Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

One Piece: Stampede Review

Time to look at the latest One Piece film. This one was definitely getting a lot of hype before it came out because it was bringing together a ton of One Piece characters. Pretty much every big pirate who is currently alive in the series is returning for this film. Naturally since the film is under 2 hours you can’t expect all 60+ of these guys to get a big role, but the movie does a good job of at least allowing them all to get their special attacks in. Then you’ve got the second wave of characters who are big enough to get their own fights. It’s definitely an amazing One Piece experience for fans and anyone who enjoys a good action film is sure to have a blast as well.

The film starts by taking us back to the famous Blackbeard prison breakout from a while back. It turns out that there was one pirate who was far too powerful for Blackbeard to let him join. This guy’s name is Bullet and he once served aboard the Pirate King’s crew. Well, now he is back in a big pirate festival. Festa has organized this thing in order to bring together the Marines, Pirates, and Revolutionaries so they can all be destroyed in one fell swoop. He doesn’t really care who wins so long as everyone gets crushed in the end. Strawhat Luffy and friends have arrived here as well even though they figure it’s probably a trap. That’s because the prize is a treasure from the Pirate King and nobody can resist such a tempting offer. Can Luffy protect his crew and secure the prize before Bullet destroys them all? It’ll be a hard battle for sure.

Right away you have to acknowledge that Bullet is going to be an incredibly powerful villain. He has to be in order to take on pretty much the whole cast of One Piece. The film does not disappoint with his abilities. The guy is pretty much on the level of the 4 empires with how easily he is able to dispatch his opponents. The best fight in the film for me is definitely when he takes on “The worst Generation” (Which is basically a bunch of the hype characters) and defeats them all with ease. They can barely land any decent shots on him which shows just how unbelievable he is. Bullet’s speed and power are off the charts to the point where it’s like seeing All Might bump off the League of Villain lackeys back in season 1. Luffy and the gang are completely outmatched.

Bullet’s also just a fun villain. His goal is to be the strongest and stop the Buster Call. A Buster Call is when the army sends in their admirals and a fleet of ships to sink an island. To date nobody has ever really been able to stop a buster call on their own. Sure, a bunch of characters escaped in Marineford but that wasn’t technically a buster call and they did manage to stop the main threats the government wanted to end. For Bullet to defeat such a thing would be very impressive. He also likes a good fight and seems to have a reasonable honor code. He’s defeating his opponents at the top of their game and doesn’t use any cheap tricks.

Festa is the only other important new character and he’s a fun enough villain. The guy definitely holds onto his grudges and really wants to wreck havoc on the world. It’s for a surprisingly petty reason though. The guy has a great seat but you do have to wonder how nobody noticed him the whole time. I guess he’s so weak that the heroes don’t need to bother prioritizing him. They’d probably just finish him off afterwards which works well enough.

The animation is definitely top notch. It’s all very smooth and vibrant which is great. The fight I mentioned from earlier is very impressive and like something out of DBZ. There are also a bunch of other fights throughout that have great cuts as well like Zoro vs Fujitora and pretty much any scene with Sabo. It’s all very consistent for the duration of the film. We also get some CGI which looks good enough. I think CG is at the point where it should always look good so long as you splash it in a lot of colors. That’s where CGI is at its best. It may not be enough to make giant things exciting, but it tries its best. As for the soundtrack you’ll recognize some tunes from the show. The main new theme was Bullet’s theme and it’s the best piece of music in the whole film. Whenever it appears you know that things are going to get tricky for the heroes. It’s just great all around.

This film also completely avoids the occasional fanservice issue that the series has at times and even Brook doesn’t have time to do anything iffy. The film managed to avoid having any real issues and that’s the first step to being a great film. The next step is to actually have great moments and this move has them in spades. There are a ton of homages and nice little scenes for fans. All of the characters get quick moments where they look good and they all get a ton of hype. That being said, keeping up everyone’s hype does come at a bit of a price.

Pretty much every fight in the film is a tie. That’s something that tends to happen when you bring in a bunch of old characters who still have a lot of fans and Stampede wasn’t able to get around it. Unlike some titles like DBZ where there are big power gaps between everyone, a lot of characters in One Piece are still very close. There are characters from the opening arcs who can hold their own against the current villains. That’s because the characters get stronger very gradually and the old characters keep training as well. The matches are still hype, but this does dampen the excitement for them a little since you know that the battles can’t end. This happens over and over as everyone gets a skirmish and then backs down. Unless you’re fighting Bullet then your battle won’t end.

This film is trying to be Marineford 2.0 with how every character is around and that arc also had the same issue at times. Naturally nobody can die this time around, but all things considered the film did do a good job of keeping that same energy throughout. Once the action starts near the beginning of the film is really never dies down. That’s always important for a big movie like this one since it helps for replay value. Stampede definitely has a lot of that at its disposal.

