The latest (and perhaps final) animated offering in the Idolmaster franchise is a somewhat enjoyable, though equally forgettable ride that unfortunately falls into the same trappings as the original series. If you were looking for cute idols doing cute things... well, you will likely fall asleep halfway through.
The problem with the Idolmaster movie is that it doesn't quite understand what makes the franchise exciting to so many people. It's well-produced, the characters are fun and unique, the music is great-- exactly what any fan of the games would want-- but as soon as it starts to reach a high point, it just pops like
a balloon, replaced instead with mundane, boring drama that will send you into an hour-long yawning session. Even worse, the drama here is focused on a new group of idols rather than the main characters, so there's even less reason for anyone (save for perhaps the most zealous of fans) to care about anything that occurs in the movie's latter half. At least the girl with the side ponytail is cute, I suppose... ?
It's a shame, because the first forty minutes are a ton of fun. As the girls are now all accomplished idols (famous enough to have their own television station or to throw the ceremonial pitch in a professional baseball game), the constant battle to keep 765 Productions afloat is largely a thing of the past, and the girls are now able to simply relax and be themselves for a change. And so they do, joking with each other, participating in silly commercials and occasionally hitting on our ol' pal, the Producer. It's fun. It's cute. Idolmaster is at its best when it doesn't take itself seriously and focuses instead on the positive aspects of the girls, rather than their daddy issues or their ability to scream at one another. As a cute slice-of-life, Idolmaster is excellent, but as a drama, it is trite, boring twaddle that you could find for sale at the dollar store. And unfortunately the movie decides to take the latter approach.
That's not to say that the drama in Idolmaster is offensively bad, but it certainly does not offer anything new or interesting for the series. If you have watched even one idol anime before, you've probably experienced everything that the movie's dramatic portions have to offer. Girls struggle to practice in time for the deadline, they have arguments with one another, one threatens to leave the group-- you know how the story goes. It would be a little more interesting if the drama developed one or more of the characters by showing a more complex side to their personality, but nothing of the sort ever happens. The movie isn't even about the main cast in the first place. It's about the B Team. This may have worked if it was in the context of a second season, but developing seven new idols on-top of the main twelve (and then there's still the Producer, and Ritsuko, and...) in a two hour movie is simply impossible. The movie was not their time and place to shine.
If you're a fan of Haruka, though, you will find plenty to enjoy here since she is elevated to the role of protagonist, albeit at the cost of all the other idols. She serves as a role-model and a mentor to the other group, encouraging them and helping to resolve their issues. It's a nice change from the main TV series where she was always the underdog, the motivated but naive idol, and it shows that the characters are indeed maturing as time passes.
The Producer is also a surprisingly positive presence in the story, just as he was in the main series. The idea of giving the blank Producer from the games a face and a personality was controversial to some because it hinted towards the possibility of another boring, oblivious harem protagonist (hello, Infinite Stratos), but that has never been the case here. He is a genuine character in his own right, as important to the story as any of the idols. He's inexperienced at his job, yes, but his passion is real and it makes sense why the girls would feel attached to him. With his plan to leave Japan temporarily in order to study, he shows that he's willing to change and improve, that he's not content simply being the same person for eternity. The Producer is an honestly dynamic, three-dimensional character and the anime would not be anywhere near as exciting had he simply been a blank face like he was in the games.
The music in the Idolmaster movie is outstanding, perhaps even the greatest part of the entire experience, though that should not come as any surprise. There's the occasional montage with one of Idolmaster's iconic songs playing in the background, though it never breaks the pacing as it did in the case of something like A-Channel (... does anyone even remember that show exists?) The performances themselves are excellent and by far some of the best the idol genre has ever seen, although there are just too few of them. It might even be worth watching the movie solely for the five-minute performance at the end. If nothing else, Idolmaster has shown that it's still the leader of the idol genre with regards to music.
The animation also bears a mention for how natural and fluid it feels. There's a few short scenes that are even rotoscoped (and no, not the kind of rotoscoping found in Aku no Hana) which look incredibly lifelike. And whereas most idol anime opt to resort to CG when animating their performances, Idolmaster is drawn almost fully by hand. It's certainly a good looking anime- at least when it matters the most.
Should you watch the Idolmaster movie? If you are desperately craving for more of the characters and don't mind sitting through an hour of boredom, sure. But do keep in mind that the amount of screen-time for any non-Haruka or B-Team idol is pretty much nil. If you're the type of person who watches Idolmaster primarily or even solely to see one or two of your favourite idols (and provided that idol isn't Haruka), there really isn't a whole lot to look forward to here. There's no Mami, Ami, Takane, Makoto, Chihaya-- just a few scenes of them sitting mindlessly in the background with the occasional line of dialogue of every now and then. The movie is barely even a story about 765 Productions, anyway.
It's a nice sleeping aid, but if you're looking for a better idol anime, Aikatsu and Love Live 2 are duly recommended.