18.4.13

Sky Blue

A Korean anime film that (according to the back cover) took 7 years to make. The wikipedia entry focuses almost entirely on its technical achievements: photo-realistic CGI, rendered vehicles, cel animated characters. It looks as impressive as it sounds, at least I think so, but I grew up on the thrill of computer game cut-scenes. What's equally impressive is the attempt (if not the achievement) of a political message. Ecoban is a city-state run by callous philosopher kings and supported by a serf population kept outside its shielded walls. One particularly nasty member of the elect is called Locke, perhaps a nod to the property-loving 17th century liberal philosopher (although if people knew their history they would be more inclined to place him on the side of the revolutionaries). The leader of the copper class is called Noah, and wouldyabelieveit he lives in a boat, enduring the unceasing rain and planning for a brighter tomorrow where humanity abandons carbon fuels and switches to solar panels.

The film is less knowingly postmodern in its use of imagery, with its motorbikes from Akira and masks from V for Vendetta. I was tempted to bring up games again as a comparison – parasitically feeding off ideas generated in other mediums. However, conversations with still-active gamers (I only occasionally relapse into booting up Baldur's Gate) have underlined that, actually, games ARE innovative. It's just that, like everything else, there's a lot of derivative crap out there. And upon reflection, there are games I've played (Planescape: Torment, Alpha Centauri) that built worlds like nothing I had seen before.

Back to the point: Sky Blue isn't showing you anything new. The accumulation and combination of existing elements could have been made an asset, however, if it thoroughly embraced the potential such a strategy holds out for symbolic layering. Steal and repurpose, quote and re-contextualize. Abandoning the rigours of science fiction and sticking to archetypes and symbols would have been a striking effect, espesh combined with the inherently distancing computer-generated visuals. It's what Jodo's The Incal is all about.

The worst aspect of the film is the terrible characterisation, made x1000 worse by the insipid English dub (no other option on the DVD). While watching, I kept imagining alternatives not taken – Cade more heroic, Locke more human, Moe being gay for Zed. Anything to enliven the horribly predictable maneuvers each character makes. Notionally our protagonist is Jay, who is in the middle of a love triangle between Clint Eastwood-voiced rebel-rebel Shua and soft-spoken backstabbing turtleneck Cade. Her lack of personality is alarming. The only other female character is a scared little blind girl groping for someone with agency to care for her, a fitting summation of the way Jay is treated by the film. Being stuck behind those eyes is asphyxiating. A more interesting character (this is overstating it slightly) is Cade. There is a nice circularity to his conversion: he separated Jay and Shua and abandoned the latter to his death, now he unites and saves them both. Perhaps he would have been a better narrator.

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