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From Mamoru Oshii, the acclaimed director of GHOST IN THE SHELL, AVALON is a mesmerizing sci-fi thriller with explosive action and state-of-the-art visual effects in the stunning style of THE MATRIX! In the not-so-distant future, desperate young people risk everything to play "Avalon" -- an illegal and potentially lethal virtual war game where addicted combatants earn points and wealth. For one of the games greatest warriors, the "noble soldier" Ash, the search for Avalons legendary game stage Class Real will either lead to an entirely higher level of existence -- or be a journey from which she will never return! With awe-inspiring visuals and an intriguing futuristic story, lose yourself in the excitement of this amazing cinematic adventure!
Occupying a hazardous fantasy war zone located somewhere between David Cronenberg's eXistenZ and the Matrix trilogy, Mamoru Oshii's Avalon is a must-see entry in the subgenre of virtual-reality thrillers. Combining live-action set in a dystopian near future (filmed in Poland) and digital imagery set within a state-sponsored virtual combat game called Avalon, this sluggishly paced but visually dazzling film is another brain-teaser from the director of Ghost in the Shell. The action focuses on a maverick Avalon ace named Ash (played by the lovely Polish actress Malgorzata Foremniak) who advances to the game's highest and most mysterious level, "Class Real," a virtual world so authentically convincing that some--called "the Unreturned"--choose never to leave it. As with the Matrix trilogy, Avalon is more intriguing in premise than execution, filled with hushed tones and heavy-handed portent. Still, the amber-hued ruins of Oshii's virtual landscape are oddly alluring as a means of escape--a warning from Oshii, perhaps, that even the most exciting virtual reality is a trap that can prove deadly to those who fall into it willingly. --Jeff Shannon
- Special effect featurette
- Interview with director Mamoru Oshii
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You can get lost in this film very easily. not that it's difficult, just it works on many different layers. Watch if you can.
There is no sex or nudity involved and the violence is very conservative. Not even close to "Saving Private Ryan" status. Though, it's pretty clean in those regards, I will say this, I would not recommend this to kids and early teens because this is a heavily thematic/intellectual film...an art film. It's very heavy and intellectual. It requires active thought and is not a film you can just "pop in while munching on popcorn". Philosophy majors could get a kick out of it though, unless they were more focused on Virtue Ethics.
This is by no means an action flick...even with it's few action sequences, those are even tame...but perhaps it's to help capture more of the mundaneness of a video game addicted society. Anyways, I'm sure you've got enough of the plot from other reviews and the product synopsis. It's pretty accurate. The film is beautifully rendered and the cinematics are stunning and awe-inspiring. The symbolisms and how they are executed are also beautiful. So, why do I rate it a 3 star?
The simple answer is that this film was not to my taste. It's definitely worth a watch and discussion over, but as a film I do not think it's Mamoru Oshi's strongest. Ultimately, it didn't seem very captivating. There is a plot, but again, the plot is not what it's about...more of the symbolisms used. I'm a narrative driven film viewer. I have a stronger affinity to music, and thus music meant more as "art pieces" (such as John Cage's work) I can appreciate and find engaging...though not always agree, albeit even dislike haha. So I do have a little parallel understanding about what draws people to "art films" and the non-mainstream...albeit some I do like, such as "Linda Linda Linda". But anyways, Mamoru Oshi is known for his other works such as Patlabor, Ghost in a Shell, and Jin Roh.
(from this point on, I'm using "Art" very specifically to mean something intellectually heavy and not meant particularly to be a mainstream entertainment vehicle...i know this is not the best definition, but it's the best place to start.)
The "Patlabor" tv series was a set that focused more on entertaining with hints and injections of heavier and serious themes. The "Patlabor" movies were more artistic/intellectually focused with hints of entertainment. "Ghost in a Shell" had a balance between what can entertain and what is artistic...and it's a strong balance, not a compromised balance. And Jin-Roh was a brilliant artistic/intellectual take on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood...that had such a strong narrative behind it you sometimes forgot it was more an art piece than anything else. "Avalon", to me seemed lacking in substance...maybe it's bleek atmosphere was part of the message.
ALL IN ALL:
Again, I am no film connoisseur and therefore am probably missing some of the finer points of "Avalon" that other people find tantalizing. I prefer watching a powerful narrative or a beautifully rendered slice-of-life with good character development...but I didn't find either one here. I apologize that I'm not really helpful in the content department of this this film. But one thing I can say is that this film does raise interesting questions, but is open ended. It is beautiful, but you are more watching a painting than a film. It's symbolisms are profound, and yet subtle. But it didn't do much for me. I believe that art and entertainment can be blended...after all, it is said that one of the best ways to teach is through story and example (which is still narrative)...this was too much pure art and hopeless mundanity for me.
The DVD of the movie is cheaper than the CD of the movie music. Cant quite figure that out, but if you get it just for the music, it is well worth it. This is Kawai's best work and for me it makes the movie.
It is not a rip-off of The Matrix. If anything, it's derivative of Oshii's earlier films and thought, which heavily influenced The Matrix. I also loved Ghost in the Shell for many of the same reasons that I liked Avalon. It has some of the pacing of Taste of Cherry. It allows a person to settle in, relax, and absorb all of the deliciousness of the style of the movie and to get inside Ash, the heroine.
The special features are worth seeing. The director is very clear in his interview what his thoughts and intent are in the film. This film is a piece of art, and as such it allows each person to take from it what they want. I can understand people not liking it, but it cannot be denied that this film was done with care and passion and expresses the vision of an interesting person.
There are so many movies out there that are merely eye candy, like the recent Star Wars films, that are so bad otherwise. And so many movies that rely on violence or special effects and are wholly unoriginal but satisfy the kind of viewer who laments how his girlfriend fell asleep and who calls the director, "pretentious." There are few people in the world with the creativity, passion, and artistic sense of this director.
Avalon is not the greatest movie ever made, or even in the top 100, but it is far better than most of the dreck released each week, and it is a movie that makes you think and stays with you. It is worth seeing by anyone who enjoys something a little different and has the patience and courage to use their own brain and not have a movie that's spoon-fed to them.
And then there's the wonderful basset hound.