There is a difference, in my mind, between a request and a challenge. A request is somebody asking an artist to do something for a personal reason – they have a particular subject they want exalted, or a pet peeve they’re dying to see run into the ground. A challenge, on the other hand, is a sharing of misery. When I did my review of Rise: Blood Hunter, that was a request. What happened last night was the result of a challenge, issued during the Classholes Anonymous podcast a couple weeks ago. If you missed it, go click the ad in the sidebar of my blog. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The gauntlet was clearly thrown. And I, like a moron, took it up, apparently just to repeatedly punch myself in the face.
I should have taken Black Eagle’s advice to find the abridged version. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie doesn’t even get off to a good start. The opening narration, about an ancient ‘shadow game’ between Anubis, god of the underworld, and some nameless pharoah is redundant, dry and utter nonsense. “Not even eternity lasts forever.” Um, yes, it does. That’s the definition of eternity. Oh, and isn’t it a great sign when a kid’s movie begins with a scene of people being horribly buried alive?
Anyway, we cut to this little pipsqueak Yugi trying to solve this unsolvable Millenium Puzzle, an ancient Egyptian artifact that apparently hangs around your neck despite the fact it looks like it weight about five hundred pounds. When he solves it, he apparently becomes or is inhabited by the soul of the pharoah. I’m not entirely sure what the deal is, there. I have the feeling that if I’d suffered through the first few seasons of the horribly dubbed TV series I might have more of a clue, but I only have information from the movie to go on. And the movie doesn’t say shit about how this transformation of his actually works. Also, whenever the pharoah takes over Yugi’s body, he suddenly transforms from a shrimpy little kid into a tall young man with a much deeper voice and angrier hair. And nobody comments on the strangeness of this whatsoever.
The world has been taken over by this obsession with a collectible card game called Duel Monsters. It’s kind of like Magic: The Gathering, except that this game suffers from a problem of having its brain missing. Every single person who plays it doesn’t just carry a deck with them, they wear this retarded-looking gizmo on their arm. At all times. Now, if this were Hell’s Kitchen and these kids were carrying switchblades, I’d understand that. It’s a rough neighborhood. But, come on, you don’t have bags to carry this crap in? Are you that paranoid that a duel is going to break out at any moment? And while we’re on the subject of the gizmos, which are unnamed, if they project holographic images of the cards’ monsters and spells, the only way the images could do physical damage to the players – which apparently they do, judging by Yugi’s vocalizations when he is, among other things, brutally backstabbed (in a kid’s movie!) – is if they have the old Star Trek problem of the safeties being disabled. Or not having safties. What a great little toy for kids, huh? A card game where you can summon monsters to savagely beat your friends half to death during lunch hour. The PTA’s going to love it.
“Prepare to duel! FOR YOUR LUNCH MONEY!”
So the opening of the film and the premise for its battles are utter bullshit. The battles themselves should look cool at least, right? WRONG. Not only do the creatures in these duels look lackluster and almost entirely interchangable, as well as having needlessly complicated and similar names, the duelists make it a point to stop in the middle of their duels to explain what the card is and what it does. And this happens with every card. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Watching people play a CCG is boring enough as it is, but when this sort of crap is done every time a new card is played, complete with overly dramatic gestures and voice acting that is absolutely gut-wrenching in its amateur dramatics elocution, I have to believe the only adolescent audience really chomping at the bit to see this in theaters rode the short bus to school. Back when they had short buses.
When we’re not being thrown against the walls of our intelligence by this aggressive assault of stupid, the movie dumps exposition on the screen through the mouths of its characters with such utter blandness that I found myself almost wishing to be back in the middle of a duel. Not only is the exposition stupid, it contains perhaps the worst Egyptology lesson ever. Now, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have super-powerful baddies resolving their conflicts through mundane games. Puzzle Quest proves that. But I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Anubis. The god of the afterlife who judged the souls of the dead, to my recollection, never set a plot in motion to bring about the utter destruction of the world. And I know this is probably a case of the dub making an already flimsy premise even more stupid, but if those cards Yugi has represent Egyptian gods, I’d love to find the part in the Book fo the Dead that refers to Slifer the Sky Dragon.
So apparently Egyptian gods actually look like this.
Or… like this. I guess.
