.