Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

Years ago film adaptations of video games actually made sense to me.  They were almost never good but they made sense.  Up until arguably last console generation, video game graphical power was never quite strong enough to fully realize the stories their creators wanted to tell.  Until the PS3, a video game would always be an inferior method to telling a story at least visually than a film or cartoon.  Looking back to the early days of video games, some titles simply had no stories at all, or their stories were told entirely in ancillary materials.  There was no way to actually experience the stories of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter without watching them in a non-interactive medium.  This is why the "Mortal Kombat" and "Street Fighter" movies were so well-regarded (also Raul Julia as Bison helped).

Today, however, video games come jam packed with production values through their teeth.  On the PS1 you might have had to suffer through sprite-based games with no voice acting and cartoony exaggerated expressions to fully learn the dark tragic story of "Final Fantasy Tactics".  That's no longer case.  With triple-A releases, everything is voice-acted, and voiced-acted competently, everything is in full 3D, and everything has production values equal to, or perhaps ever greater than a Hollywood movie.  "Bayonetta" was one of those titles.  The creators, Platinum Games and director Hideki Kamiya, had their own bizarre extremely trashy vision for a story about an SnM nun/witch/prostitute slutting her way across a European city filled with evil(?) angels while performing shameless high kicks in a tight outfit and eventually throwing God into the Sun, and they managed to get it all right on camera for their audience in full HD - unless you were watching on the PS3, in which case that story was interrupted by a constant barrage of load times.

Of all of this, of course, makes me wonder why the Hell "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" exists.  "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" is a GONZO-produced "Bayonetta" movie that was released to Japanese theaters last fall, adapting the story of the original video game.  Which you might recall if you've read my review* was the very worst part of "Bayonetta" (aside from the loading), and made absolutely no sense.  I suppose the main reason for "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" is to be a ninety-minute commercial for "Bayonetta 2", coming out on the WiiU later this year.  It does not exactly follow the events of the game, but all of the main beats are still here, with all of the characters remade into cartoons.  They fight angels, they go through ludicrous action beats, they allude to sex but never get close to actually having any, so its everything a "Bayonetta" fan could want.  So its a great experience... unless you are not a "Bayonetta" fan.

My biggest question for "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" is this:  why aren't you a hentai?  I never understood in the game itself why it was so shy about Bayonetta's sexuality, leaving out all nudity and all sex beyond some decidedly un-vague innuendos.  What is this character?  A collection of fetishes, there is exactly nothing more to her.  I could almost understand why in the game they would avoid full-on nudity, obviously the world is not ready for a AAA pornographic video game**.  But as for yet another weird Japanese cartoon starring a sexually dominant woman wearing glasses?  I think the world can fathom that.  In terms of fappability, "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" has no more nudity than the video game.  Unless you're in middle school and can fap to anything with 90% of a boob revealed (just pause during her gratuitous shower scene), forget "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate".  This is 2014, you can find the real stuff with a few clicks.

So there, I have just proven that Blue Highwind could one day become a porn critic.  I think an applause is in order.

Glad to see you haven't changed, Bayonetta.

At least Bayonetta looks less like a yeasty string of uncooked dough as she did in the game.  Her proportions actually make sense in an anime universe, when we are not trying to force realistic features onto a twelve-foot-tall body.  Or well, this movie takes place in Europe, so I suppose I should say "3.6576-meter-tall" body.  The art style is still fairly detailed and avoids cartoony elements, it looks a lot like most GONZO productions, honestly.  Every character is recognizable from the games.  Even though "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" is voiced in Japanese, their personalities from the game are entirely intact... or lack thereof.  You can still see the gravity defying high-kicking utterly shameless action from the video games, now just in cartoon form.

Most of the animation is high quality enough, but here's the tproblem with "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate":  its production values are in no way superior to the cutscenes and gameplay of the video game, which was never lacking in flashiness and creativity.  The animation is not bad, but it is not particularly inspired either.  There are no continuous shots of extended motion, most fights end in roughly thirty seconds.  And most of Bayonetta's most incredible moves are missing.  I am not saying that anime cannot direct amazing action sequences, this is a medium with unlimited potential.  But what I am saying is that "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" does not not.  So really unless you are a super hard-core fan complete with a hard-on every time Bayonetta comes on camera, this movie is actually pretty dull.

There are also no stakes.  At least if you were watching a Youtube playthrough there would be the worry that the player might actually lose to the boss.  In this movie Bayonetta is going to win every time, there are no rules of any kind since its literally a video game, and it is all nonsense.

Oh, Holy Fapping Jesus, are you kidding me?

Speaking of nonsense:  the story.  At ninety minutes, "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" is easily much longer than it had any reason to be.  Throughout that time Bayonetta will fight angels when again, I still have no idea why she is doing it.  Something about a battle between witches and sages to stop the resurrection of a sexy white God creature who will destroy the world.  I barely paid attention to the story of the game when I played it, since it was clearly a package of idiocy and actually caring to realize what the point of it all was would probably shave several points off of my IQ.  Well, now I watched this movie, and I had to focus on the story, and now I am a jibbering idiot unable to form a sentence.  Congrats, movie.

I suppose the story being nothing more than confusing over-the-top trash was probably the idea, Bayonetta herself is so much of an exploitation character that she's effectively a satire... but really do not look for these games for any kind of intelligent feminist or even anti-feminist message, or really anything beyond entirely unabashed smut.  The whole point of "Bayonetta" was really to ignore the story, I believe, and then just beat up angels using ridiculous weapons and disturbing fanservice.  Now with a movie, there is no gameplay of any kind, and all we have is this confusing and utterly stupid story, which is made no clearer by this anime adaptation.

If there is any interaction worth discussing it comes from Bayonetta and Cereza, her daughter(?)/past self.  I told you the plot of "Bayonetta" was garbage, right?  Cereza is mildly annoying but somewhat endearing, I guess because I have a genetic weakness towards liking children, but Bayonetta's interactions with her really cannot open her character up.  It would be one thing if Bayonetta was this over-the-top sexpot suddenly put in this compromising unfamiliar position of raising her child/past self.  But that would require, of course, that Bayonetta ever be compromised, and have emotions other than mildly arrogant sexiness, and that does not fit the vision here.

Is the Moon capable of blushing?

And here's the real rub.  Beyond the dull retread of the game, beyond the incomprehensible plotline (which by anime standards is fairly low to average on the weirdness scale), and beyond everything else is the real problem with this franchise:  Bayonetta is not a character.  She does not have emotions, she does not learn, she does not grow.  All she has is a facade of bland sexiness.  And she's careless about it, there's not even the trace of embarrassment or naughtiness that is not pre-packaged that it just isn't actually alluring.  She's a thing, not a character, and I do not mean in the feminist view of objectifying women.  I mean in the lame video game way of creating characters who are made to be so cool that they cannot actually be people.

Which was fine, when Bayonetta was in a brawler video game and you did nothing more than join her in amazing combos and beat up decently challenging boss fights or get fucked-over by outrageously unfair quick time events, but that's not the case here.  So again, why was this movie made?

* In which case, I apologize, that has to be the single worst-written review on this entire blog.  The points are still valid, but the prose is one of God's most awful crimes.

** Just as the world was not ready, and still isn't ready, for "Showgirls", the amazingly ridiculous NC-17 blockbuster directed by Paul Verhoeven.  Maybe someday... maybe someday.

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