So far we’ve got a shitty plot, shitty battles, shitty animation and shitty mythology. Let’s see if we can find anything to even partially redeem this. At one point, the character of Kaiba climbs into a vehicle that I can only describe as a robot dragon. I have no idea where Kaiba got the resources to put this thing together, but it looks pretty badass. At first. Then the music comes in. Remember some of the incidental music from Transformers: The Movie? And I’m talking about the 80’s version, here, not Michael Bay’s somewhat bland explosionfest. The incidental songs were typical 80’s fare, but at least they were tolerable to listen to. This little song that plays while Kaiba flies up to see the fabulous Max Pegasus sounds like it was banged out by garage-dwelling wannabes that are trying way too hard to be Nickleback. If their aspirations begin and end with wanting to emulate the most unpleasant form of what can only tentatively be considered rock music, mission accomplished, I guess.
And while we’re on the subject of Kaiba, how the hell can he afford to build a highly complicated dome where he can test his deck against a simulations of Yugi’s? I know, I know, seasons of television in two countries, dubs suck compared to subs, online wikis, slashfics, derpy derpy doo. I am watching a movie, here, and am judging the movie based solely on what it provides its audience in terms of explanations and clarifications, i.e. none. Like Yugi’s inexplicable dual souls or the ways the holograms beat the crap out of the players, Kaiba’s fortune and resources go unexplained. We’re left with a hell of a lot more questions than answers. Why is Kaiba’s coat always billowing? If Kaiba’s really this interested in beating Yugi, why isn’t he doing it in a tournament setting where Yugi can be publically humiliated, instead of this private setting where he can cheat as much as he wants since there’s no oversight? And if Kaiba did win, who’d believe him? Couldn’t he at least have televised the event? Is anyone going to bother explaining the rules of this brain-damaged game? Why doesn’t Yugi’s grandfather have the hairstyle of an adult? And if this is a kid’s movie, what’s with all the fan service?
“Mommy? Why do my pants feel so tight?”
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, the plot goes from nearly non-existent to completely incomprehensible. In the final act, Yugi’s soul is sucked into this magical MacGuffin and forced to navigate an MC Escher painting. While the pharoah in Yugi’s much more adult body gets its ass kicked by Kaiba’s dickish cheating and topdecking, Yugi and his pals have to fight mummies. Apparently they’re not going to survive until the girl among them jumps in, saying that as long as they’re together, they can prevail. As if a lesson on the Power of Friendship wasn’t enough, they apparently drew a symbol while their hands were joined at some point in time before the movie that gives them super-powers. A reference to something incidental from the television series is, in a film, still a deus ex machina, and still sucks.
So the big climax happens when Anubis manages to manifest himself as a retarded-looking pro wrestler guy with super-powerful monsters and the ability to MAKE THE MONSTERS REAL! Wait. If the monsters weren’t real before, why did Yugi act like he was getting stabbed for real when he got stabbed by that creepy-ass clown? Anyway, an ass-pull happens, Anubis is destroyed or banished or sent to his room or whatever. Point is, the movie ended. And all of those questions I brought up? Never answered. Not a single one.
I know, Yugi. I know. It hurts me too.
Watching Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie is an experience in cinematic torture. It’s bland, stupid, ill-conceieved and shamelessly pandering all at the same time. American children frothing at the mouth for the next obsessive collection of things on which their parents will spend money just to shut them up might have been entertained. But I’m more and more of the opinion that American children, by and large, have yet to unlock their higher brain functions. Maybe the school system is holding them back, maybe they’re eating too much fast food, maybe there’s too much exposure to things like Twilight and Halo and Justin Beiber, but it’s a moot point. I’m not here to discuss those matters, I’m here to review a movie. And this movie sucks. It’s atrocious. It was shat out by a studio looking milk more dollars out of impressionable youths who will stampede to the stores to pick up the awesome cards they saw on-screen. Here’s where I pick up my walking stick and shake it at these bunch of brain-dead drooling perpetual disappointments.
Back in MY day, when Magic: the Gathering was the only card game in town, we didn’t need a TV series or a shitty movie to get us to buy the cards. You know why? That game is good. There’s balance (more or less), clear rules (for the most part), fantastic card art (until anything potentially satanic gets edited out)… okay, it’s not a great game, but my point is people picked up the game, played it, and bought more cards to play more on the merits of the game itself. The card game born out of Yu-Gi-Oh is, as far as I can tell, every bit a product of the show and, if this film is any indication, it’s completely and utterly worthless. Do not go anywhere near this title. The series, the movie, the game, the other merchandise which includes those retarded things you wear on your arm because tables just aren’t cool enough – it’s all designed to make you stupid. It feeds on your intelligence. Avoid it at all costs. My deepest hope is that, since little to nothing has been said or heard about this franchise for years, it’s finally on its way to the same yawning abyss that has claimed Beyblades and those absolutely craptastic Go-Bots.
As for my “friends” Kona Kona and Chan… well, there’s a reason they put friendly fire in Alien Swarm, ya bastards.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.