What They Say:
Twenty years after her awakening, Bayonetta is still searching for clues that could help unravel the mysteries of her dark past. Aided in her quest by the clandestine weapon smith Rodin – and his deadly creations: Scarborough Fair – Bayonetta continues to leave a trail of angel corpses in her wake. Her search for answers leads to encounters with a mysterious – and eerily familiar – little girl, a vengeance-obsessed journalist, and a deadly white-haired beauty that seems to know more about Bayonetta than the witch herself.
The audio presentation for this film is definitely strong as we get the original Japanese theatrical sound design which is in 5.1 as well as the newly created English language mix, both of which are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The film is one that works largely with action throughout the majority of it, though of course there are plenty of quieter moments throughout. But those quiet moments won’t be memorable compared to the action sequences, which pump up the bass nicely and gives the whole thing a lot more impact and oomph. As is often the case, turning off your subwoofer will really show you the difference it can make in how a film feels, especially compared to a TV series. The feature works a lot of action throughout it with weapons blazing and other sound effects for the sequences and there’s some good throws to the rear channels at times. Mostly it works the forward soundstage in a big way and the end result is a pretty strong one for both mixes here.
Originally in theaters in late 2013, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The feature is animated by Gonzo and the whole production goes for a really big, detailed and fluid feeling to it that stands out beautifully here. With the feature being the main thing here, it’s given plenty of space to work with and a very good variable bit rate that works high for many scenes where there’s a lot of action. The end result is that the rich looking film of dark colors and vibrant moments shines wonderfully here. The detail in the backgrounds really holds up well and has you pausing to look at certain design elements to buildings or interiors, as well as the character artwork. And when it gets into the very fast sequences with the big events going on, you’re easily drawn into it because of the overall richness of the source material that comes through the transfer here.
The package for this release is pretty nicely done as it uses familiar artwork but has a good bonus for first press fans as we get an o-card that replicates the case artwork. That artwork of Bayonetta moving about, both guns extended as she’s set against the moon, lets the ribbons and hair flow in a good way while the logo is set along the bottom. The plus to the slipcover is that it has a minor foil effect to it so that the ribbons and the gold lining on her outfit shimmer nicely when angled properly, as do her weapons. There’s some good detail here and, while it is a dark cover, there’s a lot to like. The back cover goes for an all black background with the premise along the left and a little character artwork on the right that uses the foil effect pretty good too as it covers several of the main characters. The discs features are clearly listed and we get some decent, if small, images from the show along the bottom. The technical grid covers both formats cleanly and accurately. The case itself replicates the artwork from the slipcover but it has material on the reverse side, which is a lengthwise shot of the cast from the back cover that has a lot of detail to it. No show related inserts are included.
There’s not much in the way of surprise with the menu design that we get here as it’s essentially a lengthy series of clips from the film showing off a lot of the visual excellence of it. It eventually rotates back into the logo itself, which is solid, and with a touch of instrumental music it sets the tone well enough to make you want to see what kind of story ties it all together. The navigation is done as a simple black strip centered along the bottom that has all the usual selections and no surprises. The pop-up menu is a shortened form of it as it basically just allows you to go back to the main menu as you can’t access the extras from it for example.
The extras for this release are decent, though it feels like it could have been a lot more considering its origins and how films tend to have a lot of bonus materials even in Japan. The only Japanese extra we get is a series of storyboards that you can move through or let play out for twenty-three minutes. The English language extra that we get is a feature length commentary by the US cast. I listened to a couple of minutes of it, but since the feature didn’t grab me much I wasn’t compelled to dig into the whole thing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the 2009 Bayonetta game, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is a 2013 movie from studio Gonzo that takes the events of said game and brings them to life with, according to fans, not too many overall alterations. Granted, it’s hugely compressed compared to the game, but when you take out the repetitive button mashing aspect and focus on story, things can be streamlined. I haven’t played the Bayonetta games simply because they looked unappealing with the style that was used with the, even for video games, unrealistic body movements and fanservice style that just went further than I thought worked. A lot of that is unfortunately brought into the film here, which leads to some cringeworthy moments throughout – particularly when we watch Bayonnetta walk away from us and you see the forced nature of her style of movement.
