“Kill Bill” as a whole and “Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2” are some of my favorite films and stories. The reason for this is how well is pays tribute to the themes it takes inspiration from, while taking an original approach to them (The Bride as the protagonist as an example, and most of the Assassin squad being women). Tarantino is a master of his craft and you can tell as you watch that he loves the subject matter. As a whole though, where does the story stand? Does “Vol. 2” elevate or detract from “Vol. 1?”
To start off, “Vol. 1” is the stronger part. Tarantino is best when he gets to fully expand on a character’s drive…which we see in “Vol. 1” with O-Ren’s backstory and witnessing the trauma the Bride goes through to drive her forward on her rampage. The music and fight scenes are also better too…which are two of Tarantino’s strongest points as a director. “Vol. 1” also handles the timeline jumps much better than “Vol. 2,” so that when we get the reveal at the end about her daughter being alive and the respectful boss fight between the Bride and O-Ren you actually feel it and it means something.
“Vol. 2” is better at capturing the time change. We don’t get to see much of Cottonmouth and her life before she is taken out by the Bride in “Vol. 1,” but we get to see Budd’s life and how the guilt has nearly destroyed him. We also see how different Bill appears to be (though whether this is real or mind games is never given a definitive answer).
“Vol. 2” also answers a few of the whys…why Budd was saying they all deserve death at the end of “Vol. 1,” and why Bill believes what he thinks he does in regards to what he did. The problem is this could have been handled better, and we had no reason to trust anything Bill would say…He’s the big sociopathic boss who is teaching the Bride’s daughter how to disregard life when we first meet him. In that way, he really is no better than O-Ren, who at least has trauma to justify her actions.
The action in “Vol. 1” is solid though it goes on for a long time, while part of “Vol. 2” feels like it is a critique of that (The Bride beaten by Budd’s Shotgun and after beating a sword wielding Elle by pulling out her eye). It is done well, but could have been done better, all these scenes feel longer than they should and the Bride isn’t fighting an army of people. This brings the critique in “Vol. 2” of that type of action down a bit, since you don’t feel it as much.
The Bride’s arc is consistent throughout the entire thing. It is her going from apprentice to Master and defeating all the villains as well as her former master. It is the Kung Fu and Anime/Shonin trope but we are given more too since she feels. She isn’t the stoic assassin since she genuinely loves her daughter and stops the slaughter once revenge is done. She chooses to live, which elevates the story and counters some of the narrative problems in both volumes.
In Conclusion, it truly is a masterpiece, but in my opinion…still not the Perfect Tarantino. That movie (and possible movies on a second viewing of some of his other films) will happen later. The cons cannot be fully offset by the strengths and the slow pace it has at times become a detriment to the narrative (as well as more time spent on fights than character exploration of Cottonmouth, Elle or Bill in “Vol. 1.” I would highly recommend it though.
My rating for it is the same as “Kill Bill Vol. 1” —- 9.5 / 10.