Reviewby Carlo Santos, Jul 13th 2010
Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Vash the Stampede is a gunslinging, red-trenchcoat-wearing drifter with a giant bounty on his head. His biggest threat, however, may not be law enforcement, but an outlaw by the name of Gasback. Twenty years ago, Vash accidentally interefered with one of Gasback's robberies, and now the villain's back with a score to settle. Gasback has come to Macca City in hopes of stealing one of their major installations, and Vash has just coincidentally arrived at the same spot. Also involved in this caper are a beautiful lady with a grudge, a couple of insurance agents, and Vash's old buddy Wolfwood. At first it seems that Gasback has succeeded, but one can never underestimate Vash's legendary abilities—not to mention the secrets that his allies have up their sleeves.
Anyone remember the 2003 NBA All-Star Game? The one where Michael Jordan, all of 40 years old, suited up for one last hurrah with a new generation of superstars on the floor? The Trigun movie is like that, a final send-off for a franchise that has become rose-colored and nostalgic with the passage of time. It is by no means a daring artistic statement, or even a revisionist take on the storyline; it is simply an extended episode that will warm the hearts of fans who got into the original all those years ago. Vash's coat is as red as ever, Wolfwood's cross is still a remarkable weapon, and yes, the feel of the sci-fi Wild West still resonates in every scene. It may not be some kind of masterpiece, but as an outlaw's last stand, it'll do.
Those who know how Trigun works will already know the plot of the movie. Influenced more by the TV series' sprightly first half than by the later episodes, the story is basically one long cops-and-robbers game—or rather outlaws-and-robbers—as Vash and company ride around and shoot things until the bad guy is disposed of. Various attempts to complicate the plot, such as a troubled mother-father-daughter relationship and twenty-year-long grudges, serve more to pad the length of the movie than to really contribute anything new to the franchise. In true Hollywood fashion, there are guns (and other weapons) laid out in Act 1 that get fired in Act 3, and every plot point is more or less tied up or wiped clean, in order to accomplish a proper heroic ending. Although it ultimately relies on a familiar formula, at least the formula is executed without any major screw-ups.
Then again, it's not like anyone was going to watch this for a coherent or clever plot, right? It's all about going on one last ride with the characters, and this movie takes great care to bring out their personalities just as viewers remember—Vash's eccentric mix of happy-go-lucky cheer and gunslinging precision, Wolfwood's impeccable sense of cool (plus a momentary lapse of conscience), and the snarling braggadocio of a villain like Gasback. Even our two favorite insurance agents on the planet, Meryl and Millie, are here to add comic relief, and one-time character Amelia adds a dose of mysterious charm (while also turning out to be a key player in the story). As the action grows more intense in the latter half, it becomes clear that resolving the plot is only of secondary importance to the true goal: seeing Vash and friends kick as much butt as possible.
A feature-film budget and attention to visual detail are what allow this butt-kicking to take place, with the number of explosions going up exponentially as the movie reaches its climactic showdown between Vash and Gasback. The animated sloppiness that one may remember from the TV series is nowhere to be found in this feature; instead, it's smooth moves and rapid-fire gunfights (and one remarkable saloon brawl) all the way through. The character designs and overall style, however, remain a throwback to the franchise's turn-of-the-millennium origins—no cute-and-cuddly moe-fication, no fancy 3-D CGI, just a good old adventure anime with all the dust and grit that comes from animating things with the sweat of one's brow. Not that these have any negative effect on some of the eye-popping props and backgrounds in the film: one can still marvel at the giant power generator, the mayor's statue, and the carefully textured desert that forms the venue for the final showdown. The style may look antiquated to some, but for a certain generation, it instantly recalls golden age of space-Western anime.
Even the background music stays true to form, with its blues/rock edge adding a sonic dimension to the rocky landscape. Naturally, electric guitars are turned all the way up when Vash is out there manhandling goons or firing bullets into impossible places, but the softer side of the soundtrack has its moments too, like a gentle acoustic twang during contemplative nighttime scenes. The voice acting is consistent as well, with much of the original anime cast reprising their roles. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that the movie really does feel like an elaborate high-budget extension of the series.
As a spinoff product, Trigun: Badlands Rumble is exactly the kind of experience that Trigun fans have been waiting for. This is for the folks whose DVDs have started to go bad from repeated watchings, whose copies of the Trigun manga sit on the most prominent shelf in the house, whose 1/6-scale Vash figure is kept in a dust-proof, double-locked Plexiglas case with laser sensors around it. Everyone else, however, may want to save it for a lazy afternoon when some light popcorn entertainment is all that's needed, because the intellectual and artistic merits of this movie are average at best. It's simply a piece of well-executed fanservice, and by keeping the same animation style, the same story format, and even the same actors, it succeeds on that front. Ultimately, Vash and his buddies got exactly what they wanted: one last, rip-roaring ride into the sunset.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B-
Art : C
Music : C+
+ Sure to delight Trigun fans with the series' classic mix of humor, intrigue, and intense gunslinging action.
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