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Thanks to Cartoon Network, animated programming is a lot more interesting and sophisticated than it was during my youth. Even the goofiest new offerings on Cartoon Network have a satiric edge that plays to adults, as well as children. This brings us to SAMURAI JACK; one of Cartoon Networkís newest offerings, which began airing in 2001. Upon watching SAMURAI JACK: THE PREMIERE MOVIE, one becomes aware that the program was produced for a somewhat more mature animation audience. Featuring stylized animation, as well as high-octane action and themes lifted from martial arts films and American Westerns, SAMURAI JACK is definitely a cut above the usual crop.

The plot of SAMURAI JACK involves an evil wizard named Aku, who laid waste to the villages of feudal Japan. Aku was once defeated by the power of a mystical sword, but somehow, the wizard returned more powerful than ever. The son of the champion that previously defeated Aku is spirited away to various corners of the world, where he learns what he needs know to face the shape-shifting wizard in battle. Returning as the greatest Samurai the world has ever known; our hero goes into battle against the dreaded Aku. After waging a fierce battle against Aku, our hero finds his victory snatched away by a spell, which the wizard uses to send the young Samurai thousands of years into future. Unopposed for all that time, our hero learns that Aku has managed to dominate the Earth and turn the planet into a hellish version of itself. Dubbed "Jack" by the inhabitants of this grotesque future Earth, our hero vows to find a way back to the past to stop Akuís domination of the world. SAMURAI JACK features the vocal talents of Phil LaMarr as Jack and Mako and Aku.

Warner Home Video has made SAMURAI JACK: THE PREMIERE MOVIE available on DVD in a full screen presentation, which is appropriate to the original television broadcast of the program. As one might expect, the picture quality on the DVD is superior to a typical cable broadcast. The stylized animation appears well defined and highly colorful. Primary colors have a solid appearance and stand out in contrast to the pastels hues that support them. Blacks have a dramatic very appearance, since the programs animation does not utilize traditional outlines around objects and characters. Digital compression artifacts maintain a low profile throughout the course of the program.

Contrary to the listing on the DVDís packaging, which lists only monaural soundtracks, SAMURAI JACK: THE PREMIERE MOVIE does include a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mix. While, not of motion picture caliber, this is a very engaging mix that deploys directional sound effects and takes advantage of the discrete capabilities of the format. The solid use of sound effects and music really helps to draw the viewer into the SAMURAI JACK experience. Also included on the DVD are English and Spanish stereo surround soundtracks. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles present on the disc.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís stylish interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice supplemental section. Included on the DVD is a bonus episode of SAMURAI JACK, which runs twenty-two minutes. A ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurette on the creation of SAMURAI JACK is also included on the DVD. This look behind-the-scenes features interviews with the production team, including series creator Genndy Tartakovsky and voice artists Phil LaMarr and Mako. One will also find a video archive of character designs and storyboard comparisons. Closing things out is a sneak peek at the upcoming POWERPUFF GIRLS theatrical film.

SAMURAI JACK is certainly a unique program and a cut above the typical animated series. The DVD edition of SAMURAI JACK: THE PREMIERE MOVIE is a good introduction to the series, one that could get the viewer hooked on the show, as well as making them want to own even more episodes on disc.


Samurai Jack - The Premiere Movie


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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