Finally got around to watching the Unlimited Blade Works movie that I’ve been hoping for ever since I played through that scenario in the original. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait quite as long as most of the other fans did since that was more or less a year and a half ago. This adaptation of my favorite route in the game was a story that was simply far too epic and too grand to be told properly in just an hour and forty minutes.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game, this is an alternate retelling of the Fate/Stay Night anime where a secret war held between seven magi and the heroic spirits they summon as their servants duke it out so they can attain the Holy Grail and have their greatest wish granted. In this route, Shirou and the others face off against Berserker in a slightly different way than in fate and this triggers a different chain of events that ultimately lead to a confrontation between Shirou and Archer.
If I remember right, Unlimited Blade Works took me a couple more hours more to finish than the Fate route did and had quite a bit more focus and characterization with Shirou and Rin as well as plenty of awesome battles. Unfortunately, it is because it so packed that this movie feels lacking. Battles are nothing short of amazing but the other aspects of this adaptation makes one wonder if the was really what they should have focused on. Scenes jump from one point to another with nary a proper transition leaving loads and loads of gap that have to be filled with prior knowledge of the story. To be precise, you have to play the Ultimate Blade Works route to really get the movie and even then the gaps are still pretty jarring. Almost all of the characterization is stripped away from the story and a lot of the build-up to the most GARsome battle in the game gets taken away as a result of this. The revelation of Archer’s identity comes off as underwhelming and seemingly pulled out of nowhere.
There really are only two things you can applaud about this movie: fantastic visuals and mind blowing battles. Sure, the studio still throws in those budget saving distance shots but in no way do they ever employ such tactics without throwing in some other element to make up for it during the battles. I’m guessing they knew there was just no way they were going to pull the story off properly so they decided to go all out on the glorious clashes between the characters. The final confrontation between Shirou and Archer was as close to perfection as it could get for an animated version of the battle with only one tiny flaw at the very end of it i.e. Shirou’s voice actor didn’t deliver that last bit as strongly as he should have. Everything else was just absolutely sublime in that battle so that’s easily forgiven though.
Basically, if you expected to see what made Unlimited Blade Works such a magnificent tale then you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if your only reason to watch it was to bear witness to the amazing battles that came with it then you won't be in the least. Ultimately, this movie was brilliantly and dazzlingly flashy but took to things so superficially that it will only make fans cry out that this should have been the story that got animated the first time around. Still worth watching though, some bits more than a few times.
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