Review: Samurai Jack: the Movie (2001)

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Cast: , , , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

Samurai Jack is one of the many popular cartoon series from the Cartoon Network, and also one of the best. Created by Genndy Tartakovsky, who was well known for making Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack is arguably the most successful of his creations. Samurai Jack: The Premiere Movie tells the story about the origin of the title character, and how he turns from a prince into a powerful samurai and the arch rival of the evil Aku.

Aku was a shape-shifting monster who was out to rule and dominate the world. He was defeated and imprisoned by Samurai Jack’s father, a noble and righteous man. The good man later became an emperor, and lived with his wife and young son in a beautiful country. When Aku returned to take revenge, the emperor was captured, and the young prince escaped. He travelled all over the world to be taught by men with wisdom and combat skills. He became a samurai, and was determined to slay Aku with his father’s enchanted sword. He had almost defeated Aku when he was sent to the future through a portal in time. So it became the samurai’s mission to save the world from Aku, and to return home…

Samurai Jack: The Premiere Movie introduces viewers to the title character of the series, and explains how he becomes what he is now. This back-story is interesting, and effectively sets the scene for the story that is to follow. However, there probably isn’t enough material to make a ‘real’ movie, and the film does seem to drag on a little at times.

Another thing the movie introduces viewers to is the unique and artistic visual style of Samurai Jack. Many of the backgrounds are drawn by hand, and look like beautiful paintings. The character drawing is simple, with features kept to a bare minimum, a style that fits in perfectly with the backgrounds. In addition, the use of split screens (which fortunately is not too excessive) gives the movie the feel of a comic book.

The movie also sounds fantastic, combining the use of traditional musical instruments and electronic sounds. The music shifts from relaxing to uplifting to exciting; depending on the place and situation Samurai Jack is in. It blends in beautifully with the visuals, and adds much to the enjoyment of the movie.

Creator Genndy Tartakovsky said that he wanted to make a show where the primary focus is action, and this is exactly what Samurai Jack is. The action is exciting and sometimes humorous, and this is helped by the wildly imaginative and original story lines. The characters are interesting, and many of them are actually quite strange. Interestingly, most of them don’t really say all that much, but the body language and facial expressions are enough to convey their thoughts and feelings. Watch the scene where Jack reunites with his mother after years of separation, and you will see exactly what I mean.

Samurai Jack: The Premiere Movie is an enjoyable adventure. Adults should find themselves enjoying it as much as (if not more than) the children. It successfully combines a unique visual style, wonderful music, great characters and fun actions into one fantastic show. As a movie, it does feel a little light-weight; but as an introduction to the series, it is simply awesome.

8 sliced-up robotic bugs out of 10.
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