NOTE: This movie is available in “Subbed” (spoken Japanese with English subtitles) and “Dubbed” (spoken English without subtitles) versions. This review is based on the Subbed version.
Last weekend was slow and awkward at the domestic box office. With the surefire hit “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opening next weekend, few new releases were eager to step up and do well for exactly one weekend before being obliterated. “Black Adam” continued its reign at No. 1, while horror movies have fallen like rocks into Charlie Brown’s candy bag now that Halloween is over. Things were so bad that niche anime “One Piece Film: Red” was able to come in at a relatively strong #2. Unlike that “Dragon Ball” movie from a few months ago, I had never even heard of this franchise until I learned that his movie was going to hit a massive release. And unlike that “Jujutsu Kaisen” movie from earlier this year, I’m not particularly happy to have been featured in it.
The film takes place in a world overrun by pirates. The government and the army have sworn to eliminate the pirates, but otherwise they do nothing to help the victimized civilians. Pop star Uta heard the pleas of the masses and agreed to give a free concert to give everyone a break from pirates and misery. Kind-hearted pirate Luffy and his crew attend the concert, and it turns out that Uta and Luffy grew up together, mentored by the wise pirate “Red-Haired” Shanks. Uta is happy to see Luffy again after all these years, but she’s not happy that he’s still a pirate, good or not. Plus, she has a plan to make sure everyone enjoys the gig forever and never has to worry about pirates, corruption, work, school, or sadness ever again. Of course, anyone who wants to protect the world from such a life will be a villain.
Uta’s plan is basically to trap the populace in some sort of dream world while their unconscious bodies wither and die. It’s up to Luffy and his crew, then Shanks, to stop him. The government could also intervene by blowing up the whole concert, but hopefully it won’t come to that. Perhaps Uta can be convinced to come out of her mess herself, as we learn more about her motivations and tragic past. One thing’s for sure, no matter what, we’ll have plenty of confusing anime-style fights where impact and damage are assigned seemingly randomly.
There were things I liked about “One Piece Film: Red”. Uta is a nice character and her songs are beautiful. Villain songs are usually my favorite in Disney musicals, and here we get at least two, maybe more if you retroactively count the first ones before Uta’s heel turn was official. And some comedies work, in that kind of manic-anime energy.
But then there’s the biggest downside to the movie, which is that it’s so confusing. The cast is very character-heavy, Uta’s plan is complicated, and the action is nearly impossible to follow. I couldn’t even tell if a certain character was alive or dead at the end. I also don’t know why the movie is called “One Piece Film: Red”. I guess the “Red” refers to Shanks and his hair, and it’s definitely a movie, but otherwise I don’t have the foggiest. Yeah, I’m going into this movie with no knowledge of “One Piece Film” lore, and established fans will probably get more out of this movie than me, but I can’t say I found that to be a point effective entry into this series. There’s an effort being made here, but for a non-fan like me, there’s a headache quality that the film never manages to shake.
“One Piece Film: Red” is rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive material, and language. Its operating time is 115 minutes.
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