Sky Captain in the Shell

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow:

    See it immediately. The plot is... well, kind of dumb, and loaded with holes and nonsense, but it's so very, very pretty. The giant robots, ray guns, and amphibian amazon fighter pilots left me not caring so much about the plot. It's dense: there's so much going on in the background that I felt like the scenery was going by too fast, I kept wanting to just stop and look around. The look of the movie reminded me of the kind of look that photo-comics often have (a good example is this classic Mister X cover and poster, of which I was constantly reminded.)

    There were also hints at a very odd backstory; the world in which this movie is set differs from ours in a whole lot of ways that I kept wanting to know more about. I guess "wait, how did we get from A to B?" was kind of a running theme in my head while I was watching it; e.g., a number of the plot holes might not have been so gaping if there was more exposition about them.

    It was emulating the style of the old serials, yet it felt like it should have been multiple episodes; like a 20 part series had been condensed into one movie, leaving out a whole lot.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence:

    See it immediately. (But see it second.) I am a huge, huge fan of the first Ghost in the Shell; it's one of my favorite movies, and by far my favorite anime. (For the record, I think almost all anime is crap, but there are a dozen or so true gems in there.)

    Well, now it's my second favorite. The sequel is just mind-blowingly good.

    Again I have to use the word dense. Except this time not only visually, but plot-wise as well. The level of detail in every frame is just astounding; through the whole movie I kept wanting to pause and single-step it, because there's just so much going on. On the surface, the plot is a detective story ("why are robots going nuts and killing people?") but that's just an excuse for a pair of cops to spend the movie talking about the nature of humanity (oh, and also blowing things up. Blowing things up real good.) It covers a lot of the same ground as the first GITS as well as Blade Runner, but covers it very well.

    I really hope that when the DVD comes out, they have good voice actors for the dubbed version, because I felt like I missed half the movie by having to read the subtitles. With a movie this dense, you need more bandwidth; I wanted to be looking and listening at the same time instead of having to split my visual attention between the dialog and the pictures.

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40 Responses:

  1. conradkilroy says:

    How about Cowboy Bebop?

  2. greyface says:

    I wanted to be looking and listening at the same time instead of having to split my visual attention between the dialog and the pictures.

    With anime-fanboy-obnoxious amounts of practice, reading subtitles gets to be rather second nature. Of course, on a big old huge screen, it's difficult to keep the whole screen in your field of view when your center of focus keeps darting down to the bottom. It's all the worse when the screen is filled with SO MUCH STUFF.

    Also: with anime-fanboy-obnoxious amounts of time, you eventually know the story so well that you can stare intently at the images and basically know what's happening, and remind yourself about wording when and wherever you please.

    Also: with anime-fanboy-obnoxious intensity, I hope to god they get good voice-actors for the DVD, so I can watch the visuals and track the dialogue through different channels (*cough*yesthisiswhatyousaidtooandI'mintentionallyendingonthesamepoint*cough*).

  3. pyrop says:

    I love how every time someone who's not a fanboy says they like a certain anime, they have to disclaim it with "i think most anime is crap". It's like saying you liked Pulp Fiction but think Everybody Loves Raymond is crap.

    (yes, i do it too, it reflects more upon the consumption habits of the fans than anything else...)

    • jwz says:

      There is far, far more uniformity of style in the set "anime" than in the set "live-action movies" or even the set "tv series."

      Or, for that matter, "western animation", stylistically speaking. Anime has more plot/audience breadth, but the animation style is staggeringly uniform. Watch any half dozen 5-second samples from the Cartoon Network and try and disagree.

      • deightine says:

        I hate to populate your comments with such a huge item, but I tried to cut it down to be succinct:

        //far more uniformity of style in the set "anime" than in the set "live-action movies"//

        Although I agree in most of your sentiments on Anime, I don't think you're looking at it in the right way. Anime isn't a category of film, like action or comedy. Anime is more like saying 'It is a movie' or 'that is a cartoon' or 'this is popcorn'... It is too encompassing. From Anime, it breaks down into two main categories: Sweat-shop art (crappy, blurry, indistinct and overly comical), or not sweat-shop art (everything else). Some artists are put through hell drawing absolute crap for Japan's version of the Nike/Coke generation, getting payed next to nothing and almost living in poverty. This includes things like Lupin 3rd or DevilMan. Which, for reference, I despise the art style and shallowness of... But there are a lot of people that claim to like it (I think they're delusional, personally).

