Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Overview:

The follow up to the cult classic sensation that was the original Blade Runner. Time has passed and a new generation of replicants that are programmed to obey are now being used. Some of these hunt down and retire the older generation models.

Review:

I’m actually going to preface this by pointing out I actually thought this was a pretty good  movie (far better than I expected when a Blade Runner sequel was announced – and far better than many other science fiction films). The reason this preface is necessary is I’m going to pretty much tear it apart for a bit and it might seem like I’m completely against this film.

Unless you have been living completely offline it is more or less impossible to have missed the hype around the return of Blade Runner to the big screen. It has been a long, long time, as evidence by Harrison Ford’s revival of Deckard, but time has passed even in the movie universe so the real question becomes, whether lightning can strike twice for the franchise?

It seems really unfair but this movie is going to be judged against its predecessor. To put it in context, the SAO movie was not a good movie by any objective standard but for fans of SAO it hit the spot nicely and got them excited for the upcoming new series. If I were to compare Blade Runner 2049 to SAO Ordinal Scale there wouldn’t be any contest. Blade Runner is the far superior movie. And yet, I left the cinema with a wrinkle in my brow and counting off points and counterpoints on my fingers and really wondered if I had enjoyed what I had just watched. I said on Twitter my feelings were mixed and even after thinking and rethinking I’m still feeling that I genuinely don’t know about this movie.

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What it comes down to is that Blade Runner 2049 has all the aesthetic sense of Blade Runner but for me failed to raise any issue or idea of note. I don’t finish the movie questioning the nature of my existence or of anything. I finish the movie wondering if Jared Leto’s character actually served any purpose and just how many wall references (both verbal and visual) I’d just been hit with. Because everything in this movie is a blunt weapon with no subtlety in either delivery or meaning and that makes this movie an entirely different beast to the original where any line of dialogue could be taken several ways and the final speech by the antagonist to Deckard could have you lost in thought for hours.

To give a concrete example there’s a holographic girl who plays the lead replicant’s girlfriend and at one point in the movie they decide they have to erase her from the home system and she’s going to be fully portable. However, as K/Joe points out, doing so means if the portable stick gets broken she’ll be gone for good. To which she responds “Just like a real girl.” This is only one of many Pinocchio references mind you and basically less than two scenes later the stick gets shattered (for no narrative purpose other than to prove that bat-shit crazy replicant is in fact crazy and evil) and then hologram girl is never mentioned again or given another instant of thought. Now, possibly her ‘death’ could have been a character catalyst for the protagonist of the story. It could have been a touching moment to have the audience reflect on the ephemeral nature of life or whether hologram girl counts as being alive. Instead, she’s a computer who blips and is gone and forgotten leaving us to wonder if maybe in a director’s cut somewhere she actually served a purpose other than screen time and a sex scene that was vaguely disturbing given it involved two replicants and a hologram.

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The music is also incredibly dense and continuous. Points for the soundtrack reflecting the original film and managing to be oppressive and create a fairly continuous feeling of dread, but essentially your ears will be assailed with atonal drones and whines meanwhile every mechanical object will clunk, groan and bang and the end result is your teeth will clench and you will wonder if you remember what silence sounds like. And then you will get silence. One single scene comes along where all the music stops and we hear almost nothing and the absence is incredibly powerful because of the assault you’ve previously experienced. Once that scene is done, you’ll return to the continuous music and sound and you will miss the silence all the more. It is actually hard to say whether this is a positive point for the movie or not. It is incredibly affective. The immersion this soundtrack creates in the experience of the film is nothing short of brilliant. However, it is also an incredibly uncomfortable experience and afterwards it takes a fair while for your ears to recover from the experience.

From a visual point of view they got what made Blade Runner what it was. Things have changed but time has passed and the changes are really logical (reinforced by the short films released to show the progression of events between the films). It looks every bit as gorgeous and as immersive as the first film (okay, more so because special effects have come a long way) and it also captured the visual feel of the first film which was kind of necessary for this sequel to have any kind of success.

But…

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Like a fan fiction work, this film peppers itself with scenes and moments that add nothing to this narrative and exist either as links to the work it is emulating or to show an understanding of the world which is great but not an understanding of pacing or story telling. The opening shot of the eye is a clear throw back to the first film (as is the water element in the final fight) and yet neither really serve a place in this film. The eye is particularly problematic given it was such an iconic and necessary symbol and idea in the first film and the opening sequence grew out from this shot whereas in this film we see the eye then some power stations and we just kind of move on and never again care about close ups of pupils given in this film they don’t use the same test or technology so the eye and all that it represented (windows to the soul and all) serves no purpose. Likewise the scene of the machines dumping rubbish in the wasteland. Great, the world is filled in and there’s a lot of details, but this adds unnecessary time to an already overly long film and contributes nothing to the movie. It is like the additional scenes in the original Star Wars movies. More there because they can rather than there for any purpose.

I haven’t really gotten into the characters and the story and that is because they work. They fit the world, the story is a fair enough continuation of the world and its events (even if Deckard’s inclusion was more one of pandering to fans than actually necessary for the narrative). What it isn’t, is something exceptional with characters who you will remember well after the film. Sure Deckard comes back but this isn’t the Deckard of the first film who left such a strong impression. And no-one comes close to Rutger Hauer’s impressive and awe-inspiring performance from the first film.

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However, we have ended up with a second Blade Runner movie. It is a pretty good movie and makes some great choices in sound and visuals with a functional story and characters. Could it thematically have been more powerful? Definitely. Could the characters have been more memorable and had more impressive dialogue? Absolutely. Am I nit-picking just because I can? Yes, yes I am.

