What They Say:
From the director of AFRO SAMURAI! Based on the smash-hit videogame, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate follows the story of the witch Bayonetta, as she defeats the blood-thirsty Angels and tries to remember her past from before the time she awoke, 20 years ago. Alongside her is a mysterious little girl who keeps calling her “Mummy”, a journalist that holds a personal grudge against Bayonetta and an unknown white-haired woman who seems to know more than she is willing to reveal about Bayonetta’s time before her sleep.
As with most good movie releases, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate has both a 5.1 English and Japanese track. From research, the games were actually done in English, and then sent over to Japan, where it got popular and then was made an anime out of – this is something not that familiar and the fact they got the actress from the games in the dub to do the role (more on that in the extras) from England whilst the rest of the cast was recorded in Los Angeles, there had to be a lot of organization involved and it definitely shows in this release. With two quality tracks where I had to reduce the volume settings combined with no distortion or out of sync timing with the subtitles, I found no errors whatsoever and instead enjoyed a quality release in both languages, and again it seems they got as much of the game cast as possible, making fans of the game hopefully happy…I certainly was with the dub and haven’t even played the games.
Set in full screen with a 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Bayonetta is gritty, dark with fanservice ahoy – the animation falls into two categories, the talking segments where they barely use much movement…which saves itself for the exceptional action sequences. The transformations, the angels descending, the summoning, etc – it is all used in full affect with no slowdown, pause issues, etc. The animation can be a bit dark at times, but it does suit the mood of the movie, and whilst it is clear there were shortcuts in spreading out the budget, it isn’t hugely noticeable because the action sequences were the main selling point in the first place.
Main menu has Bayonetta on a pose to the left, behind the title screen whilst clips of the movie are shown in a circular window background. The choices are done below, Play Feature, Scenes, Bonus and Set Up. Every time you select a choice, Bayonetta’s face gets closer to the screen as it turns into flame and then you get your sub-menu choices if needs be. Unlike series releases, the scenes selection is just that, rather than your typical openings, Part A, Part B, ending selections you usually get with series releases. No problems in selection from main screen or from the movie, it has got the feel of the movie and the animation flows quite well with no slowdown in selection.
We have a few extras – we get a standard US trailer for the movie, and an interesting take on a storyboards extra, where there is 21 minutes worth of storyboards literally taking you through the movie in storyboard format. It is played like a movie, with a soundtrack in the background, black and white sketches (in Japanese) so it is definitely a different take on it as you go through the movie in storyboard form and try and make heads or tails of it.
The big extra is a director’s commentary of the dub production. It is a tad misleading because the director is one of two people there – Jonathan Cline (director) is actually commentating in England not Los Angeles, as he is joined by Helena Taylor (Bayonetta English voice in the games and film). This is one of the most interesting commentaries ever if you are a fan of behind the scenes as they talk more on that than the actual movie – Helena I found out is quite popular due to her work as Bayonetta, but also showcasing my age, she was the dub voice in a few anime, namely Yomiko Readman in one of my favourite series ever, R.O.D The TV. As she is now based back in England, they discuss how they had to do the roles recording in England and LA for the American Vas – how where they recorded in England has links to Hitchcock and Shakespeare, how hard it was trying to get as much of the video game cast (6 years after the first game was done), the history of the licencing…and Helena introducing Jonathan to a pub experience (during the World Cup when England lost to Uruguay…poor chap) – more interesting and serious stuff like her voice training, how she had to adapt various British words during the game and anime (especially with the lip-flaps), how the role has changed for Bayonetta 2 (a few spoilers for those not played the game), how she is acting with her mannerisms during voice work and how the process was unusual from a game developed in an English country, then sent over to Japan, then retranslated again to English. Also briefly speaking about Helena meeting the developers and composers of the seconds, the differences in working on the game and the anime, and even working with Disney Tokyo…
So there is a lot about the process, but not much about the film itself – personally though it was one of the most interesting commentaries I’ve heard and think should be checked out for a rather different look at how something is processed.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This review is a bit strange as from what I’ve looked at and have been told, the film is based on the first Bayonetta game, which I will admit I have never played. I have no idea how accurate it is to the game, though from a newbie point of view, I can pretty much gather fans of the game would definitely give this a shot. So this review is based on what it is as a standard movie – and to be fair, for the most part, it definitely works as an action movie without too much if any knowledge required from the game. However, at the same time you can tell they had to condense a lot into an hour and a half so does it manage to work?
