This is the fourth Naruto movie, made after the horrible fillers were over and the franchise returned back to being good for awhile. In an attempt to make the old fans return as well as gaining new audience, they poured a lot of money into making both the first dozen episodes of Shippuden, as well as this movie, to look as slick as possible. And indeed, both the series and the movie feel like they are trying to convince you that the show is back on track, better than ever. The characters are older, more powerful, more mature, the stakes are up, the action is better, and the pastures are greener hereon.
They even combined the best elements of the first and second movies (disregarding the third as a complete joke) in an attempt to offer the best possible movie-based plot the setting can offer. Thus we get the team having to escort a young snotty girl with a tragic past (again) and fight their way through villains who want to get their hands on something that will help them rule the world (again). They even went as far as throwing in a vision from the future, where Naruto gets killed and they keep insisting his fate can’t be altered. The first was memorable for the movie gimmick, the second for the weird blend of cultures, but this one is a complete joke. And it’s not even a funny one. You no longer feel like it is the tale of a boy trying to live by and be accepted in a rough world, but a bunch of clowns goofing around in a poor attempt to keep us interested. So yeah, on paper this sounds to be by far the best movie so far… And sadly it ain’t.
Although it looks spectacular and exciting on a superficial level, the directing is bad, many things make no sense, and there are major power level inconsistencies. Just like the second part of the main series, it starts with a bang which promises to be super awesome, only to quickly disappoint you with its juvenile gimmicks and messy storyboard. And here is what I mean in detail.
The first quarter of the movie is nothing but a silly build up without any actual depth. All we see is the villains slowly doing their thing and plotting to kill a priestess. All this time the heroes are not even seen or heard of. When we finally do get to see them, we get the same treatment of what the tv series did. They constantly try to impress us with silly bravado of the type “we are here, better than ever, but still funny and silly occasionally so don’t feel alienated because we are still the same”. And again nothing of importance has happened up until the middle of the movie.
The second part of the film on the other hand is quite amazing in terms of action and dramatic tension. Priestess Shion quickly changes from an apathetic doll to a snotty girl who is feeling depressed for the task that is given to follow all her life. There are side stories like fate that can’t be avoided and obedience that must be followed to the death. And the battles are simply spectacular and even tactical as far as the setting goes. It even has a twist in the end with the demon revealing stuff about his true nature. I must say in terms of superficial entertainment the second half is exceptional and rewards you to the fullest for having to tolerate the most boring first half.
Other than that though the scenario is done on the run and you easily see lots of things that could have been done much better. There is a part for example where someone disguises to look like the priestess to lure the enemy away and yet they make it appear like he used an amazingly hard and forbidden technique to do that. Big deal, they do it all the time in the main series and it isn’t hard or irreversible at all. The evil henchmen in another case lose the fight because they ran out of power and not because they were bested in battle. That makes them feel lame because they were never really strong and the good guys won because they stabbed them in the back while they were defenseless. That is just cheap and mean. Also, they keep on saying how the demon lord will be undefeatable if he ever finds his material body to merge with but they otherwise never seem to care how he was defeated a few decades ago WHILE he was in full power. And as usually, most never heard of such an important event, such as an army of tens of thousands of statues almost taking over the world, even when it happened a few decades ago. Heck, even the statues don’t make much sense since they appear indestructible in the beginning yet are trashed easily towards the end. And the whole prophecy of Naruto getting killed or duty to the death issues are dealt with in a most cheap and childish way for anyone to care. I can go on forever but the storyboard is full of holes.
But in case you disregard all that, Shion is fleshed out nicely for the crummy time she was given and the battles are super cool. Lee and Neji in particular steal the show even if they are cameos in the plot. Because eventually it is still just Naruto doing all the work, being the usual idealistic immature idiot with a golden heart he always was. And yes the ending is once again throwing a Rasengan on the villain’s face and giving his motivational monologue to the emo kid that makes everything feel right. So it is ok as far as action goes but it still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of story.