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SECOND LOOK: Digimon the Movie

Written by Mark Russell

Ah, Digimon. A huge part of my childhood. Created by Akiyoshi Hongo, Digimon has spawned seven television series with an eighth coming in 2015. The original was Digimon Adventure, released in 1999, and celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year. In 2000, the late popular kids channel Fox Kids decided to follow Pokémon’s success and release a summer blockbuster film: Digimon the Movie. The only problem was that Digimon didn’t officially have any movies, but rather shorter films released in the spring – a 20-minute prologue to the first series, 40-minute “Our War Game”, and 60-minute “Hurricane Touchdown”, which starred the second series’ cast.

So what did the dubbing crew do? Slap the three together into a 90-minute action-packed, exciting and funny movie. However, this created pros and cons. Series writer/producers Jeff Nimoy and Bob Buchholz originally planned to put the first and second segments together, but the third one was forced in by Fox Kids’ executives, forcing the writers to pull a rather thin plot thread to tie the three segments together will little effort. The first two segments were directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who went to direct wonderful films like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars (which was adapted from “Our War Game”).

I adore the dub for Digimon, and I’ve found the writing witty with tons of cheesy jokes, but they keep the tone of the series in tact. Jeff Nimoy, Bob Buchhloz and the voice actors just nail it well while making it their own. Along side the beautiful, fluid animation style that Hosoda adopts, these are definitely the highlights of the movie. The soundtrack itself is made up of songs taken from the anime, but also popular musicians like Smash Mouth, Fat Boy Slim, Barenaked Ladies, and LED. Thankfully, most of the songs seem to fit into the film; there’s a great use of “The Impression That I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones when a missile lands in Tokyo Bay and harmlessly falls over, accompanied in perfect time by the song’s lyrics.

Anyway, before the movie even starts, we have to sit through a short Angela Anaconda cartoon promoting the film. I really don’t remember much about this show, but four minutes of irritating voices and the very bizarre animation style is enough for me. The opening credits follow, featuring the incredibly cheesy “Digirap”. Our narrator for the whole film is Kari Kamiya (Lara Jill Miller), who stars in two out of three acts and a main character from the TV series. Kari is a decent narrator, only explaining stuff when it needs explaining, but sounds oddly upbeat about things even when bad stuff is happening on screen. The film opens finally with Kari giving a paper thin introduction to the world of Digimon – explaining she part of a team called the Digidestined, Digimon are monsters (duh), and come from a place called the Digital World. That’s apparently all you need to know. Still a step up from the lack of an intro absent from Pokémon the First Movie.

Then we are immediately introduced to the irritating special guest star of the film: Willis. His presence is stretched over the whole movie like a bad smell. His importance to the plot only comes into effect in the third act, and has to be shoved into the first two acts just to let us know how important he is. Not to mention he really comes off as a Mary Sue-like character, though dialogue in the second act seems to make fun of this. Willis does get some good points in the form of his partner Terriermon, a floppy-eared dog/rabbit Digimon.

The first act of the film takes place four years before Digimon Adventure, and feels like an extended prologue rather than a first act. It stars a young Kari and her big brother Tai (Joshua Seth) when they meet their first Digimon, Koromon, who looks like a talking space hopper. Koromon eventually digivolves into Greymon and battles the evil Parrotmon in the middle of a Tokyo district. That’s the jist of it. The act has a slower paced feel to it then the second and third, showing the world from a child’s point of view, and the joys and fears that come with it. Tai and Kari get caught in the middle of mayhem between the Digimon, something which is heavily focused on in the third series Digimon Tamers.

The highlight of the act is definitely the fight between Greymon and Parrotmon, with beautiful animation, and the use of the show’s theme song is just kickass. Of course there are some nitpicks I have, such as Joshua Seth spending using a more lighter tone of voice for Tai only to ditch it halfway through in favour of Tai’s deeper, teenage voice, the odd feral behaviour when Koromon digivolves into Agumon then regains his mind when he becomes Greymon, and Parrotmon’s abrupt appearance. I enjoy the comedy, even if it restrained through most of the act, and Koromon’s antics around the kids and getting into a fight with the family cat is hilarious. Overall, it is short but has enough charm to it.

The second act is the best part of the movie, and the only section that was actually marketed in the advertisements. The story is set a little while after Adventure has ended, where computer whiz Izzy (Mona Marshall) among hundreds of other internet users witness a virus materialise online and attack a Digiegg, mutating into a data-chomping abomination named Diaboromon that can skip power levels in the Digimon evolution chain and kick some serious ass. Izzy races to Tai’s house to warn him, and guess who happens to be responsible for everything – Willis. Yeah, we find out Willis is a genius, computer expert, and likely god of the universe, and created the Digiegg, only for the virus to find it. Tai and Izzy make contact with their Digimon, Agumon and Tentomon, and send them to fight Diaboromon.

