Sunday, February 24, 2013

Day Fifty-five - The Sky Crawlers, or "So pretty... so, so boring."

Still in an Anime mood, I decided to see what features Netflix has. Sadly, they are few as most of the titles you can find in their genre folder are series. Sure, a good many of them are quality series, but there aren't any Miyazaki films or Saotoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress) and, if I had to choose between Vexille (as interesting as the CGI is) and Street Fighter Alpha, I'd pretty much rather bow out.

Still, there was one title that intrigued me... The Sky Crawlers.

Made by one of my favorite directors, Mamoru Oshii, who also did some of the most groundbreaking scifi pieces to come out of Japan, the Ghost in the Shell movies and Patlabor, The Sky Crawlers tells a really rather sedate tale of fighter pilots in an alternate universe.

The exposition only comes in dribs and drabs as everyone in this film is pretty much loathe to tell their compatriots anything. This is particularly true when it comes to main character Yuichi... as it seems that the pilot he was replacing left under mysterious circumstances and no one wants to tell him why.

Oshii has always been known for minimizing dialogue and focusing purely on atmosphere. In that he is almost a European Existentialist when it comes to his films. I pretty much think he went overboard with that aspect when it comes to Sky Crawlers.

For the longest time, I had NO earthly idea why there was air combat but no ground war in this film. It took a good 2/3rds of the film to pass before it sunk in that it's all for show, that the air campaigns these genetically engineered teenagers fight and die in are proxy wars fought between the two superpowers of the world (think Robot Jox).

These teens, called Kildren, are frozen at the beginning of puberty. They drink, smoke, have sex, and one of them even has a daughter who is quickly catching up to her in age. A lot of the film focuses on their ennui as they don't really have memories and can't tell if those that they do are real or implanted a la Blade Runner.

They're also very cold.

It's hard to root for the main pair, Yuichi and Suito, as they have pretty much no passion. Even when they kiss in the car, the most emotional aspect between them is one preventing the other from shooting either themselves or the other. It's an odd sort of emotional despair where they cannot decide whether to continue living their trivial existence as disposable pawns in an Entertainment War or just end it and enter the lethe of oblivion.

It's a little harder for Suito as she has both a daughter to care for and the fact that the lover she had previous to Yuichi was his clone, Jinroh... or rather, Yuichi is Jinroh's clone... brought back in a vat because his particular genome made him an excellent pilot.

The problem with this movie is, as beautiful as it is, it's far too subtle to be enjoyable. It really does rely too much on atmosphere and doesn't give enough exposition to engage the audience. The true enemies in the film are the governments and corporations who are using these artificial humans to fight their battles, but instead of having a conflict with them, Oshii forces his characters to fight each other... ultimately leading to a face off with the opposing nation's ace "The Teacher" who is repeatedly explained to be just a normal adult man, not a Kildren.  Somehow, he's just too good and never loses even though he's just a man. It's also hinted that he might just be the father of Suito's child, though Oshii cleverly never reveals if this is true, leaving the parentage up in the air between "The Teacher" and Jinroh.

I want to like this film more than I do. It really does have wonderful atmosphere and imagery. I generally do love those subtle existential pieces where beautiful fictions love each other through weighted silence... but it's just too boring. Not enough happens and what does is just spinning wheels. Nothing ever goes anywhere and, the moment you think it might, during the climax, everything just falls back into the cycle of death and rebirth.

Rather annoying when the main character's last lines to the woman he loves is "you have to keep living till you can find a way to change."


Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

1 comment:

  1. I think you might be missing something. They don't get to die. They are constantly being reincarnated. In an odd way it is like Groundhog Day. They figure it out and then watch everyone die knowing they will be back. So much in in the subtle clues. The broken match stick. Yuichi is Jinroh.