Dir: Kenichi Takeshita
First, a confession; going into this film I knew nothing about Yu Gi Oh because I am, in terms of the film's 6-12 year old target audience, old. It was perhaps in deference to me, and to the parents who will be dragged by their kids to see this film, that Yu Gi Oh 3D: Bonds Beyond Time began with a 15 minute series of extracts from the TV show the film is based on, filling us in on each of the main characters, who are soon to be drawn together by a time traveling villain named Paradox. It is also likely the fault of my old brain that even after this animated cheat sheet I didn't understand a single second of the next hour (the film is mercifully short).
I think Paradox comes from a far future, a world that has essentially been destroyed by people playing Duel Monsters (the apparently very dangerous card game at the centre of this franchise) and he now wants to travel back in time and destroy the game to save the future. It's really a bad start when you look at a villain's motives and think 'yeah, he's got a point'.
It should be said that while Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D is one of the worst films I've seen in quite some time, it is terrible in a brilliant, brilliant way. It is so irredeemably, unconscionably stupid, so mindbendingly difficult to follow that it actually is hilarious, and increasingly so the more you attempt to take it seriously. At one point a character mentions the concept of time, and another asks "What's that?" This is either the worst line in cinematic history or the most advanced concept ever discussed in a film for six year olds, I'm not sure which.
The animation is terrible, looking like low budget TV animation for the most part, and cursed with some of the worst lip synch I've seen in ages, and the 3D does little to help, yes it creates a few interesting CGI backdrops, but otherwise the effect is so layered that it's akin to watching a kid act out the story with cutout characters in a shoebox theatre (this too is hilarious at times).
About half of the film is taken up with the final 'duel' (it's 3 against one, so, not a duel) and it is ludicrous and baffling in the extreme. It may (MAY) make some sense to the target audience, but I wouldn't bet on it as, from what I hear, the 'rules' on display here bear little or no relation to how the real world game is played. For me, the sequence seemed little more than characters shouting a random thing at each other about monsters along the lines of "My dragon is going to suck all the power out of your dragon, then attack your knight and take half your hit points". I half expected every turn to end with Nelson Muntz making a cameo to say "ha ha". Quite apart from being totally mystifying, it's inherently undramatic; three barely distinguishable characters and a villain whose motives you're probably behind are settling the fate of the world... by playing cards. Really?
Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time is terrible, but actually, if the kids want to see it, you could do worse. In fact you'll probably enjoy it, just in a way the filmmakers didn't intend. Take the kids, roar with laughter at the ineptitude and stupidity, then go about your day knowing that you've only lost 75 minutes. It's better than allowing them to drag you to Sucker Punch.