They are later aided by friends Matt (Michael Reisz) and his little brother TK (Wendee Lee) and their partners Gabumon and Patamon, who all battle Diaboromon across the internet. Diaboromon messes with Japan and America’s electronics, until he fires too nuclear missiles which could wipe out Tokyo and Colorado (where Willis is) and starts cloning himself. The battle is on as Agumon and Gabumon digivolve into their “Mega” forms WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon, and eventually, through a silly deus ex machina, fuse together into the awesomeness that is Omnimon.

I love this part from beginning to end. The writing is top notch here, cheesy one liners and all which I eat at, the animation is good for most of the time, good music, and the action is really exciting and fast-paced. Nothing ever drags along, there are some really spectacular visuals, and I love a lot of the comedy. However, half of the main characters aren’t given anything to do with four out of eight being reduced to cameos or minor storylines – I’m looking at you, Sora!

Sora (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) is the tomboy of the group but has had a falling with Tai over a hairpin of all things, and spends the whole film waiting for him to e-mail an apology, even though he calls her on the phone and asks her to come over so they can discuss their issues, and she turns him down. What a moron. And then, oh, then! Then they did that stupid big middle finger to the audience by randomly hooking Sora up with Matt in the second season! Where is the blue blazes did that come from? She literally showed zero romantic interest towards him, and it looked like she and Tai were going to get together, but noooo! Just another dumb story decision to wrap up the second season as quickly as possible and I’m going off topic and going into a fanboy tirade which will stop right now! Ahem.

The act also take some liberties with our sense of disbelief, but never so much it ruins the fun of the film. There are some great highlights and laughs in the act like Izzy drinking the weird concoctions of Tai’s mum and then has to run to the bathroom at a crucial moment, Matt and TK having to use a computer in a barber shop filled with old people, Tai enraging a phone operator, Mimi’s cameo, whatever the heck Tai’s cat is up too, and the puns and one liners are just hilarious no matter how cheesy they are. The action scenes and sense of what is at stake are the best parts, though I admit they do end very quickly. Overall, the second act is great fun, exciting, funny, and always has me on the edge of my seat.

Now comes the third act. Oh, boy. It is a mess and a half. Gone are Tai and Izzy, and instead it jumps another four years into the future during Digimon Adventure 02 with that season’s main cast. We have hotheaded footballer Davis (Brian Donovan), gadget girl Yolei (Tifanie Christun), and quiet kendo student Cody (Philece Sampler) along with their partners Veemon, Hawkmon, and Armadillomon. The plot is practically non-existent – Kari and TK are in New York, but encounter Willis, who is on the run from his former partner Kokomon. Kokomon was infected with the virus that mutated Diaboromon, and he wants Willis to “go back to the beginning”. Kari and TK get stuck on a train, so Davis, Yolei, and Cody are summoned to…do something. Literally, they are told to find Willis and that’s it.

Then after a brief moment of separation involving a pizza delivery, and a fight against Kokomon, the group reunite then Willis stomps off to be angsty. In a scene with Davis, Willis explains he gained Terriermon and Kokomon on the same day (also on the same day Tai and Kari met Koromon), then got greedy and tried to make a Digiegg online and you saw what happened there. Then get this – the computer virus somehow materialised in the real world and turned Kokomon evil! That’s just stupid! Granted, the original version of the movie doesn’t make much sense either, but it is still ridiculous and extremely silly way of tying the three movies together.

The final battle is long, overstretched and tedious, but Kokomon evolves into the nightmarish Cherubimon and actually becomes pretty badass and gains a number of unexplained powers like gravity manipulation, can de-digivolve others by screaming, and then can rewind time to make the kids grow younger! TK and Kari then show up, with their partners randomly becoming Mega Evolutions for the first and only time. Then they get defeated in five seconds, only to release the Golden Digieggs, and there is too much plot convenience in this movie! Anyway, Veemon and Terriermon digivolve into Magnamon and Rapidmon, get eaten, and realise they have to destroy Cherubimon from the inside out to destroy the virus, though Kokomon dies as a result.

But then the ending comes along, revealing Kokomon survived and has been reborn as a Digiegg…which is impossible since it was established in the first season that when a Digimon dies in the real world, they are permanently dead. Nevermind. The film ends with Kokomon dancing to Smash Mouth’s “All Star”, and the credits are accompanied by “Kids in America”. The third act is a clunky, messy finale to the film, with poor editing, a thin plot, and some rubbish attempts to connect to the first and second acts.

So, in conclusion, Digimon the Movie is a mixed bag. The first act is fine, the second is fun, and the third is a failure. There are tons of cheesy jokes, obvious plot holes, but some good music, animation, and action sequences. It is not the best film in the world, but is it worth the watch? Hell yeah! I love Digimon and this movie is not a guilty pleasure, it is a thrill to watch whenever I get the chance, even if the third act drags the rest of it down towards the end.

Are you a fan of Digimon, and what are you views on this movie? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Mark Russell