Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thoughts on The Sky Crawlers

Hmmm... While I have kept up on Twitter, I haven't posted anything here in quite awhile, like a month or something. Well, that's because I haven't had anything that I considered significant enough that couldn't be posted on Twitter. I really should fix that.

Well, that brings me to the new reason here: The Sky Crawlers. This is an animated film (anime if you want to be a weaboo, I personally think this rises above the level of just being a simple anime) directed by Mamoru Oshii and animated at studio Production I.G. Released theatrically in Japan in 2008, recently released on DVD/Blu-Ray in the US about a month or two ago (as of this writing). I managed to finally snag a copy at Best Buy earlier this week because I was too fracking lazy to go to Amazon and order it (:P), and watched it before going to work today.

Now, admittedly, I didn't go into this movie without knowing anything about it. I had seen a review of it on Anime News Network after the original theatrical release (unsure if this was the Japanese release or a limited US run). After watching, I quickly read through another review on a site I don't remember (and don't feel like Googling to find again). Both reviewers could not have been more different in how they understood the film, and both are equally valid. But, seeing as I read the ANN review long before I ever saw the movie itself (and, in all truth, if not for the ANN review the only reason I would have given this a second pass was because I like the director), and the other review was only read after, I was able to see alot of what the ANN reviewer noted, but at the same time not sure if that's what I got out of the film.

I, personally, am of the opinion that some movies should be seen by yourself, some with others, and even some that should be seen by yourself AND THEN with others. Right now, as I've only just seen it, I can't confirm, but its definitely the first, not the second, and possibly the third. As I haven't seen The Wrestler, nor seen the press kit, I can't say I got the same thing out of the movie as JS from ANN, but I'm sure the one or two of my friends I could actually get to watch will get something other than what I got out of it entirely.

(forgive me, but I don't remember the name of one of the three character I'm going to mention, so I'm just not going to state their names)

So what is it? The (incredibly limited) info on Wikipedia states that its based off a novel of the same name in a series also of the same name. The basic setup is that, in an alternate, post WWII history, world-spanning corporations hire pilots and stage battles for a populace that lives in peace, but is accustomed to war. The pilots in these battles are beings called "Kildren", people engineered to be adolescent and immortal, only dieing when killed in battle.

The movie starts when the protagonist arrives at the small base where he's been stationed, and despite being new, he falls into a routine such as if he's always been there. He does day to day operations of being a pilot, being a "war hero" to tourists, smoking, drinking beer (most likely Heineken from the appearance of the bottles :P), and sex with a local adult prostitute (despite being in his early teens at best). And its just a day to day existence. No beginning, no end, no past, no future. The only out of ordinary thing is The Teacher, an enemy ace that is unbeatable (and, as it later turns out, the former superior or the protagonist's base commander, AND AN ADULT). As things go, some of his fellow pilots get killed, only to be replaced by new people that look and act almost exactly the same, but with new names and no memories. No one seems to question this, though.

Things come to a head when a failed joint operation in the second half of the film allows several pilots from another base to transfer in. His base commander discusses how they exist solely for a meaningless war, and that their existence as Kildren, people with no pasts or futures meant to fight a war without meaning, is equally meaningless. One of the transfers also understands more about the Kildren themselves, genetically created to be immortal and then fight in an endless, meaningless war so that real people can feel the effects of war without actually having to see it directly. It is an endless cycle, and no one seems to care, even though the only way out is for someone to do something, anything, to change the way it all works. But the protagonist decides that it might be worth it to challenge The Teacher alone the next time he appears (*spoiler warning*and he fails SPETACULARLY*spoiler warning*).

Now, that was just a basic rundown, there's more to the events of the film. Really, if there's anything that I noticed from the very beginning is how unreal the world felt. Now I don't mean unreal in the way that the world is unrealistic. Even animated things can (and rightly do) have worlds that are believable within the context of the story. No, this setting feels unreal in that it feels very "off". I understand that its supposed to be lightly populated Europe, and the buildings are shown to have a lived-in quality, but even when the characters go to a city for the big operation in the middle of the film, it doesn't feel real. Now I mean that in the sense that the places the characters go and see have almost no people in them. The settings exist to be lived in, yet there doesn't seem to be anyone there. This isn't a bad thing, though. I actually think that this was part of Oshii's vision.

The film is primarily contemplative. Alot of time is spent watching as the characters going about their daily lives, which really aren't lives at all once you realize that its all just playacting. The Protagonist is initially curious of the person he is replacing, and while it is eventually revealed, it generally takes a backseat to the daily life. Even when they're finally revealed, the answers of the existence of the Kildren, the reasons of the war, and especially The Teacher, are left largely ambiguous. The base commander is herself one of the Kildren, and has been driven almost of the point of depression/insanity because she has seen the cycle so many times before, while the mechanic, an adult, seems to see, but knows there's nothing she can do about it.

And its all so sad, being a viewer that knows more than the characters, but being unable to do anything about it. And yet, it speaks volumes to me, a guy who feels like he's squandered away much more of his life than he should've. Sure, I like videogames and (some) comics, but I play more than I should. It also sort of makes me think of the ending to the Wanted movie last year, Westley's whole "This is what I'm doing, what the fuck are you doing?" line. So I have been asking myself recently (before actually seeing The Sky Crawlers) what the fuck I've been doing. And if anyone out there (that might be reading this) is stuck in a crappy, dead-end job (or some similar day-to-day existence), then think about what the fuck you're doing too. Nothing can change unless you want it to. I want to change, what about you?

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