        However, once you go and look at the budgeting, it makes a massive change. Series' like Hellsing, Last Exile (great dubbing, btw), or Inuyasha (girlish, but interesting), all took some serious time and money to put together. They weren't culled from the drawingroom floor. Then add Anime movies, like anything from Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, etc), or Ghost In The Shell and you can start to see a dynamic, developing artform.

        Saying something is anime, even in the word's original meaning as I've heard described by some japanese exchange students I've met, is more like saying 'its music' or 'its painting'... Its a form of expression that just happens to share the video media. The exact same thing on paper is actually called manga. This is an important distinction. Just like in comic books, you are going to have a lot of hacks, and only a few diamonds that suit your taste.

        If you liked GITS, and personally I loved it. Check out Appleseed (the manga), which is by the same artist I believe... But I liked it. And look into the studio Ghibli Stuff, a lot of it is being released through Disney. Although I personally think that disney is responsible for a good bit of the tv generation's childhood ills (See also: brain-rot), they do have awesome voice actors. If you want to watch some anime they won't rot your brain, is interesting and has good (and accurate) voice acting, check out Last Exile. It is in the same literal art style as Voices Of A Distant Star (which was artsy, but shallow, and a waste of money to rent at a whopping 22 minutes), with the voice acting quality of the Final Fantasy movie, or Princess Mononoke.

        A bit long... But hopefully interesting enough not to warrant the vicious responce it probably deserves ;)

        • jwz says:

          Anime isn't a category of film, like action or comedy. Anime is more like saying 'It is a movie' or 'that is a cartoon' or 'this is popcorn'... It is too encompassing.

          Right, so what's anime? It's a cartoon. Which means it's in the same category, "animation", as all those other cartoons, like Fantasia, Snow White, Rabbit of Seville, Red Hot Riding Hood, Ren & Stimpy, Popeye, The Simpsons, South Park, and even crap like Scooby Doo.

          Except that while all of those have an immediately recognisable and distinct style, the vast majority of anime just looks totally fuckin' the same. Like <lj user="pyrop"> said below, it's as if anime all comes from the same studio. They almost all follow the same "house style."

          Of course there are exceptions -- Spirited Away thankfully doesn't look like Sailor Moon -- but you just don't see the kind of stultifying stylistic conformity in western animation that you do in anime.

          • greyface says:

            Maybe I'm too fanboy to jump in here with a clear head about it... but it seems that you're calling rare exceptions, or outliers, anything that doesn't match the style you're holding as universal. I mean... that you're filtering OUT of the data set, anything which countermands your points.

            Project A-Ko
            Fruits Basket
            Dragonball Z
            Ghost in the Shell
            My Neighbor Totoro

            The two closest in that list would be Akira and GitS, but otherwise you're dealing with very different visual style. The other thing to keep in mind, is that in many cases, the things you're grouping together are from actually the same studio. Innumerable anime series have been knocked out of Gainax, Sunrise and Toei. Without even brushing on the influence producers have on weekly run series... (TV Tokyo, Toho, and Bandai)

            There are some stylistic similarities across a lot of this stuff anyway, but to some extent, it's like saying that "All Japanese people look the same." Because the markers we look for to distinguish among white-folk are different from the markers that Japanese use to distinguish among Japanese folk. (This is not an attempt to call you a racist.)

            • deightine says:

              Innumerable anime series have been knocked out of Gainax, Sunrise and Toei. Without even brushing on the influence producers have on weekly run series... (TV Tokyo, Toho, and Bandai)

              I hate to mention it, or hell, even remember it, but Bandair is responsible for that dreadful crap 'King Arthur and The Knights of Justice' that was on the air in the mid to late 90s. For anyone that has never seen it... The Knights football team gets rifted back through time by Merlin, because the current King Arthur, the Quarterback's apparently twin brother and all of his men have been captured by 'Lady Morgana'... I really want to find the man responsible for that export decision and break his neck.

