When teenage Yugi Moto (voice of Dan Stuart) succeeds in solving the Millennium Puzzle, he is possessed by the spirit of an Egyptian Emperor and becomes a hero due to his prowess at the magical "Duel Monsters" card game. Yugi's arch rival is Kaiba (voice of Eric Stuart) who will do anything to defeat his rival, including awakening the spirit of the evil god Anubis, who plans to take over the earth.
Review by Jake Wilson:
This spinoff from the Japanese cartoon series of the same name is a speciality item at best: not much can be said for its script, production values, or acting (at least in this dubbed US version). It's essentially an advertisement for a similarly titled trading card game - as becomes obvious when characters are seen literally putting down cards and announcing their moves in turn. In the Yu-Gi-Oh universe, however, "Duel Monsters" is a massively popular spectacle combining the intellectual appeal of chess with the thrill of a demolition derby, as the monsters depicted on the cards spring to life and do battle on command.
Young people who use (and are used by) magical powers larger than themselves are a staple of fantasy in general and Japanese animation in particular; arguably the notion of dependence on unseen forces is a literalised equivalent of the way that characters in any story can represent abstract ideas such as good and evil. But the enforced connection between Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie and the game it supplements makes their common mythology oddly arbitrary and static: while correspondences are established between several levels of reality, the parallel lines never truly meet.
Thus it's hard to grasp the exact nature of the "monsters" who fight on behalf of the heroes - archetypal beings that include dragons and demons, but also wacky humanoids with names like "Dark Magician Girl" and "Obnoxious Celtic Guardian". What dimension do these creatures spring from, and what does it mean when they are routinely "sacrificed" and resurrected by their masters? Perhaps it doesn't matter: we soon learn that Yugi and Kaiba are themselves little more than puppets, manipulated by gods who have struggled against each other for millennia. One could equally conclude that these gods, in turn, are mere stand-ins for the true subjects of the film, the Yu-Gi-Oh fans who wage gaming wars in real life.
I used to share a house with a group of students who spent all their spare time playing card games along the lines of Yu-Gi-Oh. I never really cottoned on, but maybe I hadn't properly learned the lesson which this film makes explicit: that all battles are the same, that there's no vital difference between gods fighting over the universe and nerds whiling away a Sunday afternoon, that the abstraction of power can only be grasped through symbols, with an ever-expanding deck of cards as good a symbolic currency as any. It remains to be said that the children at the preview screening seemed restless, even bored. Maybe they miss the good old days of Pokemon.
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VOICES: Dan Green, Eric Stuart, Scottie Ray, Wayne Grayson, Frank Frankson, Tara Jayne, Madeleine Blaustein
PRODUCER: Norman J. Grossfeld, Katia Milani, Michael Pecoriello
DIRECTOR: Hatsuki Tsuji
SCRIPT: Hatsuki Tsuji
EDITOR: Not credited
MUSIC: Gil Talmi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Not credited
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne, Brisbane: September 16, 2004; Sydney, Adelaide: September 23, 2004; Perth: September 30, 2004
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.