In this movie, the kids find themselves caught up in an epic turf war between two types of Digimon. Think Lord of the Rings meets West Side Story.
In what may be the biggest show of respect I can give to this movie, I'm issuing a declaration that this post contains spoilers. In a blog about Digimon designed mainly for people who have already seen Digimon, this is a little strange. But like Revenge of Diaboromon and the Tamers movies, this one was dubbed well after the fact (they even had to recast Takuya) and a lot of you may not have seen it. I sure as hell hadn't. Furthermore, there's a legitimate plot twist that you may not want to know about when watching for the first time. So yeah: spoilers, sweetie.
Psychemon is actually the main villain in Hunters. I didn't say the spoilers were all related to the Frontier movie. Ha!
The secret about Frontier's movie is that it's actually the best Digimon movie not directed by the guy who did Summer Wars. It doesn't rely on evolution gimmicks or pseudo-character development the way others do. It's the first movie that takes place entirely in the Digital World (they all will from here on out), which allows the cast to end up in something epic in scale even before the larger-than-life villain shows up. It's a stretch to call this a hidden treasure (movies based on anime shows are rarely that timeless), but Island of Lost Digimon handles itself much better than the Tamers entries did.
While an underwhelming cast is one of the common knocks against Frontier, the characters are perfectly suited for a one shot adventure like this. All of the previous movies suffer from either jamming unnecessary characters into the picture or shoving beloved ones to the bench. With only five characters, all in one location, it's easy to incorporate all of them into the story. It's even easier when they're split up: Takuya, JP and Tommy end up with a bunch of humanoid Digimon and Koji and Zoe fall in with the beast Digimon. The two camps are at war with each other, calling back to the series mythology and adding to the mystique of this island as one that time (or at least Lucemon) forgot.
Seeing each camp's war-based culture makes it immediately clear that neither side is necessarily the bad guy. The giant war machines that dominate both landscapes are visually impressive and make this war far more epic than any number of infantry Digimon could (although the massive numbers of digieggs emphasize the death count well). The digidestined are a little too quick to sympathize with their respective teams, to the point where Takuya and Koji start fighting over who's in the right, but Kotemon and Bearmon's friendship straightens them out and gets them asking the right questions.
Takuya and Koji join the armies to force peace from the inside, first using the evolutions corresponding to their team, then their opponents in the final battle to drive the point home, but the real bulk of the work ends up with Tommy and Bokomon. Yeah, didn't see that coming either. A text pertaining to the island's revered Ornismon is shattered, forcing Tommy to assemble the puzzle (twice!) and Bokomon to translate it. They figure out that this Ornismon feller is actually pretty evil and that the collective anger and fear from the battling tribes are key to his revival. They realize that two key opinion leaders on each side, Darcmon and Hippogriffomon, are actually the same bastard playing both sides against each other. JP and Zoe expose him and the proper battle begins. Ornismon ends up summoned anyway, and it actually takes the death of little Kotemon to call forth the ancients strong enough to stop him.
These are the kinds of developments that make for a respectable movie, and it's about all you can ask for in something shorter than one episode of Game of Thrones.
My Grade: B+
- So why isn't this one canon? Quite frankly, because Zoe doesn't use her beast spirit. Koji found his beast spirit at the same time Zoe lost her human spirit. From that point forward, the only time they are ever at full strength is when Whamon gets them out of the underground cavern and deposits them right on the island, where all the boys lose their D-Tectors. By the time they get them back, everybody has their beast spirits, but only Takuya and Koji use them here. Given what they're up against, it's safe to assume that JP, Zoe and Tommy don't have them yet, which means Koji and Takuya couldn't have had them yet.
- I'm really curious about the story that ended up with them on that poor excuse of a Trailmon riding aimlessly through the desert.
- I'm not so sure about Darcmon's initial tactic of playing peace advocate. It's either a really clever covert tactic to cover her tracks, a way to shore up support from the objectors by playing the peacenik who “finally” accepts the necessity of war, or it's a gaping plothole. I'm willing to buy option two, however.
- It's probably not the case, but I like to believe that the massive sneezing episode is a throwback to those hive mind children pestering Davis in Revenge of Diaboromon.
- For two guys who are particularly uppity with each other today, Takuya and Koji share lines a lot in this movie. You'd think Tommy would be there to shout “jinx” at them.
- It's a big trite that Murmukusmon is simply a shapeshifter. With all this slide evolution business in Frontier, you'd think they'd be able to manufacturer a corruption for him to become Darcmon and Hippogriffomon. This just makes him out to be nothing more than a malevolent Ditto.
- Given the massive death count, particularly Kotemon, it's a little grim that the movie uses the classic sitcom outro of all the characters laughing.