"Trigun: Badlands Rumble" is the first movie outing for the famed, late-90s anime series. After such a hiatus from the public eye, "Badlands Rumble" serves a dual purpose: providing fans with some major back story elements and allowing newcomers (like myself) somewhere to start without committing to a full series. Chronicling the hunting of hulking thief, Gasback, "Badlands Rumble" makes no attempt to hide what it is from the uninitiated, with the film's opening scene delivering a heavy dose of action, suspense and comedy, most of which is a result of series hero, Vash the Stampede.
The character of Vash is a microcosm of "Badlands Rumble" at large. Colorful, always in motion, and instantly likable, both Vash and the film aspire to entertain and do so with reasonable success. "Badlands Rumble" is at the core, a hyper-stylized Western. It's a film almost impossible to describe without resorting to cliché, as it is filled with them from stem to stern, but like any good film worth its salt, "Badlands Rumble" uses the clichés to great effect and in the process delivers an oddly crafted tribute to the wild west.
There is sadly a disconnect for the casual fan in "Badlands Rumble" with the various characters losing the added layer of depth that a series fan would find, but they are well defined enough to sell the uninitiated on the source material. For instance, the character of Wolfwood who begins the film as the villain's bodyguard shows signs of being a man of honor and his later character turn is believable and properly handled; it doesn't hurt that his cool factor is kicked up a factor 10 by his giant transforming cross weapon (there's something you don't get to see in a film everyday).
The plot, which I have yet to mention ultimately doesn't matter, as "Badlands Rumble" is worth a viewing on the merits of the action and clever cast of heroes (and villains). For those who must know, it's thinly revolves around Gasback seeking revenge against the mayor of a town and in the process putting the defenseless citizens at risk. The 115-minute runtime flies by thanks to the eye-popping action sequences that use the medium of animation to squeeze out as many impossible stunts as humanly imaginable. Up to the film's final act "Badlands Rumble" refuses to rest on its laurels and even though you know Vash and the principals from the series will make it out alive, there's a good level of tensions and suspense in the closing moments.
"Badlands Rumble" is the anime equivalent of a big, loud, take no prisoners action film the 90s, only the animation makes it look like a million bucks and both voice casts (the original Japanese and English dub) turn in significantly more competent performances than your hulking live-action meathead. While I can't guarantee "Badlands Rumble" will leave you wanting more "Trigun," I can guarantee Vash the Stampede will live up to his nickname as the "Humanoid Typhoon." He and "Badlands Rumble" are forces to be reckoned with, leaving a wake of devastation that must be seen to be believed.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is top notch all the way. The animation is nicely presented with crisp, bold colors and well-defined lines. Color bleeding and compression artifacts, which often show up more prominently in animation, are minimal at worst. It's an eye pleasing transfer in every sense of the word and really makes the franticly paced film feel like something made for the big screen.
The Dolby Digital Japanese 5.1 audio track is as strong as visuals. Voice work is clear, well defined and free of distortion. Dialogue is expertly balanced alongside the accompanying musical score and the many loud, in your face sound effects. The directionals get a great chance to show their stuff during the plentiful action set pieces and the low end does its job nicely, never overpowering any single element. The Dolby Digital English 5.1 dub is just as good, with a great voice cast leading the way. English subtitles are included.
Despite being a two-disc release, "Badlands Rumble" is light in substance when it comes to extras. A collection of interviews and a television special are just as promotional as the various trailers and commercials also included, but for diehard fans, may prove to hold more value. "A Mildly Awesome Story" is a 30-second throwaway video that honestly had no reason being listed on the box. Rounding out the bonus features is footage from an Anime Expo 2009 event and premiere event at Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro.
"Trigun: Badlands Rumble" isn't a smart film, nor a stupid one. It has a simple purpose: entertain at all costs. It succeeds nicely in delivering sharply defined, colorful characters to unleash mayhem on-screen that can only existed in the world of animation. "Badlands Rumble" comes as a technical visual and aural treat, ensuring anyone who decides to invest their time and money with Vash and crew will have the best viewing experience possible. Recommended.