              The idea of lumping too much together? Very true. But the problem is that there is a bottleneck across the Pacific, causing a lot of the crap to float on across and the good stuff to be left behind. The only way to get references to good anime anymore is through word of mouth from fans that read the magazines and hunger for the trailers.

              For jwz: It's kind of expensive to pickup as a habit, but a magazine on all of the current and up-and-coming anime called NewType is available in most grocery store magazine racks, or at comic shops. If you want to see an example of anime, it usually has a DVD sampler in every edition of the magazine with teasers, or full length pilot episodes of the newest stuff. You're not the kind of person I'd call narrowminded, after reading your journal for awhile, to do so would be like stomping my own nuts... But it might be a good way to get some wider perspective beyond the Blockbuster shelf. :)

      • pyrop says:

        It works against anime in this case that pretty much everyone who's any good has worked with everyone else who's good. It's sort of like Japan's anime industry is all the same production studio. (I could inject something here about conformity in Japan culture, but i'm not a sociologist and it would probably be bullshit.) It does get a little better on the high end and fringes, like Yoshitoshi ABe and his crew.

        Speaking of which, you'ld either hate or love Texhnolyze (a.k.a. "The Staff of Lain's 5 Year Reunion). It starts off slow (the first few episodes spend too much time following a guy with his leg and arm chopped off staggering around town), but holy fuck is it pretty.

        • jwz says:

          It's sort of like Japan's anime industry is all the same production studio.

          As a mere non-fanboy viewer, that's certainly what it seems like.

      • greatbiggary says:

        I've been waiting for someone to prove this with a neural net. Feed it every grim, spiky-haired, baby-faced anime hero and then ask the computer to try to find any one of them in particular. I propose the answers will match up with the same set fed through a random sort.

  4. primroseport says:

    Not that you care about what follows, but for what it's worth: I've seen GinS five times since it came out, and I used to really like it--I considered it one of the top three animes. Then, the fourth time, it left a bad taste in my mouth. At the time, I wasn't quite sure why. Finally, the fifth time came around, and I decidedly disliked the film. Even after having seen it enough times to be very comfortable with the names of people and agencies, the plot, the themes, etc, I realized that a great big chunk of it is head-achingly dense and confusing. And I'm not referring to the central idea of the film--rather, to the fucking political shit that goes on and on with seemingly no consequence as far as the end of the film goes, except to get the characters to point "Z", so to speak. But all that section 9 and section 6 stuff is a real hindrance in my enjoyment of GinS, say I.

    • primroseport says:

      Still, I will watch #2

    • greyface says:

      It is pretty typical in science fiction and fantasy to have elements which are extraneous to the plot, and hint at the exceptional complexity of the world in which the story occurs. It creates the illusion of a more fully developed world in ways that non SF/F stories don't -need- to, because the audience can and should happily fill in the rest of the world with what happens in our world.

      GitS uses that political stuff to give the viewers hooks, edges and spaces to fill in the world, or imagine engagement with it. It's the thing that Frank Herbert did impossibly well in Dune. And it's utterly useless in other movies... like, Bend it Like Beckham would have been utterly wasting time by brushing on the British Legal System in order to give people a better illusion of Place, because it's just OUR WORLD, and the parts that they aren't intentionally exposing are readily filled in without cue.

      Not to say that it can't annoy you, or that you MUST LIKE GitS... just... that stuff fills a purpose, in sending people like me reeling off on tangents about the newly envisioned Place.

      • primroseport says:

        Understood--seeing as I read sci-fi and horror almost exclusively, I'm
        familiar with the trappings of both, but in GitS, instead of a rich
        "world", we get overly convoluted plot distracting us from the rest of
        the film, which DOES work quite well to transport us away from this
        world. But of course, my view is the minority!

      • primroseport says:

        And, by the way, I don't think we need quite so complex a political landscape when political intrigue is not an alien thing to this world!

