In a future world, young people are increasingly becoming addicted to an illegal (and potentially deadly) battle simulation game called Avalon. When Ash, a star player, hears of rumors that... See full summary »
In a future world, young people are increasingly becoming addicted to an illegal (and potentially deadly) battle simulation game called Avalon. When Ash, a star player, hears of rumors that a more advanced level of the game exists somewhere, she gives up her loner ways and joins a gang of explorers. Even if she finds the gateway to the next level, will she ever be able to come back to reality? Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There is a lot to recommend this movie, including a richly-stylized world, exciting action, and excellent music. I will admit that I was first interested in this movie because I knew of the director Mamoru Oshii from the anime "Ghost in the Shell", so I wasn't surprised to find that the movie felt much like a very stylized high-quality anime movie. Indeed, I wasn't surprised that the Japanese director revealed (in an interview included with the DVD I watched) that his relationship with the Polish actress playing the main character Ash was much like his relationship with a character from one of his anime projects, since he could no more communicate personally with Malgorzata Foremniak than he could with one of his anime characters. To him, the actress was entirely her character, and it's intriguing to see what became of that very unusual relationship on film.
I'm always wary of getting carried away with a first reaction to a film, so I should admit that this film isn't perfect. I found myself wanting to know more about the background of the main character, and her family, and how she came to become the person we see in the film; certainly, Malgorzata Foremniak does a very good job of playing a character whose fantasy life (the life of her online RPG character) is more real than her 'real' life, but the lack of background detail makes her character Ash very much like a two-dimensional anime character, and that can be considered a weakness. Also, this movie bears an obvious similarity to "The Matrix" (which predated it), so most viewers will inevitably compare this movie to "The Matrix" and find it perhaps wanting in that it doesn't lay out the background of the virtual world of the Avalon RPG as clearly as "The Matrix" lays out the background of its world.
These factors notwithstanding, I still enjoyed "Avalon" and I recommend it to anyone with more than a passing interest in virtual reality stories, anime, or highly-stylized science fiction in general. In the aforementioned interview, the director mentions that his films tend to deal with a borderline between fantasy and reality, and it's quite apparent that Ash's 'real world' is somehow both grittier, and less real, than the world of the Avalon RPG which she's so obsessed with. The action sequences in the film (featuring real-world equipment from the Polish army, such as tanks and attack helicopters) are exciting in their own right, but the special effects of the film (such as explosions reduced to 2-D images and bystanders who disintegrate when shot) make it clear what is supposedly real and what is supposedly virtual. Also, the contrast between fantasy and reality is much more vivid here than in the Matrix movies - and that's especially apparent toward the end of the movie where the viewer is left to wonder just what (if anything) is ultimately real, and what is simply imagined. Also, I must say that the music of this film is extraordinary, including choral music that is downright eerie, but also beautiful at the same time. A world both real and unreal is conjured very effectively in this movie, and therefore I would recommend it to any fans of this sub-genre of science fiction in particular, and fans of highly-stylized film-making in general.
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