NOTE: Please keep in mind that this review is old, so while some editting has been done to make it read a little more timelessly, a lot of it is obviously dated. As such, where some things may be noted as 'spoilers', they probably no longer are.
Everyone who would want to see this movie is probably already up on the events of the end of the first series, so I'll go ahead and mention some spoilers for the sake of setting up the plot. You have been warned.
This film takes place sometime, presumably shortly, after the beginning of the Shippuden TV series - in other words, Naruto has returned from his three-year training trip with Jiraiya, and has reformed Team Kakashi with Sakura and Kakashi himself. With only that to go on though, it's hard to take a guess of just where this one would take place if it was canon.
'The Movie' moves right into the story quickly however, with an opening sequence of Naruto fighting a demon and dying. Did a record just skip? Well, you heard me right - Nartuo dies at the beginning of this film. Such a huge thing was even used as a teaser back when this film first came out in Japan. BUt how can the lead character die in his own film? You'll have to watch for yourself to find out.
The story itself goes as follows: Years ago, a shinobi tried to use an ancient demon known as Moryo to conquer the world. Using his own and the demon's powers in conjunction, he rose up with an immortal army and went from country to country establishing his rule. It wasn't until a priestess from the Land of Ogres known as Miroku sealed the demon's soul in one location and it's physical body within another that the crisis was averted, and the world saved. now however, a new ninja known as Yomi, along with four followers, are trying to reunite the demon's halves, and are using the demon army to strike against the nations once again. Working together with the other nations, Tsunade sends Naruto, Sakura, Neji, and Lee on a mission to escort Shion, the new priestess, to the body of Moryo, so she can re-seal it. Yomi has other plans however, and sends his minions (now amped up by his Dark Medical Ninjutsu) to kill her.
And so, the two sides clash, naturally. For me, only the Lee V.S. Gitai fight was particularly memorable, featuring great action, choreography, and actually a new terrifyingly awesome concept that I at least had never thought of before - Lee using the Drunken Fist while already using the Inner Gates. Hilarious, devastating - Awesome. That's all I have to say about that.
The rest of the film falls far short of my expectations for some reason though. It just wasn't near as enjoyable as the previous three Naruto films. It became hard to care about Shion's plight, because we really don't get to know her as well as we did the previous movie-only characters.
As always, the movie's villains are more or less throw-away as well. I'm not entirely sure the villains other than Moryo and Yomi are even named int eh film itself. And no explanation is given as to how a demon like Moryo exists in the world (it isn't one of the Tailed Beasts, so are there other types of demons?), other than what I saw as a lame cop-out theory near the end.
The music, comedy, and voice-acting are all superb as usual, on par with the other films at least. In addition to the returning talent from the first series that also reprise their roles in the Shippuden TV series, you'll get to hear wonderful performances by Laura Bailey and Vic Mignogna, who both do well as Shion and Yomi.
now on to my main complaint with this movie (FINAL WARNING: Big spoiler ahead!):
At the end of this film, like the others, we get 'Rasengan Saves the Day' syndrome. Seriously, I know Naruto doesn't have the most moves he can use, but come on. First, he makes a Rasengan using his and someone else's chakra in the first movie. Then he makes one mixing in Gelel power in the second movie. The worst offender, he makes one that gets hit by moonlight and just HAPPENS to be a special form of the attack, in the third movie. Now, he does it with a circular object in the center, thus making the 'Super Chakra Rasengan'. Oh great. Now he's got Gotenks syndrome too.
You won't get much in terms of extras on this DVD either, not compared to the previous releases anyway. You get a set of Viz trailers as always, and some original Japanese trailers for this film, two music videos using footage from the movie for the first opening and ending from the TV series, and of course a translated copy of the movie booklet from the theatrical release. No commentary this time around however, which is honestly one of my favorite extra features you can give. I've been told the second Bleach film also lacks a commentary, so I'm thinking this is a price-cutting measure.
Overall, I did like this film enough that I'm glad I bought it. I think my growing distaste for how the canon Naruto story is going is only hurting my enjoyment of the film as well. In the end, it does achieve what it was meant to, telling a big, new story with the Naruto characters. And it does feature a nice set of cameos from the rest of the Rookie Nine, though the main extra people you'll see featured are Shikamaru, Temari, Kakashi, and Guy.
Naruto Shippuden: The Movie is good, and definitely worth seeing if you're a big Naruto fan. But other than that, there's not a whole lot going for it, and even a Naruto fan may be disappointed. Give this one a look-see right away if you want, but it might be better to wait for a RightStuf sale or a price cut eventually. Believe it!