What's good people? Yes you read the title right, I'm reviewing Dragon Cry. Thanks to Carry for pointing out that the film was being aired outside of Japan otherwise I'd have missed it. Having said that, screw whoever the licence holder/distributor is for having it on at so few cinemas and only screening it once. ( .___.)
Just so you're aware, you wont be reading or seeing any major plot spoilers or hopefully anything much in the way of spoilers as I've tried to be as ambiguous as possible. So no moaning in the comments about it ( =_=)
Let's start with the positives, Fairy Tail seems to be suffering a lack of those recently. Straight off the bat the animation is GORGEOUS! Jesus H. Christ is it good! One of the marmite complaints about the 2014 anime series has always been the colours; some have loved it, finding that it fits much better with Mashima's colouring style for the volume covers and colour pages, whereas others like me have hated it because it's too dark/drab. The original anime series was equally marmite in regards to colour; you either loved it because it was bright and vibrant or you hated it because it was too bright and didn't fit with the manga's colour style. I'm happy to report that the animators have found a happy medium! It's still a little on the darker side for most of the movie but nowhere near to the point of having to strain your eyes.
The detail in the animation is truly fantastic, you can tell that the animators had plenty of time during production to get as much detail in as possible without going overboard. When you compare the initial TV animation with the movie, it's like comparing a painting you did as a five year old with the Mona Lisa. OK, it's not quite that large a gap but it's still a marked improvement. Not only is it far superior to the anime series, I personally think it's much better than the first movie too.
There is however, a slight niggle. It's only a slight one though, and that is one or two of the fight scenes. Specifically ones involving Swan of Stella's Three Stars. You see, Swan's fighting style revolves almost entirely around kicks, and as this is anime we're talking about here you can probably guess what the problem is; especially when you compare fight scenes from the first series of the anime with the 2014 series. When Swan performs a flurry of kicks hitting her opponent directly, or from a distance to fire off her magic; the animation takes a dip. It only happens once or twice, so it's nothing major, just an observation.
Probably universally accepted as the best thing in the animated series, Yasuharu Takanashi's soundtrack for the movie is just as good in the movie as we've come to expect from him in the anime. There's the obvious tracks that we've come to love and enjoy such as the Main Theme (uninspiring as the title may be...) and Dragon Force, which I think I'm right in saying have been slightly redone for the movie but not to the point where you don't immediately recognise them. You can't help but tap away as the familiar beat starts to crop up and then burst out into the ever spine-tingling melody.
There's also a new track, or if it's not new I certainly didn't recognise it, that occurs fairly early on in the film when Team Natsu have successfully infiltrated the Stella Kingdom. Initially I wasn't sure that it really fit with the typical musical theme of Fairy Tail, normally I associate the music with a good time in Ireland (don't ask why, I just do), whereas this particular track had a very Mission Impossible/pseudo-serious bank heist vibe to it. It certainly fit the scenario, don't get me wrong, but I dunno, I'm just not sure it fits in with the rest of the soundtrack?
Next up, we have some of the comedic aspects of the film. Anyone that knows me well will know that typically I don't enjoy the Japanese sense of humour. Likewise, Japan isn't exactly fond of sarcasm. That last bit actually has nothing to do with the film, thought I'd just throw it out there. Anyway, having expressed my lack of amusement at Japan's typical self-deprecating humour, there are actually some legitimately funny scenes in the film. Normally at the expense of Juvia.
Actually, it's always at Juvia's expense to be perfectly honest. Those of you that are sick of seeing Juvia's character being dragged through the mud because of her infatuation with Gray will probably find these moments more infuriating than amusing (Looking at you Sane ( -_-) ), and admittedly I was torn between laughing out loud and cringing in horror at just how embarrassing some of those moments are. One particular scene that springs to mind is where Gray's striping habit causes Juvia to faint wide-eyed having unexpectedly come face to face with a pair of smooth criminals. Or a mangina, could be either. Of the thirty people that were watching the film, I'd say the majority - myself included - found that particular scene and some subsequent scenes pretty funny.
For the age rating, (15 in the UK) it's not the funniest film ever, but it was never intended to be. It's nowhere near as funny as say Deadpool, at least in my opinion, (also rated as a 15 in the UK, weirdly) but that's like comparing apples and oranges. If anything you use these lighthearted moments to take the edge off the more darker themes throughout the movie.
Wait, did I just say darker themes? In something Fairy Tail related, no less?! Oh yes ;D
First things first, take your mind out of the gutter and put it on the kerb, we aren't talking those kinds of adult themes you filthy animals. ( v_v) This is serious. Mostly... Dragon Cry is certainly darker than Fairy Tail is typically thought of being. For instance, there's a not insubstantial amount of bloodshed, courtesy of bad guy Zash Caine pretty much right from the get go. Or at least within the first ten minutes anyway. And it's not as simple as I've made it sound. It's not Zash that actually commits the hack'n'slashing that sees a group of Fiore's special forces (Holy shit the Royal Army's not totally incompetent! (O_o ) ) being massacred; they do it to themselves. (What was I saying about not being incompetent?)
