Director: Hiroaki Miyamoto
Screenplay: Tsutomu Kuroiwa
Producer: Eiichiro Oda
Starring: Colleen Clinkenbeard, Keith Silverstein
Distributor: Toei Company, FUNimation Films
The world of One Piece is a truly fascinating one to behold, when you look over the giant scope of the series since its inception; there are absolutely no limits to what can be seen and what can happen within Eiichiro Oda’s masterwork. We’ve seen worlds within the sky, maximum security prisons, skeletons coming to life, and a grand war that will absolutely blow the Toonami audience away, when we get to those batch of episodes. The point is, this series has no limits to what it can pull off, as is the case with its latest film outing, simply titled One Piece: Film GOLD, a movie filled with riches, glitz, glamour, and more of what you’ve come to love from the Straw Hat crew. As such, when this film came to theaters, I decided to take a night out to the cinema and witness this film firsthand. So do enjoy this fairly brief film review, and let’s find out together if this film breaks the bank, or is simply a casino bust. Although my money’s on the former, all in. Casino puns.
OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: This will be a spoiler-free review.
Let’s get the preliminary information out of the way, so that everyone’s on the same page. Luffy (Colleen Clinkenbeard) is an adventurous young pirate, roaming the seas with his vast crew, sailing across the world in search for wealth, fame, and power, as well as the illusive and legendary (and eponymous) One Piece… whatever that may be. And along the way, Luffy and his crew find themselves involved in some, what I would call, side quests, getting involved with insane tasks and quests in vast nations and cities. One such case is the location this film takes place in, Gran Tesoro, an independent country-on-a-boat – and a BIG boat, at that – that is, from top to bottom, the One Piece allegory of Las Vegas. The headman of the grand city, Gild Tesoro (Keith Silverstein), gladly welcomes the Straw Hat crew into his city, complete with a presentation of gold fountains and showgirls doing a go-go dance to a large applauding audience. You heard me, THAT is how the film starts. It’s gold and grand and glorious and it’s a great spectacle to behold. But what our pirate protagonists will soon realize that, much like Ted Dibiase, the Million Dollar Man, everybody’s got a price, and the price for avarice is a very steep one. Some evil intentions are lurking within the mind of Gild Tesoro, amidst his land of gold.
I’ve always been fond of the three-act structure that is prevalent across the board, in cinema. And in the case of Film GOLD, it’s divvied up quite soundly; the first act comprises of some high life hijinks, which includes a car race sequence that, I swear, had to have been lifted from Mario Kart, which leads into the second act, a straight homage to Ocean’s Eleven with a heist plan going awry, and it all caps off in the third act with, what else, a grand fight between Luffy and his crew, versus Tesoro and his crew. And speaking of, Tesoro is quite the towering figure, showing both dominance and intimidation, especially when his bad side is unleashed. Which it often is, this guy turns into a real jerkhole. This movie also introduces a fairly minor character, but also one that serves a pretty big purpose within the film, the character of Carina (Michele Knotz), who was an old acquaintance of Nami from long ago. She’s working within Gran Tesoro, but her intentions aren’t wholly clear; much like Nami, she’s quite the thief, but unlike Nami, she tends to swerve between sides, which does end up to being a full face turn, albeit in a confusing execution.
Now, admittedly, I’m not the most educated on One Piece, I haven’t seen all the episodes or read all the manga, or even seen all the movies – despite me owning Strong World and Film Z, accursed backlog… – but if there’s one thing the third act of this movie does better than the episodic format of the anime, it’s the big climactic fight. The fights can be a bit sluggish in the anime, taking double-digit episodes to conclude in some cases, but here in this film? It’s about 20 minutes or so, and it’s a very grand climax to witness. That’s another positive in this film’s favor, the pacing is very solid throughout and it rarely ever drags its feet throughout its 2-hour runtime. The only time it really slows down is in the end of the second act, before things kick back up for the climax of the film.
As far as the animation goes, Toei Animation put in some pretty solid work on this film, although there are a few moments of 3DCG abuse to be found, but not with the setting and design, only in some panning shots of characters. Now, because I haven’t seen any of the other One Piece films, I can’t really give a solid comparison as to how this one will compare to the others, but for what it’s worth, Film GOLD is, in essence, exactly what you’d expect out of a One Piece movie. Great action, solid animation from Toei working on a film budget, levity in all the right places, and even some cameos to be found, some welcomed and one… well, not so welcomed. And lastly, while the film was not presented in theaters in its original Japanese language audio – for whatever reason, I don’t know – the English performance is incredibly strong, with Joel McDonald at the helm for the ADR direction and Clint Bickham handling the English script, all complete with stellar performances from all of the main cast, as well as the new voices of Keith Silverstein as Tesoro, and Amber Lee Conners and Tyson Rinehart as Tesoro’s right-hands, Baccarat and Dice – get it, casino puns. It all works out pretty well, in the end result, crafting out a solid film from start to finish. Not quite a bank-buster, but you’ll leave with more chips than you came in with. Casino puns. It made for a pretty fun theater experience, and if you weren’t fortunate enough to experience it on the big screen, definitely check it out when it comes to DVD and Blu-ray, hopefully later this year.
I hope you enjoyed this (unfortunately delayed) film review, the first of many to come in the coming weeks and months. I won’t always do anime films, but I’ll try to keep my mainline focus on animation, be it Japanese, American, or live-action adaptation. Which reminds me… yeah, there’s a certain movie coming out that I’ll have to go see, isn’t there? Oh well, we’ll burn that bridge in due time.
Final Verdict: Get it when it comes out on DVD. You won’t be disappointed.