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Bayonetta: Bloody Fate
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by Jay Seaver

"Not making a case for video games being the source of great stories."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I strongly suspect that there is no movie, not even among the psychadelic ones by auteurs who were pretty weird even before the drugs, that is as utterly nonsensical to a viewer as an anime created to adapt or enhance a video game that he or she has not played. "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" may actually be better than most in that category as it's not actually incomprehensible; it's just so full of clunky storytelling and empty fanservice that I can't see even those fans caring much for it.

It starts with a ton of backstory about witches, sages, the Creator Jubileus, and a Forbidden Child raised by the witches but lost for 500 years and amnesiac, aside from knowing she's supposed to kill angels. That's our frequently-naked heroine Bayonetta (voice of Atsuko Tanaka), who cuts down mostly-headless angels with her "knights" (a set of four guns, with a couple attached to her stiletto heels), among other weapons. A reporter by the name of Luka (voice of Daisuke Namikawa) is searching for the truth about the witches and sages, and incidentally Bayonetta, which may have more to do with Mr. Balder (voice of Norio Wakamoto), leader of the mysterious Idvalle Group, and Jeanne (voice of Mie Sonozaki), the assassin in his employ whose skills curiously reflect Bayonetta's.

Oh, and there's also Cereza (voice of Miyuki Sawashiro), one of the most annoying kid characters in the history of anime, and that is a pretty tough list to climb. She's also annoying in how she encapsulates some of the movie's worst problems, at least when seen on its own: She barely has a personality beyond one or two standard traits and repeated actions/lines, as she's a character built for a very specific purpose and seeming to have very little detail beyond that. Because that's standard operating procedure, it makes everyone and the whole environment a cipher, from the heroes to the world that they're presumably trying to save.

Then you try and put a story together, and it's not quite like things don't fit so much as they're as skeletal and purpose-built as the characters. There's a cobbled-together mythology, lines that are made up of portentous words but which carry no weight, delivered with either leaden seriousness or failed levity. Jeanne is the character that tends to make the least sense, a tool to be used however is convenient, but there's no emotion to what's going on at all.

And it's bad-looking, too. I'll allow that the hypersexualized character design is loyal to the game and perhaps just not my cup of tea, and also that the animation isn't limited or cheap-looking. It's chock-full of boring action, though, with lots of name-checking the game's powered-up weapons, but seldom any feeling of the effort or consequences of any attack move, whether it's the same characters fighting on a street or in an asteroid field. A lot of it is moves which come too fast and don't actually result in anybody doing any damage, but which end on a cool pose. The music is a similarly weird mix, going from organs which match the appropriated religious imagery to various poppy sounds without rhyme or reason.

Not following gaming closely at all, I can't remember whether it was a well-liked game or whether the image of its heroine just caught people's attention. It seems to still have a fanbase - people turned out and cheered for this festival screening - and maybe if this movie pleases them, it's fulfilled its ambitions. If you're not in that group, though, don't expect to be converted.

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originally posted: 07/21/14 15:21:08
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Fuminori Kizaki

Written by
  Mitsutaka Hirota

  Atsuko Tanaka
  Mie Sonozaki
  Daisuke Namikawa

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