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review: Knockin' On Heaven's Door plays much more like one of the episodes of the series than it does an independant movie. To some, that little fact was a great disapointment; indeed, I would have to put myself in that category. However, I do not wish to underplay the beauty of this 'episode' - like all the Cowboy Bebop sessions, it has a lot of layers, it's beautiful, and it offers another piece to the puzzle of the characters we so love. What's more, this particular session has the most beautiful animation of the series (as you'd expect from a theatrical release), some of the more eclectic songs, and special insights into Spike himself. From the very begining, Vincent is set up as a double of Spike. Suggesting that with just slightly different pressures, Spike might have been what Vincent is: unscrupulous, remorseless, regardless of human life, and willing to do anything to wake from the dream. Even though Spike sometimes even acts as though he is these things, one only needs to look at his actions to belie the act. Spike claims to be indifferent to any bystanders yet during the intense train scene, he uses his own body to sheild a hapless passenger.

One of the more interesting possible insights into Spike's character presented is the possibility of a relationship between Spike and Faye. Veiwing Vincent as "there but the grace of God goes Spike", how does his relationship with Faye play out? It's clear enough that Vincent is sexually attracted to Faye, and it may even be inferred that Faye feels a magnatism to him as well. I have to admit myself to finding Vincent insanely sexy... heck, I don't think I could come up with a better descriptor. I think it was Agent Orange who coined the phrase "charmingly suicidal" in reference to Spike. Well, if a person could be "charmingly insane", Vincent is that person. However that may be, Spike without a memory of Julia and his past life is as a consequence a completely different person from the Spike we know. Indeed, seeing Vincent brings you to the realization of how Spike could have ever been friends with someone like Vicious in the first place. Whatever else she might feel, Faye is repulsed by Vincent's offer to go with him on his path to armageddon; and on Vincent's side, there are indicators that he would have raped her if not interupted. I don't mean to say that there wasn't some sympathy between the two characters, as strange as such sympathy might seem in such a violent situation. Why, for example, does Vincent choose to save Faye's life? Is it just because she's convienent for him to use sexually if he wants, or is there something more? Faye, at least, seems to sympathise with his plight (maybe even recognizing elements of Spike in Vincent's tale).

Spike's climactic fight scene with Vincent is another interesting point in the journey. If you recall the final showdown with Vicious, it was a joyless experience: a walk of the dead. But the fight with Vincent is quite different. Spike seems happy, even elated turing this showdown. Vincent is not Spike's shadow, as Vicious is, but his mirror. To Spike and Electra, Vincent's end must have seemed like a happy one. A man redeemed. Perhaps it was the end the Spike wished for himself: being awaken from the dream by his only love.

Artwise, KoHD is a feast for the eyes. There's hardly a scene that isn't just dripping with beautiful visuals, set flawlessly to Yoko Kanno's brilliant score. Spike's dogfight with the army, the train scene, and the final showdown are particularly scrumptious.

The biggest problem with the film is, as mentioned before, that it serves best as an episode rather than a standalone film. It's not the type of thing you show someone who's just getting into animation as an artform. From the perspective of someone who's never watched the series, the movie might serve as nothing more than an ego-tripping popcorn flick. It really is better than that, but only if taken in the context of the entire series.
rating: A-

Questions or comments? Feel free to e-mail me.

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