Maybe I’m just getting in touch with my inner child, but I really wanted to watch “Samurai Jack.” The review follows.
A Samurai warrior, trapped in the far-flung future, fights an evil demon, tries to get home, and looks cool all the while.
“Samurai Jack” was created, and the pilot movie was directed, by Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Dexter’s Laboratory”). The credits are scant indeed, sadly; the venerable IMDB only lists one member of the voice cast.
This TV-movie (for lack of a better way to describe it) ran about 82 minutes with “limited” commercial interruptions. It first aired on Cartoon Network on August 10, 2001.
In the first ten minutes, you’ll realize that nobody involved is trying for anything other than pure fun, when our not-yet-named hero receives training from Robin Hood, a Hercules wannabe, Shaolin monks, and classical Egyptian priests, probably breaking some sort of record for “number of anachronisms in such a short time.” Suspend your disbelief at the door, please. This just makes sure you know nobody is taking this too seriously, and gets you in the right mind-set to enjoy the action that follows.
Granted, this is set in the far future (though they don’t even pretend to say just how far), but that’s just overkill. When the dogs express incredulous disbelief that their ancestors could only bark, and walked on their legs AND arms, that just messed with my head in some way I can’t quite explain.
Fish-out-of-water stories are as old as television itself, so I’m obliged to dock a point on the originality score. And it’s been a staple of contemporary cyberpunk fiction for a while to have a character who models herself after the samurai tradition, though this is the first example I can recall that does it so literally. Let’s call it 3 out of 6.
In lieu of a traditional effects score, I’m going to call this a more general “eyeball stuff” score. The animation is just what you’d expect of Genndy Tartakovsky interpreting anime – blocky, and very action-packed, simple and easy to follow. It’s no “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” but it gets the job done. 3 outta 6.
Story? What story? Samurai chases after his sworn enemy, time and again. The story with the enslaved talking dogs added a “human” touch to things, but the dogs themselves were exceptionally incongruous. Nothing original here, only meriting 3 out of 6.
The voice acting was almost non-existent. Heck, Samurai Jack, the title character, doesn’t even talk in the first fifteen minutes. It’s cartoonish, over-the-top, but basically unremarkable, scoring an equally unremarkable (i.e. average) 3 of 6.
Emotional response: Woohoo! It’s hard to get enough action in a cartoon these days, even if you’re a fan of good quality anime. As goofy as this may sound coming from someone over the age of eight, I actually wanted to cheer in a few places. 5 points out of 6 here.
Despite the mostly-average scores above, everything comes together in a well-produced package, really better than the sum of its parts. (Besides, this is just darn cool, even if in the quantifiable measures above it may not seem that way; I’m using this to help pad the total score.) 5 out of 6 again.
Overall, this is a quality flick that both you and your kids will enjoy. Cartoon Network will probably be airing it a few more times over the weekend, and the series will settle into its regular time slot on Monday (8 PM Eastern/Pacific). 5 out of 6 here…
… which yields a grand total of 27 out of 42. Not bad for an animated TV pilot.