By Dave B.
There is another world adjacent to our own. A world of the afterlife filled with Spirits, Hollows (creatures that feed on Spirits), and Soul Reapers (sworn enemies of the Hollows). This is the basic setup of Bleach, a Netflix foreign-language adaptation of the classic manga and anime of the same name. In it, high school student Ichigo Kurosaki obtains the power of a Soul Reaper and must battle Hollows to protect his family.
If you’re familiar with the Bleach manga and anime, you’ll know that my description of the premise is extremely barebones. The world of Bleach is actually very detailed and complex. That’s part of the reason that I was skeptical that a live-action adaptation would do the franchise justice. However, the best part of Netflix’s Bleach is that it makes the story very accessible for viewers who are unfamiliar with the franchise, while remaining fairly true to the source material (which makes no difference to me, so long as the movie is good, but I know that some people are sticklers about that sort of thing). That said, Bleach is an interesting (but not necessarily good) movie.
There are elements of it that work very well. The computer generated Hollows look very different than other CGI monsters that I’ve seen, but I appreciate that uniqueness. The set and costume designs were also adequate, although far short of spectacular. The 100+ minute runtime feels a little excessive around the 70 minute mark, but the final 30 minutes of the movie are action-packed and pretty much fly by. I do have two major complaints about Bleach, however. First, the action choreography is surprisingly basic. The movie would benefit from much more elaborate sequences (which I am certain will be forthcoming in the inevitable sequels). Second, the acting was EXTREMELY inconsistent. The timing of character’s onscreen interactions with each other is slightly off at times and it can be distracting (i.e. extremely annoying). One moment, an actor will seem competent and the next, he or she will look like they've forgotten their lines. It's very strange.
As I eluded to earlier, it’s inevitable that Bleach will have at least one (and probably multiple) sequels. Internationally, the franchise is just too big not to. And frankly, I mostly enjoyed the movie despite its flaws. Although the action could be better, the characters are very likable, the story is accessible, and none of the problems with the movie significantly detract from those two elements. So, I’m tentatively recommending Bleach. Fans of the franchise will be impressed by a live-action version that doesn’t completely suck. And those who are newly exposed to the world of Bleach may want to take this chance to get in on the ground floor of a movie series that will likely improve significantly with future iterations.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.