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Sailor Moon the Movie (Independent Short)

I haven't posted a whole lot about Sailor Moon on here but if we're friends on facebook then you know I've been majorly obsessed with Sailor Moon lately, having gotten back into it after discovering the musicals. Well this group of fans, who are responsible for the hilarious series Sailor Moon Abridged, decided to raise money to produce the first ten minutes of a full-length feature film. I would normally never donate to a Sailor Moon fan project because I don't think it's really worth my money and because they never seem to actually get done (there are several Sailor Moon fan projects like fandubs, other films, etc. which get started up and then never finish or spend years in limbo) but I trusted the SMA team. They were giving themselves something doable by only promising us ten minutes, they had an experienced production team, and they were raising money BEFORE they got started, rather than starting without really planning and finding out later that they didn't have the money to continue.

I donated $25 to their campaign on indiegogo which was enough to get my name in the credits, a DVD of the film, and a poster signed by the cast. After meeting (and then far surpassing) their goal of $2500 the team began casting and costuming, then finally filming. I think they got the movie out in about two months from the start of principle photography to finished product which was incredible and so I give you the finished product:


On my first viewing I wasn't thrilled, but I've rewatched it several times and while I still have disappointments I do think it's a good project.

The acting quality is kind of all over the place, especially in the first scene. Avery Danielle's performance is looking very overdone, probably in large part due to her being a theatre-trained actress. She's playing to the back rows even though she's on camera and really doesn't need to broadcast her emotions so largely. Nick Uhas as Endymion, by contrast, is stiff in the worst way. He's saying words, not acting, Avery's got the theatrics turned up full-blast, and their own performance flaws are only highlighting each others. The contrast between Endymion's performance and Serenity's makes him look even more wooden and her look even more over-wrought.

The lack of chemistry between the two is also noticeable and it's hard to take. In the next scene this is improved and we see some playfulness between the two and the movie does, in my opinion, improve from here.

We next see the morning routines of these two characters' reincarnations 1000 years later. The movie actually puts in the caption "1000 YEARS LATER" which I thought was hilarious. Not sure why, I think because usually when you see a time jump like that in a film it's never more than one lifetime so I thought it was cute to use that trope in a bit of a playful way. Uhas and Danielle are both improved in these scenes, granted, they have no lines, but they seem more at ease portraying these smaller everyday scenes than the epic scene they previously tackled. Avery is particularly enjoyable here as we see Serenity's typical day of waking up late, trying to decide between fruit or a doughnut for breakfast (finally deciding on two doughnuts) and running off to school late.

After school we meet Naru who we learn is Bunny's best friend (we also learn that Bunny is Serenity's name in this lifetime, though it's not clear if this is a given name or a nickname) and get a glimpse of every Sailor Moon fan's favorite nerd Melvin. Kris Woodside plays Naru and Eric Pietrangolare plays Melvin, characters they both voice hilariously in Sailor Moon Abridged. Woodside's performance here is thankfully different from her SMA characterization and Naru is likeable, if a bit annoyingly positive about everything all the time forever. Pietrangolare's performance is very similar to his SMA incarnation, but as Melvin is a comic relief character in every incarnation of the story in which he appears, it's an enjoyable role.

Bunny and Naru head to Crown Parlor (running into Luna on the way) and their actors give what I find to be their best performance and the best scene in the movie. The dialogue is very natural, the girls have a nice chemistry, and the scene is even pretty funny. While heading home from Crown Bunny discusses her whereabouts with her mom in a cute phone call, but soon walks in on a monster attacking a classmate of hers (Corinne S., voice of Sailor Moon and others on SMA) and is attacked herself.

Luna reappears and gives Bunny her transformation brooch and we finally get the appearance of Sailor Moon! The transformation scene is quick, not a fully animated sequence like in the anime, live-action series, or that one musical which I can understand as they are often criticized even by fans as being nonsensical (Why don't the enemies just attack while they're dancing like that? I can address that issue later) plus I think in this instance it would have kind of ruined the mood of the piece and also eaten up time which is very limited. The transformation is instead a shimmering light which envelops Bunny and disspates to reveal a very brave and very well-done re-imagining of Sailor Moon's costume. It is mostly inspired by the creator Naoko Takeuchi's original designs for the character, with a few original twists.

Sailor Moon doesn't get much of a chance to shine in this battle as she's got no experience and most of the fighting is done by Tuxedo Mask who arrives just after Bunny's transformation. The fight is a little disappointing, especially knowing that they had the help of a professional parkour team choreographing and like much of the movie you are left wanting more. Tux and the monster grapple and Sailor Moon does get to deliver the final blow, saving Tuxie with her Tiara throw in a very good display by the special effects department.

After the fight Sailor Moon stumbles home, tired, hurt, trying to walk in stiletto boots, and unconsciously transforms back into Bunny who crawls into a shed and curls up for a second to just deal with what the hell just happened. She sees Luna again just before the scene goes to black and we get the title screen, followed by a cut to Sailor Moon giving her iconic "I'll punish you" speech, delivered with great attitude by Miss Danielle, and we get a "To Be Continued..." before the credits roll.

Throughout the film there is good camera work which I think should be commended. The music is very good as well, fitting the scenes in which it plays and well-performed by the artists. The audio has some issues, occasionally sounding like it was recorded in a bathroom with a faint echo, but it's not much of a problem. The visual effects are fantastic, honestly on par with and frequently surpassing those in the live-action series. While the acting quality does vary from performer to performer and even scene to scene, it is overall passable. The pacing makes the story a bit loose, there's not much tension to it, but taking into account the limitations it seems understandable. I do believe it could have been improved even within the time constraints though.

Taking into account the fact that this is a fan-made, non-profit, independent opening to a film I'd give the finished product 4/5 Stars. If the project is continued, and I hope it will be, my only hope is that Nick Uhas improves his line reading or is replaced, and that Luna looks more graceful and cat-like. Everything else I think is pretty much on track to where it should be.

P.S. If you're looking for my name in the credits they're sorted alphabetically by first name so you'll see me in the first column on the left!

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