Movie eh? Two segments of about equal length with no connection other than some narration. I smell two OAV's taped together to make a movie length show. And the animation backs that up. That said, the first segments has some rather surprising strengths.
Before I begin let me mention that the tape I saw had two extras on it. I imagine these also played in the cinema. The first is a mind-numbingly badly animated clip to "Kids in America" by the band "Len". The excruciatingly crap animation matches the whiny, weak and unnecessary cover of the original Kim Wilde song. You know a band has no pride when they do something like this, especially since the song only plays during the end credits of the movie.
The other piece is a "Digimon Featurette" which is half advertisement, half kiddie ego trip and entirely badly animated. It's done using photo's for faces and stick figure animation for everything else. It's lifeless and loathsome. It's almost certainly not anime so I'm not even obliged to try and comment on it.
I haven't seen the end of the TV series yet, but the important thing is that there's an alternate `digital' world populated by intelligent but rather strange creatures. The original TV series followed a group of kid's, and their companion digimon (digital monsters) as they kicked evil butt in the digiworld.
The first story opens with a sort of intro scene, in which Tai and his baby sister get to witness some digi-action. One assumes that this was prior to the TV series. We then move on to after the TV series, with the kids back in the normal world living a normal life full of normal problems. Of which Tai's mothers cooking is one of the most terrifying. Although the sudden discovery of a virally infected digimon that is proceeding to eat the internet and digi-volve at a staggering rate pushes the situation into the realm of a world crisis. It looks like the digimon are the only ones who can save the world, and the battlefield is the internet.
The second story is modelled as a `side effect', but is really only loosely related. A young boy has always been alone with only twin digimon for company. But one of them has started to turn dangerous growing into a powerful monster with a mysterious purpose. By himself he seems certain to lose, but when the `next generation' digi-destined discover the situation they have no intention of letting him stand alone. Although even with all of them the fight is far from certain.
What a surprise. This is actually rather good fun. The first OAV is really rather cool, a fast paced action romp filled with character, humor and crisis. It's got a relatively cool plot, lots of events and even some rather cool twists. And the vision of the `internet' is no more stupid than those that have gone before. The second OAV episode is a lot more ordinary. Barring TK (a baby brother in the TV series) and Tai's young sister I'm not familiar with any of them. And I don't get to meet them, because the episode is largely dominated by special effects and fighting.
Why is the first episode so much better? Heaps of reasons. The events in it are linked into the `real world', and are causing chaos in such, making the show feel `important'. Meanwhile the dialogue and events are full of character and humor. Tai's in the middle of a fight with Sora, Tai's mom is trying out some rather fiendish recipes and TK's getting attacked by a sleeping grandmother. It's really rather impressive that so many character scenes can be combined with such a fast paced action centric movie. And the intensity in both the vision and story is really rather high. Mind you, it does help that I know these people. But even so this is a skilled production I did not expect.
The second section has some character interaction, but is almost entirely dominated by fight scenes. In addition it takes place in a vacant lot followed by out in the Colorado wilderness. As such it is not `connected' to the real world or outside characters in the same way. It also becomes evident that the bad guy not only isn't going to destroy the world but might not even really want to win. As such it ends up feeling a bit like a really flashy wrestling match. It's not bad, but it's not up to the calibre of the first part. I also liked the fact that the kids had an active involvement in part 1, where they're back to being the cheer squad here.
Weaknesses? Yep, sure, the animation is one of them but i'll get to that next. The main problem apart from that is the digimon still look downright stupid. An angry looking rabbit with floppy pants and a chain-gun on each arm? I've never seen a more stupid looking critter. Likewise all the digi-this, digi-that and evolving over the place is pretty pointless. The animation on these segments is pretty bad, and at least some portion of the audience (even if only the adults) is going to be wondering what the hell it all means.
The animation is interesting. It's probably not at the level that would be expected for a feature film. It's more at the level of, surprise, surprise, an OAV episode. It also alternates in appearance. The general look is quite low detail, with large blocks of color and some wobbly depiction of people and things. I suspect this animation is heavily supported by computer assistance. In general it doesn't look so hot but it does move quite well, I guess it's a trade off. There are some sections where the animation improves, especially where there is a nice `attack' sequence. This ends up conflicting with the character art to an extent. And finally there are some quite `minimal' and overly bright sections for the `internet' battles. The fact that these dramatically simplify the amount of detail that must be animated has clearly been a welcome opportunity for the creators. Taken together it presents a rather confusing mix of some good and some quite average animation.
The action is reasonable, although the digimon `attacks' are still pretty dull and without tactics. It does have a couple of shots which impress though, and I suspect that's probably enough. The story and dialogue are quite good and the voices are fine, although `cute girl' voices seem to be causing the English VA's some problems. The music is generally made up from little sections of popular songs, which are nice enough but tend not to merge that well with the animation. The only custom music seems to be variations of the digimon theme and that gross cover of the Kim Wilde track. Oh, there's also a pretty average `kiddie rap' at the start, but it's not too offensive.