The film works an expansive alternate world where hundreds of years ago there was a battle that was fought between witches and sages that lead to a kind of epic battle that was all about the balance of power in the world. A lot of the reason for it was the relationship between a witch and sage that lead to the birth of Bayonetta, a girl who is the Left Eye that can be used when combined with the Right Eye to essentially reshape the world. But only after ending it. Because of this kind of incredible power, it lead to a war and endless death as the two sides went at it. Five hundred years ago, the child was put to sleep within a lake in order to protect her and to protect the world. But she woke up some twenty years ago and caused a bit of death without knowing it before her mind cleared and she became who she is now. A very deadly witch that roams the world killing off the sages she finds since they’re dangerous and the true evil of the world. Particularly since one of them, Balder, wants to acquire her in order to end everything and reshape existence without challenge.
That’s sorta kinda the gist of the plot when you get down to it. There’s a lot of trappings introduced like this early on with plenty of exposition as the history is explained and given a kind of grand feeling. But that kind of material is largely ignored for the most part after that as it instead focuses on a series connected action sequences with a little down time in between for a bath. Bayonetta’s life is essentially devoted to going after sages and investigating things from there, which we see is causing a problem in this incarnation of the modern world as the Ragna church is seeing a resurgence amid the knowledge that they’re getting closer to getting Bayonetta. For her part, she’s able to avoid them and just do what it is she wants to do, which really feels very ill-defined as it progresses.
Bayonetta’s a loner, though she has interactions with another witch named Jeanne that has her own goals, though you know that even if she starts off as kind of a bad penny she’ll be useful to Bayonetta in the end. We also get introduced to a guy named Luka, who insists he be called Cheshire, that wants to get revenge for his father. His father was a journalist investigating the myth that was Bayonetta and when he stumbled across her with Luka in tow, she killed his father and he’d sworn to get revenge ever since. Naturally, there’s a lot of tension on his part between them, but she’s very flippant and slick towards him. And you also know that they’ll find a kind of working balance along the way because he sees the bigger threat that exists. Namely, the end of existence.
The movie itself is visually striking with some fantastic choreography, great stage settings and a fluidity to the animation that’s just beautiful. A lot of this, especially with its color design, reminded me of a number of the high quality animation movies from the 80’s that Japan used to produce as we get a well realized world with its look and feel, even though it’s very disconnected from how the world itself would work. It stands out in a way that few films do since there’s been that adherence to trying to make it look as normal and real as possible as we get a lot of dramas and light dream-fantasy films. Bayonetta: Bloody Fate most definitely feels like a modern production of an older property in its design and that’s most of the appeal here. I could just watch the animation itself and nothing more and be in love with it because they executed it so well and with such polish and detail.
Unfortunately, the two main things working against it do so in a big way. The first is that the story is just plain rubbish. It may work in a game context, where you get exposed to it over time and can get invested in it, but in this context it was just a preamble to action and little more than that. Beautiful action, but empty of real meaning or connection for me. It’s the kind of film that has to move so fast and far because of the scale of events that it doesn’t allow you to really become invested in it. The other thing is that Bayonetta is a character that is, well, completely unlikable. Nothing we get here really makes you want to know her or more about her – even after we get an extended period of time with her child-self in the present, a gimmick that was obvious from the moment she appeared. Bayonetta is definitely the hard, skilled and capable person, but there’s nothing else to her. There’s no “person” there that you want to know more about. So the film instead becomes more about going through the motions. Overdone body motions at that, which would snap most people in half should they actually try to execute such motions.
I went into Bayonetta: Bloody Fate curious to see what it could accomplish since I’d never played the games and had little experience overall with it. The film is a real treat with its designs, its animation quality and everything it brings to the table in that regard. You can see every penny of the production making its way onto the screen. Unfortunately, it’s a beautiful wrapper on a hollow body as the story is thin and predictable and there’s no real investment for viewers with any of the characters, to the point where you almost want Balder to win and reshape existence into something more interesting. The film is an absolute work of beauty and you can totally fall in love with it from that point, but beyond that there’s not much else. FUNimation has put together a good looking release here and it definitely works for fans by bringing in the same voice cast as the game for the English language dub, so fans of the film will definitely be pleased all around. It simply didn’t do a thing for me in the end.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Track, Storyboards
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 21st, 2014
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.