    • jwz says:

      I haven't read the comics, but I wonder if some of that extra detail you thought was superfluous was there as a function of it being an adaptation of a much longer form story: maybe those are vestigal forms of what were more fleshed-out subplots in the comics. That wouldn't be surprising, since that sort of "inability to edit" is what gave us dozen-hour fanboy atrocities like Dune and Lord of the Rings.

      • primroseport says:

        That is a good point, and probably the truth. I ignored the fact that a manga likely proceeded the anime, but that's usually the case. As it happens, a big part of the reason I enjoyed the lotr movies so much was because I was obssessed with the Silmarillion at the time and loved every reference to that work. I'm sure it was a big wank-fest to lots of other people, though. Speaking of, one night, in the arms of too much cold and flu medication, it suddenly came to me: I knew exactly how to trim down the Silmarillion into a movie or couple of movies. The next morning I realized that doing so would curse my bloodline forever and ever with the hatred of fans and non-fans alike

        • I thought it just reflected a different cultural experience. US fanboys (and innocent bystanders) are not the primary audience. It would be like a political intrigue set in Ireland where most of the action happened in no-fault tribunals. Most Irish people would identify with immediately, whereas the rest of the world would no doubt think "what the fuck?" - as you may be doing now.

      • greyface says:

        And why Akira was so completely uselessly incomprehensible.

        Except... they did edit, just not with comprehension in mind. It takes all kinds though.

  5. exoskeleton says:

    Shame I missed seeing tagging along for Sky Captain - I fear for Angelina Jolie's accent. I'd get that dodgy music off if I were you.

  6. azul_ros says:

    Great! Thanks for the reviews. I really wanted to get out to see Sky Captain this weekend but was way too busy. And Ghost in the Shell looks great so I'm happy to hear it wasn't a disappointment. :)

  7. loaded with holes and nonsense

    Like the fact that they were already referring to "World War I" in March of 1939, 6 months before Germany invaded Poland?

    But you are right, it was very visually impressive.

    • Not necessarily a hole - maybe in that reality, WWII happened from 1929 to 1934!

      And, uh, maybe in that WWII, they learned the brilliant tactic of leaving hundreds of expensive fighter planes on the ground while tracking incoming attackers on radar at 500mph for long enough for someone to drive from the middle of Manhattan to somewhere that isn't Manhattan.

      • maybe in that reality, WWII happened from 1929 to 1934

        Perhaps, but then wouldn't that, in fact, be a hole in the storyline?

        But I think this is supposed to be one of those "don't think too hard about it" movies.

      • jwz says:

        maybe in that reality, WWII happened from 1929 to 1934!

        Yeah, I defintely got the impression that their wars were different than our wars. This didn't strike me as a hole, but as one of those "I want to know more about that difference" bits.

        Also, where exactly was Sky Captain's secret volcano island airfield? I guess it must have been in New Jersey?

  8. I happened to read the Ghost in the Shell comic book... er, "graphic novel" a couple of weeks ago, and the second best thing I can say about the the new movie is that they took a story arch originally set before Motoko's disappearance into the 'net and set it afterwards quite gracefully. (The first best is that it's visually quite pleasing.)

    I didn't much care for the paper or film version. It was pretty, sure. But if I wanted to be preached at, I'd go to church.

    I don't find the plot even remotely exciting. Sorry.

  9. ggerrietts says:

    Not usually the type to go in for "me too" replies, but it's uncanny how very similar our opinions were on these two films. I think we've even used similar phrasing in our discussions.

    Oh, and I also got the "you wouldn't mind the subtitles so much if you watched more anime" line about GitS2. I want to believe it, but I think that even with voice acting, there was too much to look at, too much to study and contemplate, to watch it just once.

    I saw some review -- NYT maybe? -- where they were hinting that Sky Captain might be a franchise. Not sure if that would work out or not. Sometimes, while watching it, I wondered if it wasn't someone's Crimson Skies campaign writ large. I don't know enough about the Crimson Skies backstory to tell for sure....