Witches. A classic of fiction. Evil beings who enjoy nothing more than mixing potions, casting spells and flying around on cleaning implements…at least, that’s what they used to be. Bayonetta is none of these things. Badass, violent, impossibly long legged and oozing sensuality from every pore. Over the top doesn’t begin to cover it. Though, when you take into account what terrors descend to Earth on a daily basis, anything less just wouldn’t cut it.
500 years ago, in an society lost to time, Umbran Witches and Lumen Sages lived in a tenuous peace. Each bestowed a tremendous power by Jubileus, the creator of the Universe, each clan swore upon the balance of existence that neither should cross the other’s path. Unfortunately for, well, everyone, this rule was broken and a child was born of a Sage and a Witch. A single child who threw the world into chaos, not through action mind you, merely it’s existence was enough. With the balance broken, the Sages began an all out war against the Witches, ultimately resulting in the destruction of both. Love was not enough to conquer all in this case. Which is quite unfortunate and more than a little upsetting. On the plus side, it did provide the history necessary for the rest of the film to play out…that’s good right? Regardless, that’s all in the past, and our story takes place half a millennium in the future, thus making it the present. The time period in which our heroine lives. So, let’s talk about that…
Bayonetta: kickass Witch and slayer of angels. With the help of a mysterious man known as Rodin, who construct the weaponry that doles out said angel destruction, and to a lesser extent Enzo, an information broker, Bayonetta expends a great deal of energy and bullets ridding the world of these holy visitors. Why? Well because she can. Also she has amnesia, a side effect of her 500 year coma, so it’s really all she knows how to do. Following her most recent battle, Bayonetta decides to pay a visit to Balder, a man recently revealed to be the last of the Lumen Sages, or so it is claimed. Hunting for her missing memories, and more than willing to spill some more angelic blood along the way, she makes tracks for the city of Vigrid. Not too far behind is Luka, a journalist seeking to reveal Bayonetta’s true identity, that of a violent and evil witch who is responsible for the death of his father. Of course, being the woman she is, Bayonetta takes him about as seriously as a pet tagging along. Thus she takes enjoyment from messing with him on a regular basis, namely by referring to him as Cheshire, a nickname he despises. It is due to this attitude that Luka’s entire revenge quest lacks any major impact on the story. Whilst this may sound harsh, or an negative element of writing, it actually makes a lot of sense in context. I mean, when you single handedly shatter the forces of Paradiso (the in universe term for Heaven) on a daily basis, one human is hardly anything more than a nuisance.
If there’s one thing that Bayonetta thrives on, apart from a visually appealing witch, its action. Ridiculous, impossible, stylish, over the top action. I mean how many other characters could quad wield supernatural hand/foot cannons? Not many, if any. Thus, when Jeanne joins the fray, you find yourself with a one on one fight that has at least eight guns firing. It’s a bizarre ratio, but it certainly adds some pizazz to combat. Complimenting this, Bayonetta relies on a tremendously acrobatic style of movement, one which serves to amplify her…assets. Of course you may find yourself a tad distracted by the myriad of weaponry that Bayonetta makes use of to dispatch her opponents. From the aforementioned quartet of guns, to ominously glowing katanas, ludicrously large chainsaws, or S&M equipment that dwarfs the moon. It’s all there, because why the hell not? But regardless of what you choose to focus on, fight sequences provide beautiful visuals that will definitely grasp your attention.
When action arrives, so to does music. Just in case you weren’t feeling pumped up enough when angels are being torn apart in all manner of gruesome ways, the film’s soundtrack provides a little extra push. Those who have played the Bayonetta games will certainly recognise a few tunes, although there is a distinct lack of “Fly Me to the Moon”, which is somewhat upsetting. Regardless, the music is perfectly in line with the franchise and suit the film well. That being said, there are also a large number of moments that remain oddly devoid of backing music. Though some scenes do well to focus a blank audio canvas, there are some that feel as if they should’ve had something to support the vocals. Speaking of, the English dub of the film is pretty high quality and carries with it the reassuring familiarity that comes with voice actors reprising roles. Apart from Cereza, the cast of the games return to bring life to these 2D version of their characters. Which is awesome. Not to disparage those who assume a role that was not originally theirs, but it certainly makes it easier to accept new interpretations of characters when there is a sense of consistency present. Just wait until Bayonetta starts to speak in that sassy British accent, you’ll see what I mean.
So, full disclosure, I myself am a fan of the Bayonetta franchise. Thus, I can really only judge Bloody Fate from the perspective of one who has played the games. From my perspective, this film is a cool addition to the Bayonetta franchise. A fun recap of events past, even if some of them play out differently than in the games. That being said, I find it hard to believe that a newcomer to the franchise would fully enjoy watching this film. As a consequence of condensing a video game into a 90 minute format, the story’s overall pacing is thrown way off. As such, the hints laced throughout the game that allude to the truth occur rather rapidly in the film. It just loses a lot of the mystery and intrigue, with the plot becoming far easier to solve. Production must’ve also been aware of the newcomer audience, throwing in a lot of exposition dialogue. Sure the history of the Witches and Sages is necessary, but Luka’s recollection of Bayonetta’s revival comes off as unnatural. She knows what happened Luka, she was the one who revived. Combined with the condensed length, characters aren’t really given enough time to develop depth. So prior knowledge definitely helps, which kind of divides the audience.
In regards to extra features, Bloody Fate possesses an audio commentary featuring ADR Director Jonathan Klein and Hellena Taylor, the voice of Bayonetta herself. Listen as both discuss the process of dubbing Bayonetta, the difficulties of casting and the lengths that FUNimation went to to gather as much of the original cast they could to reprise their roles in the film. Also stick around for Hellena Taylor’s intricate knowledge of history and the works of Shakespeare. Outside of this, the release features a slideshow of the 540 page storyboard and the US trailer. Not a long list, but the audio commentary is definitely worth a listen.
Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is fun, excessive, violent, sexual, ridiculous and oh so much fun. That being said, it does suffer a little from its format. In all honesty, I do feel that the best way to experience Bayonetta is to play the game. That way you can enjoy the story in its entirety, playing out at the pace it was originally intended, with all of its dialogue and fight sequences intact. That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t hold up, but my knowledge of said games certainly gave me a perspective different from those who haven’t played them. At the end of the day, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is far from a negative experience. It is a beautifully animated jaunt into the world of sexy witches, horrifying angels and action that will excite you for one reason or another. So sit back, relax and enjoy what Bayonetta has to offer. Seriously, it’s better if you don’t question it…
Challenge Paradiso and head over to Madman for all your Umbran needs