Region: 2 - UK
Length: 94 minutes
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Naruto Shippuden is a side / filler story set around the start of Naruto Shippuden. The spirit of an evil demon named Moryo has been released by a group seeking to establish a " thousand year kingdom", all they have to do is re-unite Moryo with his body which was sealed away separately.
This leads them to target Shion, a priestess in the line which originally sealed the demon away.
Despite Shion's home country The Land of Ogres providing her with her own force of body guards, they send to the Hidden Village of the Leaves for help.
The Hokage despatches Naruto, Sakura, Rock Lee and Neiji to guard the priestess. The tenuous excuse for this is that Naruto is much in need of experience completing Ninja missions in a team, despite the fact that the film seems to be set in a time when in the main series at least Naruto is being hunted down by Akatsuki. It's really all a a fan pleasing excuse to give Neiji and Rock Lee some more screen time, and it's a match up that predictably works well with Neiji acting the straight man to Rock Lee and Naruto's goofiness.
Given that the set of of Naruto involved teams of young Ninja's embarking on missions, it's a mechanic that's been sorely misused. Most of Naruto's missions in the manga have been related to the main story arc directly, with little time given to side stories. The anime has suffered extensively from "filler-syndrome", so it was actually hugely enjoyable to see a Naruto side story told compactly. It does suffer slightly from the typical filler problem in that the lead characters rarely seem to face any true opposition, they breeze through admittedly enjoyable battles with ease. Naruto is typically headstrong, but it rarely feels like he's in any danger. It's a shame because the bad guys in the film are interesting, they obtain their power through using some kind of chakra symbiote. But there's little in the way of explanation, so it becomes irrelevant to the plot.
I watched the movie through in Japanese. The subtitles were a little weak, in places where characters spoke fast , subtitles were either missing or out of time leaving me a little confused. This only happens a few times in the movie but it was supremely irritating didn't check out the dub but the cast from the series is back, I was surprised to see Wil Wheaton in the cast.
Despite all the problems I really enjoyed the film, it's by far the most engaging anime only plot. Whilst hardly edge of your seat material the fights are exciting to watch, if only because they give Neiji and Rock Lee more screen time. Sadly Sakura is once again useless and isn't really given much to do. Naruto Shippuden the movie doesn't advance the plot in any way, and could really have been set almost any time in the Naruto timeline.
You don't really need any knowledge of the series to watch it, but only Naruto fans or followers of battle manga will probably get much out of it. It'll hardly revolutionise the anime industry, but it's finally a movie that feels satisfying. In the end you have to remember movies of this type based on ongoing anime series are really Summer specials, and as such it does it's job well.