This is the second Naruto movie, made around the time the dreaded fillers began. You can clearly see how the franchise is starting to saturate by now and just rehashes the same old stuff just for the sake of making them and keeping up with a dying trend. As far as movies go, you can of course expect far better production values and flashier battles than the main series, along with much less effort to tell a story or have interesting characters. Other than that, it is just another passable filler mission.
The basic plot is about our heroes trying to stop the members of a mechanical ship from getting their hands on some magic stones of immerse power that will help them rule the world. So in a way it is like a rehash of what the Akatsuki want in the main series, although in a much cheaper and boring way. Later on you get some Nausicaa vibes, as if they are trying to pass a anti-war, pro-ecology message regarding the power of the stones but it is all completely dried up.
I guess the makers received complaints about the first movie having too much plot and not enough action and as such sacrificed everything for an 80% action flick with cheesy drama. “The kids who watch this don’t care about dramatic princesses, they just want to see action” is what they told them. Thus they replace a character with some basic interest such as a frail girl like Yukihime with an emo fighter boy named Temujin. They also try to have as less twists as possible that will eat up precious screen time from the action, and thus you get this cheesefest. I liked the part with the filming in the first movie for offering something slightly smart in the otherwise straightforward story. But this “in your face” plot is just boring and on top of that one of the same as always when it comes to the themes of Naruto. Emo kids with tragic childhoods fighting for a better future is something you get all the time in the main series so there is no innovation here; unlike what they did with the first movie and apparently were scolded for it. Some of course may say there is some innovation because there is a blending of other civilizations and technology. Seriously, the villains appear to be European knights who transform to European monsters, their weaponry appears to be steampunk, and the village near the ruins has murals that resemble those of the Aztecs. Well I was not convinced all these fit in the setting. I got the part how the mechanical ship is supposed to symbolize the westerners invading Japan but it wasn’t relevant to the plot. And what the devil are Aztecs doing in a Japanese-like world?
Anyways, Temujin is a very boring character and just a slight variation of practically half the other moody characters in the show. The other 3 villains are shallow as hell and you just don’t care about them either. As for the good guys, aside from Naruto they are all there just because the movie is supposed to be mostly action and needed more people to fill in the fights. Furthermore, the scriptwriter didn’t care much for the canon teams and picked the characters based on popularity and not on proper team structure. So we get Shikamaru without the others of his team and Gaara with Kanguro without the girl of their team. Sadly, the real protagonist of the show, Gaysuke, is now gone from the main team and could not be present, and even Kakashi is no longer their leader to be present with his coolness. And even sadder than that, there is absolutely no attempt to somehow bridge what is going in the story with some canon character. Remember how Kakashi had ties with Snow Country and was giving off a feeling of familiarity? Well forget that, over here we get this ancient civilization nobody knew anything about and some village nobody had ties to. Plus they threw in Europe and South America for kicks. Basically, they didn’t even try, because trying means adding some context which makes the target audience (10 year old kids) to have to think and makes them bored. Unless of course telling them once again how the monstrous westerners invaded the super cool ninja country that is Japan counts as educational. Anyways, they are there for the action and not for the story.
As far as the action goes it is spectacular for the year it was made. There is so much of it, and it is all pretty dynamic and cool for a shonen anime. Definitely much more exciting than the first film and basically the only thing it did better than it. It still ends the usual way though (Rasengan on the villain’s face and Naruto giving his motivational monologue to the emo kid that makes everything feel right). Down to it I liked the movie for the action and disliked everything else. A very passable and forgettable chapter in the franchise.