Then the only other part of the film that could have been improved was Bullet’s final form. When he started to transform I admit that it was a little disappointing. That’s because he went from being an awesome DBZ villain to suddenly being a skyscraper who can barely move. Naturally this is where the CGI starts to come into play. No matter how neat a design the giant form might be, it’s just not going to be able to make for really fun fights the way that his first round was. When one fighter can’t fight back then it’s no longer a real fight. Since Bullet’s giant form can’t do much it just barely counts as an actual match. Bullet does manage to bring back his human form near the end of the film for a quick fight as well though so we did get a true climax.

Luffy is definitely at his best here. He may not look too good against Bullet for a while, but not being strong enough to win isn’t a bad thing in itself. The important thing is that he was trying to win right from the start and was quick to try and help Usopp. Helping his crew out has always been Luffy’s main objective and it’s good to see that hold true here. The rest of the gang aside from Brook look good as well. Zoro and Sanji definitely contribute the most, but Franky and Nami are also very useful. Then for the other pirates it was nice to see Sabo since it’s always rare to see his adult form. It’s a little surprising how calmly Luffy and Sabo exchanged a casual greeting here and then just didn’t talk again. I guess it wasn’t really the time or place to really have a long dialogue but a team up would have been good.

Stampede did a good job of choosing the all star team at the end. Hancock is one of Luffy’s most dependable allies at this point while Law is practically a strawhat now. Smoker may not always be able to compete against some of these guys but his ability is really neat and he has been improving quite a lot. The fact that he can still give these guys a fun for their money is pretty good. Mihawk also shows up to flex real quick and the heroes are lucky that he didn’t stick around since the guy still appears to be way out of their league. He’s definitely Emperor level or at least that’s the way he appears to me.

Overall, Stampede is definitely a great film. I like this new trend of the fight starting early on and then continuing for basically the entire film. Dragon Ball Broly did that to great success and now the same is true for Stampede. I definitely preferred it to Gold and Strong World. I haven’t seen the rest so I can’t comment on that, but that would put this as the best One Piece film right now. There are really no serious complaints I had with it and the movie definitely has a ton of replay value. Naturally as a fan you will get extra enjoyment out of it since it’s a reunion type film, but I dare say that casuals who haven’t seen the series before will enjoy it as well. There’s something here for everyone.

Overall 8/10

4 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Reviews

The Maze Runner Review

The Maze Runner was hyped up as the next Hunger Games and that series hasn’t even finished in cinema world yet! Obviously the Maze Runner must have known something that I didn’t so I finally got around to checking it out on DVD. Great concept, but the execution left much to be desired. No worries, the Maze scenes are the best part so that did live up to the billing.

Well, the film takes place in the near future. A lot of kids have been trapped in a Maze and they don’t know how to get out. Every month, a box is sent to them from underground with one more teenager and food supplies. They’ve spent the last few years just trying to survive in their living space as they hope for the best. There are “Runners” who are teenagers that are selected to check out the maze. They have to be careful though since the Maze closes every night and staying inside will mean imminent destruction. So, they have clung to their lives for quite a while and that’s when good ole Thomas shows up. He doesn’t like this status quo…and he’s going to shake things up!

As you can expect, we’re all just waiting for Thomas to go into the Maze. It was in the trailer and we all would have expected it anyway. At first, I was pleasantly surprised with the film’s pacing since Thomas went inside it sooner than I had thought he would. I was practically cheering…until he left and we spent another long period of time outside the maze. (The living quarters are at the center of the maze so I say “out of the maze”) Don’t get the wrong idea….seeing teenagers discuss how they’re all doomed can be entertaining if handled right, but it just isn’t.

Most of the scenes at the living space are just boring or not fun to watch. We have the stereotypical bullies and the twist is that almost all of them are bullies. Everyone falls for peer pressure and the natural born leader wants the status quo to stay. The actual leader is a nice enough guy…or is he? I actually didn’t like him and his replacement was not much better. The whole thing just felt like a scam from Thomas’ point of view and nobody wanted to give him any intel. Just about everyone seemed to be mindless as they would just follow the order’s of the leader. It’s basically a dictatorship and this is certainly not the kind of place that you would want to hang out in.

The atmosphere of the film is very similar to Resident Evil during the climax. Once the maze is…no longer a factor, you expect zombies to start jumping out at you. It’s hard to describe of course, but the area is just very foggy and everything looks very hi tech. You quickly start to get your hopes up about aliens, zombies, or something else. Naturally, the film sends you crashing back down to reality with one of the worst plot twists that I have seen in a long time. The cliffhanger just makes you uninterested in what’s going to happen to the heroes or you at least lose most of your interest. There just doesn’t seem to be much of a point in their journey right now and they should have gone with the aliens/zombies idea. The atmospheric effect is pretty good and few films can actually pull it off, but you need something to happen to keep the atmosphere or it’s just going to fly away.

