Jan 22 2010

Article XI – In Which I Do…Something, I Remember…Huh, Odd

I think the thing in the background is a robot.

Posting this from Vegas, ladies…try to keep it cool.

I’m writing this week’s column to the most epic soundtrack ever: Spice World The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  So, if you want to follow along, children, you know what to do.  Head over to Youtube and start some Italian Western Music – it totally fits with the movie that I’m going to review for you!  I know what you all may be thinking, there are no Italian Science Fiction films, Fil.  You’re WRONG.  I forgive you, though, cuz I’m cool like that.  This week, I’m going to look at a Japanese Anime.

A Wind Named Amnesia came out when I was eight years old, if you want to do the math, I was born in 1985 – I’m not going to help you.  For more math – the film is 80 minutes long, and who wants to tell me how long it is in epochs?  Anyone?  HAH you fools, trick question!  An epoch is a subjective measure of time! (But then, the scientists would say, so are all measures of time.)

The film is centered around a day when a Wind blew and made every human in the world get amnesia instantaneously…AT THE SAME TIME.  Essentially, this reduces all of mankind to primitive creatures with no capacity for anything more than instinct.  I’m sure there’s a clever joke in there somewhere, but I’m definitely too lazy for it.

Our main character is Wataru (means wanderer in Japanese – I have a PhD in all languages rudimentary knowledge of Babelfish) who loses his memory just like the rest of humanity.  He accidentally wanders onto a military base where science(!) has been working to create ultra-humans, conveniently including one with a crazy ability to retain more information than any regular human .  Because Johnny had people messing with his brain, he is able to avoid having his mind wiped and he decides to teach Wataru how to be a human again…with the help of a machine.

Eventually Johnny dies, and Wataru decides for whatever reason to wander the world.  He meets up with a girl named Sophia who is also mysteriously unaffected by the Wind.  Thus begins their epic journey across the US.

Wataru: Eater of Sausages, Johnny: Maker of Sense

How does this sound to you so far?  Cool?  Lame?  Well, let me tell you, I was kind of itching for something to happen on screen rather than just get a lot of back story and information.  Did I get it?  Sort of…?

The story is told in a sort of episodic format, with each different city the pair visit being a different look at humanity and what makes us human.  Their first stop is Los Angeles where they discover humanity has invented human sacrifice to keep their MACHINE god happy.  The lesson: Machines only want our blood.  Also that sacrificing human females with big boobs makes the machine gods happy for some reason.

The next city is a fictional city where a MACHINE runs the city and implants people with roles and memories to keep them happy.  Essentially, they are puppets playing out what seems to be a multitude of human lives.  Are they happy?  Are they prisoners?  Does the movie answer these questions?  WILL I ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS?

Perhaps it’s time.  Essentially, this movie’s goal is to make you think about the basics of human nature.  What are humans without technology or religion or language?  The film tries to stay away from giving us a solid answer, but we sort of get the (correct) idea that robots are bad and that humanity loses itself in the complexities of technology and politics and religion.

As an idea, the premise is really very interesting, almost like an Arthur C. Clarke template about humanity’s first contact with an alien being.  The aliens are trying to figure out whether humanity is worthy of traveling to the stars with them (as far as I can gather?).  The movie just doesn’t really play out as it should – it gets preachy and overbearing.  Which are not inherently bad things – as this very column is proof of amazing preachy and overbearing material.  It kind of falls flat in the film, not like my articles…right?  RIGHT?

The animated aspect is something that might interest or bore a lot of you, but I don’t care what you think – so I’m going to talk about it anyways.  Animation, in all regards, whether it’s American or Japanese, is an excellent science fiction tool.  With live action, there will always be limits to what you can do, unless you’re James Cameron, whereas animation gives you the tools you might need to bring every last terrible, dark corner of your imagination to life.  Say you want to do a film about robot sharks, though lord knows why you’d want to do something so terrifying, you could spend billions on motion capture Avatar technology, or you could pay me to make a Post-It flip book of it for twenty bucks.  And mine would be better. Say what you will about animation, but it allows things like Wall-E, Akira, or the upcoming Robot Sharks Attack! to explore their potential.

Did I mention this robot follows them around the entire movie?

Voice acting is another thing that you could talk about with animated movies.  I don’t speak or understand Japanese, contrary to the internet rumor mill, so I can’t really judge the quality of this movie.  Arbitrarily with absolutely no basis of measurement, however – I’m going to say the voice acting sucked.  I could do better reading from a message written on a mirror in steam.  Whoever you are, I’m not going to dismember anyone, so you might as well stop leaving your stupid notes.

In all, I didn’t really like the film, obviously, from the sarcastic tone of my writing.  I thought it was underdeveloped, the animation wasn’t very good, and the concept was wasted.  Each of the towns had a somewhat interesting message, but I never got anything out of it other than my own preconceived notions.  And for all of you who are going to say that’s what the filmmaker intended – that’s dumb.  Questions are great, even unanswered ones, but this doesn’t go nearly far enough into the philosophy or relate it to the characters enough for it to be poignant.  Or interesting.

And to answer my earlier questions: this movie does not get to the bottom of figuring out what humanity is.  It poses a lot of questions about what effects certain aspects of human nature have on us as a society, but decides to leave the answer up to you, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book that has no ending.  Unlike that fantastic series of books, this movie is a bunch of stories that are barely related to each other and don’t ever give you a clear sense of what humanity might be all about.  All it does is ask you questions.  AND I HATE QUESTIONS.

WAIT, I want to see you all back here in a week!  I need your love!  And your money!

Actually keep your love, I’ll take the money.

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