This actually leads me back to the animation, yes some of it is censored, but it's not like some of the freaking obvious censure you get in some gory horror anime or ecchi bordering hentai levels of fanservice a la Highschool DxD where there is clearly a black sensor bar or a bloody triangle covering up half the screen. It's been done in such away that your mind knows what's happened, or worse/better; what could have happened below the cut-off point of the screen. It's a pretty neat psychology trick I feel, but one I suspect most viewers wont have given much thought to.
Speaking of what could have happened, the next scene I'm about to talk about I'm pretty sure is what got Dragon Cry rated as a 15 here. I don't know how this works in other countries but here, before a film starts there's a screen showing the certificate rating by the British Board of Film Certification and a reason as to why it was rated such. In Dragon Cry's case, the reason was: "One scene of implied threat of sexual violence." I'm pretty sure this scene was one between Lucy and Zash, I wont go into much detail, instead I'll put it this way; I got Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vibes. Not the crappy Swedish version (Sorry Jess), but the one with Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Stellan Skarsgård, and strangely not Mara's rape or revenge scenes but the scene where Craig's being tortured by the murderer. You don't get much darker than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Who would've thought that Fairy Tail, FAIRY TAIL(!!) of all anime would invoke that level of darkness/depravity?
Sadly I'm gonna have to come back to that scene later in the negatives, but we'll jump off that bridge then. For now we have the final positive. Or at least major one.
Any other fandom or medium and this would spark outrage between shippers. Gonna gloss over that though because there are some decent shipping moments and hints (if you're into that sort of thing) between the obvious pairs: NaLu, Gruvia, and GaLe. The standout NaLu scene is pretty deep, so long as you force your inner child to stop gagging or giggling. The Gruvia scenes are pretty much the comedy moments, although there are two where you get a murderous Yandere glare, one of which is from Gray believe it or not. The GaLe is initially subtle, (*cough* brains is the new brawn *cough*) but it's cute nonetheless. The moment I liked the most however, regarding shipping, is a scene involving Erza in the blue outfit you might have seen floating around on the wiki. Again, not gonna spoil it here, but let me put it this way; Jellal would be proud and scared of her. Oh, and before all the Jerza fans flip out in a frenzy; Jellal's not actually in the film at all. Sowwy ( ^_^)
First things first, when I say editing, I mean how the scenes have been put together to make the film. Before I went to go see it, I wasn't aware that some scenes had to be cut for reasons I'm currently unsure of. Regardless of whether it was announced before airing or not, the fact remain that the removal of scenes has impacted the film, and obviously not in a good way. It makes the film seem like it has continuity errors at best and at worst has resulted in key scenes being removed that interrupt the flow and make you wonder; "Wait when did this happen?!"
One that can be construed as a continuity error is after the scene when Capricorn is summoned and his Star Dress is used by Lucy - which by the way, had a Morrigan Aensland theme to it. I don't know what the connection between a sea-goat and a bat is either... - but later on when she reunites with Natsu, she's in her Virgo Star Dress. Without any reason why being given at all, leaving the viewer wondering why wasn't Virgo's Star Dress given a transformation sequence like Capricorn's. It boggles the mind.
However, this particular criticism pales in comparison with the next scenes I'm about to explain. At the beginning of the film, before the massacre I think, we see that Natsu's been chained up, exhausted and in a dungeon cell with only a torch for light. After he's been bounced around a few times and knocked a couple of bricks out of place, it becomes apparent that he's flying over Stella in a cage held by a pretty bloody big parrot-like bird thing. (I'm tempted to call it Gabe) We later find out that he ended up in this predicament, called the Bird's Cage or Bird's Nest (one of the two, Zet help me out here) because he and the rest of Team Natsu pissed Zash off, and they, minus Lucy, are sent off to this Bird's Cage/Nest thing. The issue here is, we see how Natsu escapes, we don't see how the rest of them escape from their Gabe's. The next time we see them is during the torture scene between Zash and Lucy all free and ready to cave Zash's head in. Oooooooookay, weren't they meant to be imprisoned by a Gabe or something? And we only saw Natsu escape. So how does that work?
