The ex-Driver championship in Los Angeles has attracted the top racing teams from all over the world, including the Japanese team of Lorna, Lisa, and Souichi. However when they arrive in the United States, they are faced with disabling rouge vehicles, multiple kidnappings, and allegations that the sponsors are illegally gambling on the final race. When these plots disrupt the race itself, the international ex-Driver teams are forced to set aside their rivalry to stop the criminal's vehicle and bring him to justice!
For those not unlike myself who haven’t seen the original six episode OVA series, there is eX-Driver the Movie. With an enthralling title such as that how can people not be drawn to this, right? Wrong! If it wasn’t for the $2 USD price tag I wouldn’t even know anything about this movie or the series it succeeds. After watching it once, I was unimpressed. After watching it a second time, I clearly understood why it was only $2 and found myself wishing I could get my money back. Wrapped up in an unnecessarily short 63-minute presentation, the movie is mainly about three Japanese eX-Drivers, Lorna, Lisa, and Souichi. Hosted in the USA, they are competing in the World eX-Driver Championships, which feature eX-Drivers that span the globe. Now what is an eX-Driver? Simply put, a small niche of people with the driving skills to drive non-AI (artificial intelligence) vehicles filled with gasoline and use them to chase down rogue AI vehicles. When these three get to the championship race, they find themselves caught up in something greater than just the race. Be ready to be amazed by semi-boring and predictable car chases with beautifully drawn cars in them. Bland car chases could be overlooked if they weren’t the primary basis of the plot. However, they are. The story could've had more potential had the writers developed the AI-vehicle concept further. They did not, which is hard to do in a short movie like this. Lastly, another forgiving point to a weak plot could be the characters and their presence and development within the story. The movie is missing most of that as well though. Among this primarily negative and critical review is one noticeable positive. The movie does warrant some technical merits. Actas does a solid job in combining both CG and hand drawn animation, especially for a 2002 anime movie. That has to be the biggest bright spot. The animation does a fairly good job at compensating for the clean and somewhat simpler art style that does not do complete justice to an action driving movie. Although not bad, the art just did not impress too much outside of the pretty girls and spiffy vehicles unfortunately. So is eX-Driver worth a view? That’s hard to say. To one who has not seen the original OVA series, no. Perhaps additional plot and character development from that series can add some value to this movie. However, as a standalone I cannot recommend this movie with too much enthusiasm unless your sole goal is to look at well animated pretty vehicles and have some additional zoom zoom noise on in the background. ENTERTAINMENT SCORE: 5/10 1️⃣Weighted Average System Score: (12 + 7 + 6 + 9 + 10 = 44/100 points) Additional Information: Video Format: DVD (2004) Audio Format: English 5.1 DTS Surround Publisher: Geneon Entertainment Equipment Used: LG 60UH6550 4K TV, Vizio 5.1 Sound Bar System SB3651-E6, Sony Blu-ray Player BDP-S5200
Surprisingly, eX-Driver managed to get a movie, with the uncreatively titled “eX-Driver: The Movie”. And I use the word ‘movie’ in the loosest sense possible, since it’s more like an hour long direct-to-DVD special that managed to get a bump in animation quality. The movie follows the three leads from the series as they enter and win a domestic preliminary round and advance to the eX-Driver world race competition held in Los Angeles as a representative team from Japan. Not long after arriving in LA, an AI car goes haywire, setting off a chain of events that leads out main trio into a conspiracy involving the race competition and some of the people involved with it. If my reaction to the series was lukewarm at best, the movie doesn’t do much to change that. We don’t even get to see that many differences between how Japan and America deal with how they handle their AI cars, which would have made for some good world building and could have been a neat culture shock for the three main characters, and would have made the movie stand out more by giving it some personality. Like I mentioned earlier, the animation is a step up from the series, but unfortunately it still has some of the early 2000s CGI used for the cars. To be fair, it’s not the worst CGI that I’ve seen from the era, and is a bit better than the series, but it might turn some people off who aren’t use to seeing older CGI. But that’s not all, because on the same day that the movie was released, a short called “eX-Driver: Nina & Rei – Danger Zone”, which was featured as a bonus on the same DVD as the movie, and is a prequel to the series featuring two minor characters, who are the top eX-Driver team. I’m going to include this as part of my review for the movie because I still want to talk about it, but I don’t think I can justify a whole review for it, especially since it’s only 24 minutes long, and doing a stand alone review with a minimum character/word limit would be stretching it out to the breaking point. The plot focuses on a mysterious mini-AI car that terrorizes the city, and it’s up to Nina and Rei to stop it, all while having to deal with something or someone from the eX-Driver's past. Out of the entire series, this is the most entertaining entry. The whole thing felt like an homage to an 80s or 90s buddy cop action movie, with the angry police chief cliche and everything. The villain for this special was also pretty fun, and I’m not going to spoil it. This OVA wasn’t anything special, but compared to the rest of the series, it at least feels like there was an attempt made to make something at least fun, even if it ended up being to late into the series for someone to care about it outside of the dedicated fans or people who like to check out everything. If anything, you could probably watch this without knowing anything about the rest of the series, and you would have to only spend 24 minutes at most to watch it.
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