Monday, March 1, 2010
Summer Wars (2009)- The Opening Night film of the NYICFF
Mamoru Hosoda follows up The Girl Who Leapt Through Time with film that is mostly absolutely wonderful. Its a film that was inspired by having to meet his wife's extended family for the first time (although I'm guessing the meeting didn't involve saving the world).
The plot is too complicated to explain fully. I've tried to do so elsewhere and I think I fell on my face. To that end I'm going to reduce it down to the bare basics. As you read the synopsis keep in mind that this isn't doing the film justice which is more novel then movie.
Kenji is talked into accompanying Natsuki home for her her grandmother's birthday. She's the most popular girl in school and he secret loves her. Unknown to him she wants him to pose as her fiance, something he is unprepared to do.
Meanwhile in Oz, a huge virtual world that is so big that the real world has started to set up shop in it, a hacker of unimagined power has staked a claim and started taking over all of accounts and avatars with an eye toward taking over the world.
What happens when the Kenji's weekend collides with the potential collapse of Oz and the real world is what makes up the majority of the movie.
And what happens is one great tale. Its story of epic struggle in the virtual world and small moments in the real one. Its a tale of family, of finding a place, of the necessity of communal food, of doing for others and of finding love.
Its a film that will move you in small moments and make you go WOW in big ones.
Director Hosoda has made an amazing film. He's made a film that cements his reputation as one of the best directors working today. I mean that to include both animation and live action films.
Rarely has any film that travels in both the real world and the cyber-world worked so well in both places. Hosada manages to work across this wide and varying canvas and handle everything near perfectly.
In the real world we have characters that touch us. There are these small moments that move us (when was the last time that the touch of two fingers brought a flood of tears?) Hosoda's real world sequences, for the most part, are firmly rooted on the ground. We have real people and real places and not archetypes or caricatures. We are in the places with the characters just as if we were in the places with them. These are not people on a screen but friends and the film is do much better for it.
Conversely the cyber-world is huge. Its endless. There are sights and sounds the likes of which we have never seen before. Its all filmed as if anything is possible because it is. Many people in the audience were completely blown away by what they saw. The sight of the villain 400 million avatars strong doing battle with the world simply wowed them and me. Simply put its way cool. This is the sort of thing that you see only in the movies. Its real movie magic.
I really loved this film. I found myself moved to tears several times.
However to me the film isn't as perfect as I would have liked. The end didn't completely move me. Even with the directors steady hand at manipulating the two worlds, the film has too much going on. There are too many threads, too many characters and the film never brings them all together properly. Actually I think the problem is that it tries to bring too much of of it all together neatly with the result that we suddenly notice that its not as perfect as we thought. If it hadn't been so neat we never would have noticed the imperfection.
I'm nit picking. Its an amazing film and you need to see this, preferably on a big screen (which may happen, the print screened at the film festival had a Warner Brothers logo attached)
Its a worth successor to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.