I'd give a second example, however I'm pushed for time and I'm struggling to remember what the second one is. Basically, I hope to God that when this film comes out on Blu-Ray/DVD that there's an extended/director's cut to clear this crap up, as it reflects badly on what is otherwise a good film
Here's a headache, we knew that this film would expand on areas that Mashima was unable to cover in the manga. And I think most people felt that the film was set post Avatar, pre-Alvarez. In Natsu's dream sequence at the start of the film we see vaguely how Natsu met Makarov. That's Makarov's only appearance in the entire film, and it's not even a speaking role. So that fits with the timeline. What doesn't fit is what happens when we see the guild - or what I'm assuming is the guild - whilst Team Natsu have been summoned to Mercurius. Bar his cameo, Makarov isn't even been mentioned by name, and it's not clear if Erza is the guild master or not as no one refers to her as such. What's even more confusing is, if the guild has been rebuilt; Juvia, Gajeel, Levy, Lily and the Strauss siblings are shown in this building and discuss how Team Natsu went off to Crocus for a job, when in the timeline could this have happened?
Can't be before Avatar: guild's still roughly in one piece and Natsu and Happy are still around. Can't be before Alvarez either because Mest isn't present at all, nor are other members of the guild like Laxus or the Raijinshu, and because of the timescale of the job; it can't fit in before Makarov's rescue mission. Soooo yeah, it doesn't really fit in with the continuity, despite trying to cover canonical elements. There's more to it than that, but I'm avoiding spoilers.
Don't really know how to start with this to be honest. So I guess we'll start with the characters, specifically the movie exclusive characters, of which there aren't too many. We have: Zash Caine, Sonya, King Animus, the Three Stars and Riana. Riana's about as important as Kaby Melon or Michelia so we'll leave her out of this.
So we'll start off with Zash, seeing as how he's a pretty major player throughout the film. And first things first; he's an arsehole. Zash can be summed up as being a selfish individual who is loyal only to himself, with a fetish for blood, and a pretty narrow ultimate goal. He's about as likable as Nina Einstein - hint: she's universally hated by the Code Geass fandom - and all round general perverted, murdering sociopath. In the ultimate murdering socio/psychopath contest, Hannibal Lecter and Mr Hyde have little to worry about from Zash.
Next up we have Sonya, who seems fairly depressed throughout the film, honestly doesn't add much to the film. She's nowhere near as prevalent as Éclair and Momon were in Priestess of the Phoenix, and to be honest you don't really feel much for her in terms of sympathy or empathy. Not only that, and this is a criticism for all characters in the film; their magics are never named. And based on what we hear about Sonya's magic, it's a fairly important plot point.
Gonna skip Animus for the minute and go straight to the Three Stars; Swan, Doll and Gapri. They're about as interesting as watching grass grow. Swan's vanity is just annoying, as is Doll's actually; he's like a butch and dull version of Bickslow yet is somehow just as eccentric even though he doesn't say or gesticulate much. And Gapri's like a cheap version of Racer, who strangely sounds like he has the same VA as Natsu, so that's kind of off putting.
And now to Animus. Animus is without doubt the main antagonist along with Zash which is my main criticism of the plot. Because there are two main antagonists with their own intentions and goals that it confuses the plot. You never really feel much toward Animus because for the most part he's just in the background screwing Zash over, by which point you're supposed to immensely dislike the guy because he's just such a bastard. That means that when Zash is put out of action and Animus suddenly steps up to take the role of primary antagonist it makes you feel that the last few minutes of trepidation, nerves and/or energy was all wasted. So you have to get pumped up again when there's not that much of the film left if I remember rightly.
There are other negatives that I could go on about, however those would require spoiling in order to properly vent my frustrations about the films shortcomings. At the time of writing this, Dragon Cry is rated as a 9.7/10 on IMDB. Let me be perfectly clear; in cinema guise, the film is not that good. The somewhat shoddy editing sees to that because it doesn't help the pretty simplistic plot.
Make no mistake though, this is by no means a bad film. Far from it. Despite it's flaws and foibles it is still a good film, one I certainly enjoyed and would definitely re-watch it if I could. It even reminded me to an extent why I liked Fairy Tail in the first place. Especially after some arguably shoddy chapters recently, Dragon Cry has helped rekindle my love for this series by exploring - however slightly - some of the darker themes that Mashima has always hinted at and dabbled with throughout Fairy Tail but never truly expanded upon.
Would I say it was worth the £10 and hour's drive to go see it? Hmmm, probably not, but that's more the Cinema franchise's and distributors fault than the producers. Ultimately I can't hold that against the film, and nor do I intend to. (Cineworld on the other hand...)
All in all, Dragon Cry is definitely the best thing to happen to Fairy Tail in recent memory, especially in 2017. My only hope is that with an extended edition or director's cut at home cinema release will clear up some of the confusion and force me to rate it even higher than I already do.
In conclusion, I rate Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry a solid 8.5/10.
P.S. If you do get a chance to watch Dragon Cry, DON'T LEAVE WHEN THE END CREDITS ROLL!! For God's sake more than two thirds of the audience I was with left and ended up missing about two minutes of fairly important stuff relative to the movie and the series as a whole. In all honesty, those last two minutes were the only reason I went to watch the film in the first place DX