Cowboy Bebop Movie: Knocking On Heaven's Door (Mania.com)

By:David Rehfeldt
Review Date: Sunday, July 13, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2003



The Review!
Audio:
This disc sports three language tracks: Japanese, English and French. Having seen the English version in theaters, I opted to check out the Japanese track. This one is mixed in 5.1 surround sound, and they made excellent use of all the speakers. Background music is often thrown to the back (which helps it stand on it's own behind the vocals), but the rear speakers are also used for appropriate sound effects and lines of dialogue. While watching I had one of the moments where there's a gunshot in the rear speakers and instictively I ducked for cover. Upon spotchecking the English track (also 5.1) I found no problems although I didn't think the track was mixed as well as the Japanese one.

Video:
The video on this disc is very good, although on my setup I noticed a lot of shimmering/rainbows around the outlines of characters and backgrounds. The master looks like it was taken from one of the theater prints as there is a bit of dirt which reminded me of watching the film in a theater. Still all the colors come out superb and aside from the rainbows there's little to complain about.

I was kinda disappointed in the lack of subtitles for the opening and closing songs, let alone any of the insert songs. Sure, the lyrics are in English but if a hearing impared person tries to watch this disc they would miss out completely on the songs.

Packaging:
I'm not a huge fan of the cover art here, but then again the art used on almost anything tied to this film has seemed bland. The disc comes in a black keepcase, with the insert having the Japanese DVD cover and the chapter selections listing. The back of the cover is typical fare, but thankfully there are no real spoilers.

Menus:
Excellently designed menus here, easy to navigate and little to no load times. No complaints at all.

Extras:
Columbia pulled out all the stops (okay a lot of them at least) here with this disc providing a lot of extras you might think a bigger company would neglect. We're treated to production sketches, character backgrounds, behind-the-scenes vignettes and two music videos. The music videos are basically the clean opening and ending to the film, each has the footage for the appropriate song (Ask DNA and Gotta Knock A Little Harder) without the credits. Again, lyrics here would've been nice but I suppose that's too much to ask. Columbia more than makes up for it with the set of Vignettes that they put together. Each one running more than 5 mintues, they take a look at the film through interviews with a lot of the staff and the cast. We get to hear from Shinichiro Watanabe, the director, Toshihiro Kawamori, the character designer, Yoko Kanno, the composer, all four of the English and Japanese voice actors, and the English ADR director. I was surprised they managed to get an intervie!
w with camera shy Steven Jay Blum (
Content:
Cowboy Bebop is the story of four bounty hunters who try as they might just can't get a break in the hard luck universe of the future. Following up the amazingly popular (and rightfully so) TV series comes Knockin' On Heaven's Door, a film that's billed as a feature-length episode. Sunrise opted to create another story set inside the TV series timeline instead of retelling the story (as they did with the Escaflowne movie), and yet they still manage to retell the story of Cowboy Bebop (at least the story of Spike) before you even realize it.

The film starts out with a shot of Vincent. A dark-haired, bearded man, very large and powerful playing solitare by himself. Spike narrates "He was a man who lived in dreams" and describes Vincent a bit.

We then join Spike and Jet as they're about to stop a convenience store heist for a small bounty. This plays out in true Bebop fashion, with all sorts of things going wrong at every turn. Still, it allows new fans (and even some of the veteran ones) to see what kind of characters Spike and Jet are and familarize themselves with the idea of them being bounty hunters. Spike clearly states he is not here to save anyone, just to make some money, which is an important character trait for him.

Following the opening credits, we catch up with Faye Valentine as she's off trying to catch a hacker kid who has stolen a truck. Upon locating the truck, we see Vincent exit instead of the kid Faye is looking for, and moments later the truck explodes. Faye remains unharmed as she is flying in her ship, and Vincent merely walks away from the explosion himself. The government of Mars declares this "a terrorist attack" and puts up a 300 million woolong bounty on the head of the man who committed it, the largest bounty ever offered. Faye, being the only remaining eye-witness to the crime then begins with Spike, Jet and Ed to track down Vincent with what little they have.

The method each member of the Bebop uses to gather information also says a lot about their personalities, at the forefront Spike chooses to wander around Moroccan Street, a Moroccan themed area in similar vein to the Chinatowns and Little Italys in major cities in the United States. We're treated to a few sequences both here and later in the film of Spike merely walking around asking people questions to Yoko Kanno's score. While I did enjoy these sequences, I thought they ran a bit long and could've been shortened to keep the film moving. Still, the artwork and backgrounds for these scenes are well done with Watanabe actually traveling to Morocco for research.

Later in the film we're introduced to Electra, a member of the security force at a drug company who is tied to Vincent and is seeking to confront him herself. She plays off Spike very well, and the chemistry between these two jumps right off the screen. It also affords us a great line from the English dub, Spike saying "I love a woman who can kick my ass."

At this point I'd like to compare the movie to the series a bit, so if you haven't seen the series or the film yet feel free to scroll down to the final paragraph so nothing is spoiled.



Vincent's story in Knockin' On Heaven's Door is very, very similar to Spike's story in the TV series. The things Spike says about Vincent living in dreams, and having no one to play the game with, apply to Spike as well. We see this when Spike, at the end of the film is reading the same narration about Vincent that he did at the beginning of the film, only he is doing so to shots of himself lying around bored. When they confront one another on the subway Vincent compares his life to watching a dream, something Spike does in the TV series, and Spike even goes to say "Well aren't you original?" In addition the idea that Electra is Vincent's love but he, through his memory loss and having it regained at the very end of the film, loses her immediately after he remembers who she is can be compared to Spike being reunited with Julia and then her being killed shortly afterward.

I applaud Keiko Nobumoto (the writer), Shinichiro Watanabe and the entire staff at Bones for adding this amazing layer of depth to the movie by retelling some of the key elements of the TV series plot while under the guise of the "extended episode".




In conclusion, whether you've seen the TV series or not has little bearing to my recommendation that you should see this film. It's easily accessible and in the first 10 minutes you learn enough about the characters to appreciate their quirks. And if you've seen and enjoyed the TV series I don't know what you're waiting for. Columbia gave us an excellent release here, for a truly excellent film.




Review Equipment
Sony DVP S560D DVD Player, Zenith 27" TV, Aiwa Mini-Home Theater System (with 5.1 sound), Generic AV Cables



Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: A+
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
MSRP: 26.95
Running time: 124
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cowboy Bebop