Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movie Review: The Sky Crawlers

Unlike last year, I actually made sure to look up the hours of the university library near me over my winter break and managed to watch quite a bit of stuff in just a few weeks. This was the only thing I grabbed from their animation selection (by now I've seen just about everything they have that I'm interested in) since I remembered hearing some good things about it when it came stateside a few years ago which is pretty much all I need to try something out.

The Sky Crawlers

Summary: Sometime in the future war has practically been eliminated but, to prevent people from getting bored and starting real wars, now companies wage war against each other with Kildren, an experiment gone wrong that produces people that never age (mentally or physically) beyond their teens. These Kildren live hazy lives, it's hard to remember their own pasts and it's also hard to comprehend the dangers they face in every fight, is there anything more to their lives than this blur of similar days? 

The Good: Well that was a cynical take on war, I've seen a few other stories take the same idea (that wars are now fought by groups for the entertainment of others/to prevent people from fighting "real" wars) but even though this story never showed gore or the characters breaking down from their messed up world they live in it was certainly a sober story. 

The Bad: This film was excruciatingly slow and I really should have just bailed on it and watched something else. The problem was what little I remembered from the reviews mentioned a plot point which I thought was going to be the driving force of the movie and wanted to see if I had remembered correctly or if I had confused this film with another. It turns out that I was right, just that plot point (which was sorta-kinda alluded to but not exactly) which I thought was the most interesting part of the whole film isn't brought up until the last twenty minutes of a two hour film. I think I can see what Oshii was trying to do with this film, expressing how war can just become a part of life that no one questions and such, the problem is that A) I completely disagree with that sentiment and B) he chose such a boring way to do it that I don't see a single reason to question my beliefs and try to think differently (which means the film has failed as both entertainment and as an intellectual problem for me, never a good thing). 

The Audio: There was almost no background music throughout the entire movie, or if there was some it was so low that I didn't have my volume up loud enough to hear it, and while I could see why this stylistic choice was made I would have preferred a bit more sound myself. As for the voice acting, I watched this in Japanese and there was a lot of random English in the movie. The characters (who speak Japanese the entire rest of the time) only speak in English in the cockpits (TvTropes tells me that English is the international language for aviation so I guess that makes sense) and then when showing tourists around there's more English which sounds, well, a bit awkward. Certainly not the worst Engrish I've ever heard but it was just rather bizarre. I've seen countless shows, in English and Japanese, in a setting where the characters wouldn't be speaking either of those languages and I think the best thing to do is to have them just stick to one language and let the audience pretend it's being translated for it's convince. This can cause trouble if the story is also imply that multiple languages are being spoken but that wasn't the case at all here, I'm just confused why they made either of those choices.  

The Visuals: I do wonder if this film was made just so the animators would have a chance to make photo-realistic CGI airplanes, I was running around doing a few others things during the opening scenes so from a distance I was wondering if I had the right disc in, the CGI was so good that it fooled me from the back of the room. Aside from all of that (which does make up a good portion of the movie admittedly), everything looks a bit dull. The Kildren (or at least the male ones) have practically the same face (and, unless a character in-universe comments on how similar two or more characters look, I take this as a sign of laziness) and Kusangai looks like a younger, more emotionless, and crazier version of the Major from Ghost in the Shell

So I give this one and a half or two stars out of five and am really regretting checking this out and not Perfect Blue right now.