After an introduction with some exposition, we are introduced to a forbidden child who was became a witch after a sleep of over 500 years protected her (which to the films credit is explained in better details later when one of the other characters gets involved) – it isn’t told brilliantly how she is a witch bar a forbidden romance but our titular character Bayonetta, we see her as a nun creating a magic circle, attacking some angels (who are much more sinister looking than you’d expect) who seem to hunt witches. Along with a co-worker/friend named Rodin who seems to be her weapon maker/designer, she causes havoc in the church…whilst outside, a journalist named Luka is spying on her, seemingly wishing to out her as a witch as we learn she has some history with him where she may have killed his father 20 years ago…
We do get a bit more exposition though as we learn of the Cornerstone of the Left Eye. This is one of the ‘Eyes of the World’ which were treasures separated back when Bayonetta lost her memories and sent to sleep 500 years. She is looking for the one who has the other treasure and be able to restore her memories. She may have discovered the person on the television named Balder, the head of the Ragna, a religious sect which may have ties with Bayonetta’s ‘enemies’ back in the past as a Lunar Sage, whilst Bayonetta may have belonged to the Umbra witches. His assistant, Jeanne, appears during a train ride as Bayonetta begins to search but she seems to have very similar powers to Bayonetta yet is on Balders’ side…also strangely in the middle of this, Bayonetta finds a small child who looks oddly familiar…and whilst not the parenting type she does look after her with the hapless Luka also getting involved…
The little girl and Bayonetta are able to see angels whilst Luka isn’t, leading to more travelling when Bayonetta separates from them whilst tracking angels. After Bayonetta saves them, Luka seems to trust her more despite his misgiving and takes them to where Balder is who wishes to create a new world. From this, we learn more about Bayonettas’ past, and also who Jeanne and the little girl really are, making the movie surprisingly in depth and done as best as it could to condense a few game with some good back-story and plot, as well as giving the fans the right amount of action and fanservice (not just in terms of the bodies, the fact they got a lot of the original VAs was verbal service too) and how Balder is linked with Bayonetta, as well as the truth behind the death of Lukas’ father. It leads to a climactic battle as you would expect and a resolution, albeit a quick one.
From talking with a few friends who have played the game, they said it does tell the story but they change quite a few things in how it is told. It doesn’t seem to deviate horrendously though so that is a good thing for fans of the game. For those who haven’t played it, I will admit that there isn’t enough back-story for the angels that Bayonetta is fighting, aside from the fact that because she is a witch, they have to kill her. There is stuff mentioned later in the film about the two factions (and most likely Bayonetta was born from a forbidden relationship between a member from each, making her an outcast – which in turn makes Jeanne even more likeable) but with the time restrictions, they get in as much as they can which is acceptable, but the character of Bayonetta is incredibly interesting with her taunting, her demeanour, her fanservice nature and smug yet caring attitude. The twist with the little girl even for non fans could be seen a mile away, but it was still interesting how that relationship worked, as well as Luka actually being an intrepid reporter trying to find out for certain if Bayonetta was involved which dictates into more of a playful love/hate relationship than general antagonism.
What it does well of course, is the action scenes. And yes, there is definite fanservice which I hard is accurate to the game using the hair melding into costumes, but with the gritty setting, the weapons, the movement, it is a joy to watch. There perhaps needed to be a bit more, but again, with time restrictions to try and make an acceptable movie for the fans, getting in as much plot and action in an hour and a half for a full game was always going to be difficult. And yes, whilst it does feel rushed, I feel for the most part, it succeeded. There is enough story to make the characters interesting (though the villain Balder wasn’t too much focus on him until the end) and enough back-story told gradually to keep that interest. There are some great fight sequences and they squeezed as much as they could in the animation to make them as fluid and free-flowing as possible. The ending was a bit anti-climatic, but overall, the story and action held itself alone very well.
I can see this as a movie both fans and non-fans will enjoy – fans may have issues to the changes done but there is enough to keep them happy, non-fans will see a short action movie that does its job for you to enjoy and switch your brain off for an hour and a half.
Bayonetta: Blood Fate isn’t quite the love letter for fans due to its short length and trying to cram as much as they could in it, but it does enough to make people smile at least. For the fans, the process in getting as many of the voice cast (Grey DeLisle is Jeanne as well which made me smile like a fanboy) from the games helped, and enough of the story is included so it doesn’t seem like a cut and paste. If like me you haven’t played the games before, then sit down, smile at Bayonetta’s voice, quips (more so if like me you are from England, makes it even funnier), the service, the action and kick back with a cup of tea and enjoy the night.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: November 24th, 2014
Running Time: 90 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.