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I was so looking forward to this movie, and I so wanted to like it. After Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Oshii is probably my favourite anime director. I loved Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell. That's why I was monumentally disappointed with Avalon. Maybe it was too much to expect that the transition to live action would be smooth or seamless for Oshii. The movie plays as though it was conceived and shot as an animation. There's plenty of dark, moody ambiance and soul-searching facial close-ups but most of the story comes from the dialogue. The other problem is that the plot seems to be abandoned occasionally and the film then becomes a kind of promo for Kenji Kawai's not-unpleasant music score. It all adds up to something that feels laboured and directionless for much of the time. The opening scene is fantastic but once that's over the film struggles to maintain interest and pace. When I got the gist of the story I found myself hoping that the overall ropy-ness was somehow intentional but alas no. Very poor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Be warned, there might be a very VAGUE spoiler in this comment.
It really only shares with the Matrix some of the most basic concepts (a vaguely-realistic computer-generated world in which one can perform superhuman (or near-superhuman in the case of Avalon) acts of violence, and of course the underlying solipsism), but that is the best thing to compare it with, as fewer people are familiar with the short-lived tv series "Harsh Realm" (which is really a much better comparison). Anyhow, Avalon is reminiscent of those shows, but is DEFINITELY its own movie.
The visuals are done in three different modes...a bizarre, surreal fantasy world (which is largely what the trailers were composed of), the less-weird REAL world, and another, which to describe would be to spoil. And they are fantastic. The un-realism of the game sequences is part of the believability of this film. They look the way one might expect the descendants of today's first-person shooters to look. (Well, except that I would expect more COLOR.) And the dreariness of the real-world sequences makes the payoff at the end that much bigger.
The ONLY complaint I have with this movie (besides that my Japanese isn't good enough to make out all the subtitles, and I don't speak Polish) is that it doesn't show us much of the real world. Everything we see is directly related to the game...it has about as much depth in that respect as the world in Pokemon. Of course, one might debate that that also pays off in the end.
OK, I really liked this film for some crazy reason --- even ---When Ash
the protagonist takes off her combat helmet and reveals another Helmet
-- a hair Helmet -- that's right a wig, which looks like a wig for the
entire movie -- but somehow it works! ---When the most communicative
and empathetic character in the movie is a dog, and even if we don't
know exactly what happened to the dog, we love him -- clearly the
director relates more to dogs then to people. ---even if the dubbing is
not great -- couldn't they find someone who spoke English without
accent. The Polish works much better. ---even if the characters are
basically lifeless --- but the Music by Kawai is first rate and is the
only life in the movie ---besides the dog. ---even if the story line is
slow, plodding and at times confusing ---No this is not the Matrix,
however, if there was just a bit more clarity in the story line, and
the characters had a bit more 'character' I think this could have
actually made it somewhere. ---even if Ash has broad shoulders,---- but
did the Director have to take shots making Ash look like she was 3 feet
wide on top? ---even if key elements seem to be missing from this
movie, probably because Oshii the Director has a complete lack of
understanding of the human condition -- as opposed to the dog's!
Thus, this film will not appeal to everyone, but it grows on you--- I guess.
Avalon combines ideas from previous movies only to deteriorate them, to oxydate them, to corrugate them to a point where this movie has become a reminiscence, and where this melancholy has become a central subject, aptly conveyed by cold blooded postwar Poles. It's scary.
I just saw this film on the first day of its opening. I went in not
much about it except that it's a Japanese SF film and had good reviews. To
cut to the point, I liked it but I'm not sure I got it.
The atmosphere's great - the monotone visualizations, the expressionless stares of the heroine, Ash and the majestic and dark music stay in your mind. The fact that the film's in a foreign language (Polish as I found out) adds to the exotic and surreal feeling of the film. As it's all supposed to be a game anyway, there's very little emotion shown and therefore viewers are truly spectators only with little empathy with the characters.
Many people will be bored by this film, but if you're prepared to be a little patient and get sucked in, you'll love the look, feel and sound of it.
I must have been tired the time when I saw this film on our local cable TV channel. It had all the premises for me to like - new science fiction stuff, beautiful cinematography, great acting by the Polish team. However, the combination of the action game thriller with poetic science fiction (a la 2001 or Solaris) did not work for me. I could not follow the logic, the final was totally un-convincing and did not explain too much of what I had seen previously. If I have a chance to see it again, I will give it another chance. Maybe it was me after all, but maybe not...
The movie seemed to me not to have any kind of Hollywood ending where everything was resolved as people normally expect. Instead I believe the director was trying to parallel certain aspects of life for which we have no certain answers. We are never sure if Ash is real or a game character, she never eats, her world is populated by strange inanimate characters much like the world in a computer game, the tram repeats the same scene over and again, the dog disappears etc. The main themes centre around the legend of Avalon and there were repeated references in the film to the afterlife such as the 'ghost', the 'bishop', the game master wears a dog collar, and the idea of perhaps transcendence into another world and life after death. These are questions which are not resolved in life and I dont think the director was trying to resolve them in the film but rather to ask questions and make us think about the nature of life, death and consciousness and our perception of it. There were many parallels with game playing and I think Oshii was saying that life itself is a bit like a game. The other theme that interested me was the idea of class and elitism in that there was a move from the low class existence in the first part to the end of the film where everything was colourful and the people were rich. I will have to watch it again but if youre looking for a hollywood action movie then try something else, if you want something thought provoking and stylish then this is for you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
1. You have to be willing to excuse the cold feeling that the language
creates. It's as if the characters in the movie do not feel what they say
and as if they are not part of the scenes they are shooting. (spoiler) in
the end of the film this does however seem appropriately incorporated as
they indeed (SPOILER) do not feel and perhaps worse, are not part of what is
2. This movie (spoiler) takes the concept that has been used in so many
movies, dark city, matrix, 13th floor etc. and gives it (SPOILER) a double
twist and, a not so happy ending like the aforementioned. (/end of
The main character is somewhat believable, has no depth whatsoever, with other characters in the movie simply filling in the blanks. Specially that thief character, well, I still didnt quite understand his contribution to the film.
Keep an eye for Murphy. Perhaps he was underused in the movie or perhaps that is exactly why he makes you feel he should be used a bit more. (6/10)
The only problem is we have seen too many of these lately..what with
eXistenZ and The Matrix amongst others. That the theme has become more
common takes some of the edge of this film and in essence makes the ending
feel slightly predictable..almost "unfinished" due to created expectation.
Still this was very well-made with some good thinking and ideas behind...and best of all some truly breathtaking visuals. But in the end it doesn't quite measure up to expectation one has of Oshii's films although it does possess a number of his distinctive directing traits. May actually change my mind if I view it a few more times..maybe I missed something but right now I'm slightly disappointed.
Avalon, the film. I finally found the true merit of this one. For the first time a film shows how tragic is escapism, or rather what leads to it: an empty real life that offers nothing neither for the body, nor for the soul. In the world's dominating post-protestant culture the man is reduced to a primitive form of life. Those who cannot put up with the circumstances and life setup/behaviour models are offered virtual reality. Drugs? Alcohol? These people may be too smart or civilised to destroy themselves in such a primitive manner. They use escapism the film carefully portrays the final agony of the death of a human forced to renounce her real life. Kenji Kawai's soundtrack is really the key to see this in Avalon.
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