Caught the 11:30 AM showing of Kill Bill today; it was the first showing in the Boston area (at Big Gay Loews Big Gay Theater, right on the common!) and Lynn and I went to the earliest showing just to beat the crowds. As it was, the theater was about half full and the audience was quite responsive. I can't remember the last time the audience applauded several key speeches and scenes, but the payoffs of these scenes were such that yeah, they were right to elicit audience response. Also in full force were numerous whoas, ouuuuuches, and daaaaaamn!s. The movie does that to you.
It's a big brawly bloodletting kind of film. That's what you need to go into the theater expecting. Don't expect some thought-provoking treatise on man's inhumanity to man or any kind of intellectual indie film bullshit, because you won't find it (Jen: "Heh. I don't think I'd go into a film called Kill Bill Vol 1. thinking 'this is going to be a thinking film full of deep character development.'") Instead, you get Quentin Tarantino's loving ode to wicked kung-fu films of the 70s, mixed in with some spaghetti western (sup Enrico Morricone, nice to hear you again) and Quentin's own brand of stylish violent tales of redemption (or non-redemption, if that means anything.) It's a big fat revenge story and pretty much accomplishes that which it sets out to do. It'd make an excellent graphic novel.
It's brutal. Violent. Bloody to a comic degree -- limbs get lopped off and no matter which limb it is, blood sprays out of the stump in an arterial fashion. Uma Thurman, with her kick-ass sword and not much else, slices effortlessly through eighty-eight (and then some!) bad guys, then advising those who still live to "leave your limbs behind. They're mine." There's a wicked animated sequence that gets away with far more than could have been accomplished with live-action, and there's a great visual pun involving a box of retro cereal (just one of Tarantino's little trademarks showing up in the film.) Don't go looking for deep, complex characters because, honestly, you won't find any. Uma's Bride (her character's real name, when spoken, is bleeped out in the film, another Tarantino fetish -- that of the purposefully obscured for no apparent reason) wants revenge. Those persons upon whom revenge is sought, naturally, wish to live. And Bill himself, though we don't see him much in the film (I don't even think we see his face clearly at all) is the self-proclaimed "man." That's pretty much it, with some extra Zen-like contemplation of revenge muttered in the background for a while by the Japanese weaponsmith who crafts a sword for Uma. The rest is non-stop action fights!
ACTION FIGHTS: Back when Noah and I were writing the Western Massachusetts Avengers comic, we had about 12-15 issues plotted out and several story arcs between them. One issue landed in between two arcs, and instead of scrapping it and moving the subsequent story arc ahead an issue, we decided that issue would be called "Whole Buncha Fights!" complete with exclamation point and everything. We weren't sure what it would entail at first, but it basically was just, well, a whole buncha fights. No rhyme or reason, and we introduced several new baddies to do battle with our goodies. Unfortunately it was the issue we never completed, so I'm not sure how it all would've turned out. I do have the originals tucked away somewhere, some with pencil still under the ink, and can say without reservation it was probably the best drawing I've ever done. I'm loose now and way too rusty. Back then I was focused and drew every single day. The discipline shows. Oh, anyway. Um, so that's why I like the phrase "ACTION FIGHTS!" because I'd toyed with that concept before.
Each encounter Uma has with the five people who done her wrong is rendered, I've been told, in a different action film style. "Volume 1" primarily concerns itself with Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Liu (who has the most beautiful eyes and freckles, and don't the camera know it.) Michael Madsen, though I see he gets near-top billing in every ad, is barely seen in this installment. Lucy's has the Anime going for her as well as the kung-fu Bruce Lee battle royale style of action. (Speaking of Battle Royale, it was nice to see the girl from that film show up in Kill Bill, as an incredibly demented killer in schoolgirl getup. Gogo is damn cool.) Vivica's segment is more American, and definitely the most "Tarantino-esque" (and don't you just hate that phrase?) of any part in the film. The pop-culture references are surprisingly few (their absence don't bother me a bit), and the Trix Rabbit tag that's so inane in the trailers is actually cute in the film, if not random.
All in all the film is a mess, a deliberate mish-mosh of styles. The dialogue is flat at times and so are the characters. The protagonist gains much sympathy throughout the film, but by the end does enough cold and heartless things (all well within character) that it may be hard for you to continue rooting for her when you realize she's no better than the gang of killers she's after. (Of course; she's one of them, but still. She's not exactly innocent here.) But despite its flaws, I found it incredibly entertaining and quite clever, and thankfully not too clever for its own good. (That was my main fear after reading part of the purported screenplay.)
And there's some deliberate 70s film touches, techincally-speaking, that will thrill the film geek in the crowd (f'rinstance, the film uses old-school big oval reel change marks -- stop calling them 'cigarette burns', Fight Club dunderheads -- as well as, in one case, the music on the soundtrack stopping abruptly as the reel changes. Oh lordy I laughed.)
And the soundtrack, as can be expected from a Quentin Tarantino movie, is almost impeccable. (The siren scream that plays during several flashback scenes, for instance, could have been toned down some.) And the "5, 6, 7, 8s", the Shohen Knife by way of B-52's Japanese girl group that plays during one of the scenes, is really enjoyable as well.
Spatch Bob sez check it out, but perhaps not if you're excessively squeamish.