Samurai Jack: The Premiere Movie (2001)
Review by Doc Ezra

Written by Genndy Tartakovsky
Directed by Robert Alvarea and Randy Myers
Starring Phil LaMarr, Mako (voices)


Rating: NR, suggested for 12+

Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Own it.

Genndy Tartakovsky, having already conquered the animation world with his ground-breaking Powerpuff Girls, decided he wanted to try his hand at a different kind of hero - male, and fully-grown. The result of this decision is Samurai Jack, and Tartakovsky's string of hits remains unbroken.

"Jack" (not his real name) watched as the evil Aku slaughtered his father when he was only a boy. Smuggled away from the carnage by his mother, Jack travelled the world throughout his childhood, learning various forms of combat from masters of all nationalities. Upon his return to his home, he claimed his father's sword and challenged Aku. His victory over the shapeshifting sorceror was nearly complete, when the treacherous Aku opened a portal through time, and hurled Jack into the future.

Jack arrives in the far-flung future of Earth, when Aku has been the ruler of the world for countless centuries, and dogs have evolved far enough to talk and walk erect. Despite his initial culture shock and a few misunderstandings with visiting aliens, the adaptable samurai agrees to help a band of canine archaeolgists, intent on discovering the true origins of their people. Aku has tasked the dogs instead with mining a valuable crystal, taking time away from their crucial archaeological dig that could determine if their kind did, in fact, once walk on all fours.

Samurai Jack, as should be plain at this point, is essentially a righteous adventure story, with little concern for its occasional silliness, and absolutely unrepentant in its quest to be an enjoyable cartoon, without feeling it necessary to be anything but a cartoon. This is not to say that it's strictly kid's fare - it's equally entertaining for young and old, because it relies on nothing but interesting characters and great visuals to entertain the audience.

This is also one of the more action-packed cartoons of recent memory, culminating in an extended battle sequence that sees Jack facing off against literally hundreds of Aku's attack drones, following an extended "A-Team" preparatory sequence with lots of welding and makeshift weaponry design. And the people behind Samurai Jack never lose sight of their source material - the samurai and western action flicks of old, whose fingerprints are all over the aesthetic stylings of the show.

The DVD comes loaded with a great set of features, including a documentary/interview with Genndy Tartakovsky and an extremely extensive art gallery that runs from early concept sketches to finished animation cels. The storyboard-to-feature comparison that closes the art gallery is very cool. The bonus episode included on the disc serves as a nice Samurai Jack fix, once the premiere movie has you hooked and hungering for more. The only downside is the annoying cardboard case common to all Warner Family titles.

So if you're looking to expand your DVD collection to include some of the best in contemporary American animation, Samurai Jack is your man. The show is great fun, and very stylishly done, and the DVD makes a worthy addition to any 'toon fan's collection. And besides, we all like to see Mako finding work. Perhaps if enough people snag this disc, we can get the theatrical feature on the fast track.

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