First, be sure you watch the end of the film. That means through the credits of the main characters in color and through the black & white credits with the Bride driving and through the long scroll of rolling credits. Even when you get to the film's rating it is not yet time to go, so just sit there until the screen goes bright white. Remember, you were warned.
Second, for everybody who thinks that on the basis of "Kill Bill, Volume 1" that they know what is going to happen in "Kill Bill, Volume 2," be ready to be surprised. I made a point of watching the Bride (Uma Thurman) check Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) off of her people to kill list before I headed out to theater to see how the saga ended, so I thought I was perfectly in the narrative flow. However, Quentin Tarantino has set up his audience just to play with their minds, which, of course, is what he was doing from the start and at the climax of this film I was not at all sure who, if anyone, was going to come out alive (especially since I was suddenly thinking about the tragic end of "Lone Wolf and Cub").
The caveat when Mirimax decided to split this four-hour revenge film into two volumes was that those who sensed a lack of character development and motivation in Volume 1 would be appeased by what was put forth in Volume 2, and this is indeed the case. We finally get to go back and see a couple of pivotal scenes set before the "beginning" of the film's opening, with not only the massacre at the Two Pines wedding chapel but a training sequence in which the Bride studies with the great Pai Mei (Chia Hui Liu), who will inspire many men to grow long flowing white beards that they can whip around dramatically as a punctuation to everything they say. The net result is that character is more important than killing in the last half of the film, which makes sense because it would really be hard for the Bride to slice and dice more opponents than she did at the House of Blue Leaves.
There are a lot of oppositions between the two halves of this film. The beautiful setting of the duel between the Bride and O-ren in the gentle falling snow is countered by the showdown with Budd (Michael Madsen) in the harsh sunlight of his trailer in the desert. Having devoted an entire chapter to Hattori Hanzo creating his most perfect sword for the Bride, it is amazing how hard it is to get the sword out of its scabbard in this one. Volume 1 was a feast for the eyes, but in Volume 2 Tarantino's dialogue becomes more prominent, although not quite up to the level of "Pulp Fiction." But the dialogue is important because before we get around to the titular business of this film, the Bride and Bill have got to have themselves a conversation. Sound also matters more in this film: there is one sequence that is effectively done in the dark.
I am barely acquainted with the genre of Hong Kong films that Tarantino was apparently weaned on, so everything is fairly new to me and smacks more of homage than parody, which is not doubt the director's intent. I probably will not go out and check out some of the films that inspired Tarantino to do "Kill Bill," because they will undoubtedly pale in comparison to the slicked up version that he is serving for our American palates. All things considered, I have a slight preference for Volume 1, which runs counter to the prevailing sentiments, but I am still working out how the two parts fit together. The key thing is that they do, without Volume 2 being simply more of the same. There is something to be said for Tarantino pulling out all the stops just to have fun.