REVIEW: NARUTO SHIPPŪDEN – THE MOVIE 4 – THE LOST TOWER / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: MASAHIKO MURATA / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: JUNKO TEKEUCHI, TOSHIYUKI MORIKAWA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Unable to tell a story contributing to the overall Naruto continuity, The Lost Tower relies on time travel to create a compelling narrative, but ultimately disappoints with a generic and unmemorable plot.
I first started reading Masashi Kishimoto's Naruto manga series in 2003, and watching subtitled versions of the anime not long after. As a massive fan of both, I feel pretty well qualified to say that Naruto Shippūden: The Lost Tower is neither a great movie nor a great Naruto story. I gave up on Naruto movies years ago, after the catastrophically underwhelming first feature adventure, Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow. I hoped that six films later things might have improved, but sadly this wasn't the case.
The biggest problem with the Naruto movies is that because the main plotline is still ongoing, the movies seemingly aren't allowed to introduce any plot elements that will last beyond the duration of the movie. Where great storytellers could work within these constraints to create dazzling standalone creations, the Naruto movies are formulaic, repetitive and worst of all, make promises that they don't deliver.
The Lost Tower's main selling point is that Naruto travels back in time and fights alongside a young Kakashi, Minato and Shino and Choji’s father. Ninety minutes should be enough to fill these characters with life and create compelling character arcs, but they're mostly only present for the fight scenes, and even then sparingly.
The best Naruto story arcs soar above the traditional limitations of battle manga by speaking about perseverance in the face of adversity, the ties of friendship, and the complex motivations of a brilliantly realized cast of characters. The worst, like the anime filler arcs and (from my limited experience) the movies, beat you over the head with Naruto's inspirational optimism and ability to overcome every situation, coupled with an over-reliance on repetitive fighting.
The quality of animation in The Lost Tower is high throughout, the new Queen Sara is likeable and well-drawn, and the backdrops and settings are all impressive, but overall this was another wasted opportunity. It can't tarnish my love for a series that I've been following for a third of my life, but it also hasn't encouraged me to watch any of the films that I missed.