With its premiere in 2015, "Digimon Adventure Tri" set itself apart from other franchise revivals by continuing a story many would contend lacks a proper conclusion. But, over the course of five rapidly produced sequels, it became clear the priority lay elsewhere. Now in "Future", the sixth and final entry in the series, nearly all care is seemingly thrown out the window as the writers scramble to fill a quota. With the burden of two time-squandering chapters preceding it, falling short of expectations was a virtual guarantee. A good deal of the problem, however, is intrinsic to the movie itself.
Digimon's history of mishandling final battles reasserts itself here. Having initiated the conflict at the end of "Co-Existence", the writing staff created an unenviable situation and clearly wasn't willing to have the movie be one big battle with Ordinemon. Thus, they opted to stretch out the scenario to feature-length, giving rise to an inordinate amount of talking and a plodding narrative with little sense of progression. What cements these issues is the focus on the Ordinemon crisis, which not only steals time that would have better served to resolve other subplots but also fills that time with repetitive dialogue (although there are a few strong dramatic exchanges). Hackmon and Dark Genai are largely relegated to delivering aimless pseudo-philosophical drivel on the sidelines, no real closure is given on Namikawa's story, Homeostasis and Yggdrasil are only spoken of, and Alphamon isn't involved at all.
One gets the impression that the writing staff was scrambling to give everyone on the team a moment in the spotlight, the result being a scene or two with little to no follow-through. Tai and Kari's truncated subplots are particularly bewildering. These two provided tremendous hooks for this movie at the end of "Co-Existence" and seemed primed to (rightfully) take center-stage. Instead, Tai is largely reduced to an off-screen presence, and Kari's eerie self-loathing and vulnerability dismissed in favor of saving Meicoomon. It's also disappointing that Matt's effort to lead the team in Tai's absence is phased out after the first half hour.
Overall production values are arguably the worst of all six features. It's evident that the animators were cutting corners at this point, such as with numerous flashbacks and at least one jarring instance of recycled footage. The aesthetic is more dull than sobering, the result of a lazy muted-color scheme and a distracting "shimmering" effect in the sky. It's remarkable that every segment of the nearly two-decade old "Digimon: The Movie" did a better job in creating a tense, foreboding atmosphere. This slip in quality doesn't extend to the soundtrack, however, which is well matched with numerous scenes and features effective new renditions of old tracks.
The combination of these issues has an adverse effect on the action sequences, which are choppy and frequently interrupted. That being said, the action we do get is of good quality, and constitutes some of the movie's most riveting material. The scene where Ordinemon knocks most of the mega-level digimon out of commission is startling; you can really feel the force of them hitting the pavement. I was also surprised how much I enjoyed the team efforts of the champion digimon in the harbor, particularly Birdramon and Togemon. Had more effort been devoted to this aspect of the movie, "Future" might have achieved a climactic quality and diminished its narrative shortcomings.
"Future" makes some bold decisions over the course of its story. The notion of fighting the corrupted digimon partner of a friend has been done several times in this franchise. "Future" does a fairly good job of sustaining suspense over the final course of action, and, unlike some past cases, it doesn't cop out at the end. Additionally, the final scene between Tai and Daigo is a real gut-punch, further affirming how criminally underutilized the latter had been in the most recent installments. Tri has largely been about the challenges of growing-up, and "Future" ultimately makes its own contributions to this theme, though, again, not before wading through a bunch of padding. The denouement is appropriately understated and contemplative.
One aspect of Tri that I'm sure everyone can applaud is the portrayal of Omnimon. Following an ill-advised defeat in "Revenge of Diaboromon", the character suffered a long period of being little more than the failing progenitor to some new hero (especially in the manga series). His return in "Reunion" was triumphant, re-establishing him as the unstoppable fighting machine and "ace in the hole" he originally was. "Future" furthers this by giving him center-stage in the film's culmination, and the way he finishes off Ordinemon, with the accompanying soundtrack and resolution of the team, is nothing short of astounding.
I have to admit, at this point I'm more interested in the story of this series' production than anything else. With enthusiasm for the so-called "15th Anniversary Project" dwindling with each installment, one can't help but wonder if the decline in quality in the second half of the series was due to pressure to succeed, haphazard planning, or a gradual onset of apathy. Whatever the case, the Digimon Tri series has finally reached its conclusion. There are enough strong moments to prevent me from labeling "Future" an outright failure, but enough missteps to leave one questioning the integrity of the whole series.