Suburban Senshi IRC Chat #51: “Movie Review: Mamoru Oshii's "Avalon"”
#51: “Movie Review: Mamoru Oshii's "Avalon"”

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<Mdm_Maestro> Hello again, everyone. It is only fitting that after a long absence I should be the one to add new vitality to this stagnant site. I will also be the first to implement the new ratings system, which promises to be more objective than previous reviews.
<Mdm_Maestro> Basically, the item to be reviewed will be judged on three qualities: Plot (for a maximum of two Dragonballs), Visuals (for two Dragonballs), Audio (for two Dragonballs) and one Dragonball for overall impact on the viewer (the most subjective overall)
<Mdm_Maestro>
<Mdm_Maestro> Plot
<Mdm_Maestro> Mamoru Oshii's Avalon has an interesting premise. Youth of the future, living in what seems to be a very run down world (though not as dystopic as that seen in Blade Runner), indulge themselves in an escape called "Avalon", which is a virtual reality game. In a move somewhat opposite to that of the Matrix, this movie focuses on plumbing the depths of the Virtual Reality system as opposed to escaping it entirely. The main focus of the story is the quest of one highly skilled player, Ash, to find her friend Murphy, whose consciousness was apparently trapped within a secret level of the game, where real-world death becomes a frightening possibility.
<Mdm_Maestro> The problem some western viewers might have (and while this movie was filmed in Poland, with Polish actors, the pacing and style are distinctly Japanese) is that this plot drags for the first half of the film. This is not, despite the presence of numerous exceptional battle scenes, an action movie. It is more of a mental diversion. It lacks the deep philosophical questioning posed by the Matrix, serving only as a vehicle for seeing Ash access the "hidden level", and it lacks a constant barrage of high-impact action to "wow" the viewer. So from a strictly plot standpoint, the movie must be rated only one Dragonball.
<Mdm_Maestro>
<Mdm_Maestro> Visuals
<Mdm_Maestro> That should not stop one from seeing this movie, however; far from it. This movie was designed to be seen, to be sensed and experienced vicariously. Nearly every scene (with notable, and justifiable exceptions) has been massaged with CGI, sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious. It is like watching a live action rendition of anime. Even scenes with totally CGI vehicles look "correct". The most outlandish military vehicle in the game looks like a living, breathing mechanical instrument. This movie is a treat for the senses (which is what "Avalon" the game is supposed to be), and in this regard it succeeds brilliantly.
<Mdm_Maestro> Usually I would say CGI is no substitute for plot, but in this case, the CGI actually is a critical component of the tale as a whole, serving to bind the viewer where martial arts or "gun-fu" would do in other genres. Even the everyday movements of the protagonist are made that much more interesting because of the view we get of her world. The atmosphere is surreal and visceral. Were I a betting person, I would expect the Matrix sequels to borrow a few tricks from the Avalon FX crew. Two Dragonballs.
<Mdm_Maestro>
<Mdm_Maestro> Audio
<Mdm_Maestro> For a movie about games, one would expect a techno soundtrack. Instead, we are treated to a choral symphony what is subtle, but well used. The music fits the mood of the movie, and in no way detracts from it. The fact that more need not be said is a good sign. It's not a particuarly memorable soundtrack, but nor is it abominable nonsense like the OST for Ballistic Kiss. One and a half Dragonballs.
<Mdm_Maestro> This is a movie that is hard to dissect into component parts. Each facet of it comes together to weave a fascinating whole. It really is what movies are supposed to be: Simple tales told with lush extravagance, drawing the viewer into its world and keeping him there. A few slow moments aside, Avalon does just that. One Dragonball.
<Mdm_Maestro>
<Mdm_Maestro> For a somewhat weak plot, outstanding visuals, a decent score and a completely immersive mood, I give Mamoru Oshii's Avalon a grand total of five and one-half Dragonballs.
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