Thomas is a decent main character….I guess. He just strikes me as pretty annoying to be honest and he’s not very quick on the uptake. It doesn’t help that the other kids shun him of course, but he is always in the dark. He decision to help another one of the kids during a dicey time was pretty good of course and he managed to do well against one of the monsters, but that was mainly plot hax. He also could have put up a much better fight in the getting beat up wrestling game. I’ll never understand how someone can just stand there and watch himself get pushed around without much of an effort. Naturally, Thomas does land one hit so he quickly starts to gloat and then takes his eyes off his opponent. I can’t even…..

Teresa is the main heroine and she shows up as the final person to be sent to the ring. Naturally, she’s a girl so the other boys are mad/afraid that she’s here and she’s also shunned. She doesn’t help her case as she throws rocks at everyone, but I can’t blame her and I just hope that she can fight. Thing is…she feels like she is only here so that we can have a female character involved. Most films don’t pull a reverse harem situation like this in Hollywood so it’s pretty intriguing and I don’t mind so long as they don’t start to fall into the romance game. At most it is implied here and you can easily deny that. I have to give the Maze Runner props where it is due right?

As for the other characters, they’re all pretty unlikable and it’s hard to even talk about them. Newt is the second in command who gets very defensive at the drop of a hat and he just wants Thomas to stop asking questions. He’s the kind of guy who is immensely annoying to be around and he can’t completely stand up for himself even if he’s the leader. Alby actually seems like a nice kid at first, but we know that this can’t last and sure enough…he shows his dark side. He gives Thomas a very lightly veiled threat about what will happen to him if he breaks the rules and he did allow Thomas to be roughly handled when he first came out of the box. Sure, Thomas may have ran, but it was definitely uncalled for. Then, he cracks towards the end and while we’ll probably get a lot of sob stories and twists so make this seem reasonable, it’s still pretty sad.

We can’t forget about good ole Gali. He’s the main bully and he would rather thin the ranks of the heroes then go up against the maze. He’s always pretty unreasonable and he resents Thomas from the very start. You have to wonder how he got along with everyone else. He’s just your stereotypical bully and he pushes everyone around when he feels like it. There’s nothing likable about this guy and the film basically admits that he’s crazy by the end. We also have Chuck, who is the only guy who is really nice to Thomas and wants to be his friend. He also wants to see his parents someday…..Hollywood loves their drama so I’m sure you can imagine how this subplot ends. Minho is the main runner and he warms up to Thomas after the hero proves his worth, but I wouldn’t call him a very good character. He basically doesn’t mind Thomas because the main character is useful to him…that’s about it. Before that, he is pretty cold and he doesn’t mind leaving allies to get stomped on.

We can’t forget the monsters right? There is a pretty chilling moment where we think that there might not be any actual monsters here thanks to a twist, but that it luckily thrown out of the window right away. There are monsters here and they are almost tough. They are essentially mechanical scorpions that move like spiders and there are a lot of them. They’re definitely not very strong as you can destroy them with a simple, sharp stick, but they move quickly, which can make this difficult for the average kid. I’m always glad to have monsters here, but they are definitely not impressive power wise. Their design is decent though.

The actual violence isn’t as repulsive as the first Hunger Games, but it can get rather intense as we peer through one of the monster’s remains. The rest is pretty tame as we just hear/know things without seeing them. It uses the implied violence tactic that the Dark Knight used, which is actually pretty good if you need the violence angle. It’s a safe way to still get the message across. It naturally results in a rather dark tone like The Lord of The Flies and it continues on til the end, but it could be worse. The violence isn’t much of a negative here, but it’s still worth a mention that this definitely isn’t the kind of film that you want to show your kid.

There isn’t really a soundtrack although I’m sure that there are some generic/free domain themes in this film. That certainly doesn’t help the film. The main reason why I just didn’t like this film is because of the scenes at the home base. It’s hard to really describe why it’s so awful there and it may be a number of things. I’ve seen the “main character gets bullied” plot to death at this point and it is definitely not cool to see. Especially since the film is already devoid of any hope, we’d rather not see the main character get put in such a position. The actual setting is also very unimaginative and not very fun to look at the then the disappointing ending didn’t help matters. This is the kind of film that could be much better with adults as the main characters and better still if it had come out in the 80’s/60’s as a black and white film with a lot of debate. Sort of like 12 Angry Men. A reasonable discussion about whether they should leave the Maze or not as the whole film could have been much more interesting. The film just dropped the ball in all of these areas.

Overall, The Maze Runner is about as “good” as I expected. It does manage to crush the Hunger Games, but you are still left feeling empty. Is this the extent of our novel adaptions or are there other titles that we are missing? The Seeker and Alex Rider seemed like good bet back in the day, but they were cancelled and Harry Potter is already over. Ah well, maybe The Maze Runner gets even better with the sequel. The mystery is pretty engaging and I did like the concept. I could almost recommend it to you on that alone, but I could also just recommend the trailer instead. If you don’t mind monster violence and the classic bully scenarios going on for a very long time, then I recommend this film. If the thought of a rather depressing film where all of the main characters are teenagers who are pretty unlikable is too much to handle…you may want to run all the way back to the first Harry Potter film. It’s your choice!

Overall 4/10