But here’s the thing. If I go to a Sword Art Online movie I go in expecting it to kind of be rubbish and I get something that is kind of rubbish but fun and I walk out happy. Blade Runner is a title in the science fiction world where love it or hate it, there’s certain expectations built around it. Any sequel was going to be measured against those expectations. For me it fell short, but wasn’t a crushing disappointment. It did well enough but if only it had been better.

Alright, over to you. If you’ve seen the film what are your thoughts?


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ID-0 First Impressions: Not for me

This one came out on Netflix over the weekend so I thought I’d check it out and maybe binge a couple of episodes. Then I got to the end of episode 1 and figured I had other things to do.

Impressions:

It should be pretty obvious that it was not love at first sight for me and ID-0. It isn’t that there is anything grievously wrong with it. My few complaints are either minor nit-picks or just personal taste issues mostly relating to the main characters shrill voice, the unexciting feel of the episode, the illogical design of the system being used to transfer their consciousness into a machine and some minor issues with some of the character designs and animation. None of these are actually indications that a show deserves an instant drop and if we weren’t about to launch into a new season of anime, I probably would stick this one out a bit longer. At some point I’ll likely go back and try it again when I’m in a slightly better mood as well.

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But, this episode really didn’t do much for me. Stuff happened. Young and inexperienced girl gets dragged in over her head and then abandoned by her team who are apparently selling information illegally anyway. The end result of that being that her consciousness is trapped inside the machine she was in and her body is still on the ship and she can’t get back. Um…

Didn’t the ship back up their consciousness in case the machines got broken? And the other guys’ machines were smashed to little pieces and so they just woke up? So surely somewhere in their infinite wisdom, someone programmed the thing so if it got out of range is assumed the thing was destroyed and consciouness would be returned to the body? Right? No. Apparently not. Apparently you can just get stuck in a machine and your body, without you in it, can go off elsewhere.

I’m a fantasy fan so I’m used to premise’s that have holes in them but that seems like a technology killing issue. No one would ever use it if that could happen so easily.

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Anyway, they do give us some back story on the protagonist. She’s an orphan, needs a scholarship, yada, yada, yep, usual deal. Again, not bad, just not interesting to me right at this point and time.

It is amazing how each issue isn’t that big on its own but the snowball effect was that overall this episode just fell pretty flat and even though I’d set up to binge watch (had snacks and everything), I passed on this in the end.

Oh yeah, there’s like space pirates and government groups and all sorts of other issues going on. Bit of a space battle (like 1980’s style with green lasers everywhere), and then episode ends.


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Sagrada Reset Series Review: Why An Interesting Premise Isn’t Always Enough

Overview:

Sakurada is a town where the majority of the people have power. One specific power each that can be used under specific conditions. Most of these powers are harmless and fairly useless individually, but this is still a point of concern for those watching over the city. Kei’s power is that he doesn’t forget anything including time even after the world is reset by Misora. By combining their powers they are going to work to help people.

Review:

Sagrada Reset (or Sakurada Reset) is a fairly interesting anime. That will probably be hard to believe if you spend even five minutes doing a google search on it and see the parade of reviews of the first, second and third episodes and then see that the internet went pretty silent on this title as a large number of viewers dropped this and moved on. However, this is a 24 episode anime and one that the writers clearly intended people to watch the whole of rather than receiving instant gratification each and every episode, and to be honest I’m really glad I watched this through to the end, despite my own stated desire to drop this show mid-season.

There are plenty of shows where the whole is greater than the sum of their parts and some of those actually manage to be decent week to week, so I guess the question I’m left with is why was Sagrada such a frustrating viewing experience when stretched out from April to early September?

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For a lot of the reviews I read of the early episodes, it was the characterisation and pacing that was killing the show. The characters were compared to robots, androids, lifeless dolls and pretty much anything else that has about as much personality as a brick. It wasn’t even that much of a stretch. These characters do spend a great deal of time sitting very still with limited movement other than the occasional head tilt, talking in a manner that to the average listener sounds grossly unnatural. To be precise, the characters are ridiculously precise in a way that no-one ever is when speaking. It is an odd experience listening to them and there isn’t much visually happening to distract you.

That isn’t the same thing as a criticism though. Certainly it isn’t natural, but natural is probably not what anyone intended to go for with these characters. So for the first three episodes, I found these characters fascinating. Not actually good characters or terribly real, but interesting in that unique, what-are-they-doing kind of way. Admittedly, by mid-season, some of that charm had worn off and what I was left with was stilted characters who I will admit now were developing (as evidenced by where they end up) but it was happening so slowly that it was almost imperceptible until you actually reflected back.  Kei in the final episodes isn’t the Kei we met early on despite what the other characters might say and Misora, the emotionless robot girl herself is almost getting close to real person status by the end and you can’t really put your finger on when that transformation occurred because it has been a slow build of a myriad of tiny changes.

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Basically, the characters won’t work for everyone and none of them are going to end up on my character of the year list, but I am going to remember them because they don’t fit into the average moulds I’m used to seeing marched out onto the screen in anime. Again, not sure if that is positive, but it isn’t a criticism either. It just kind of is and different people in the audience will respond to them differently. For a lot of people that response is to turn the show off.

The second major criticism of the pacing is a harder one to discuss. The pacing is incredibly slow. Even with a two year time-skip by the time I got to the end of this show’s run it felt like I had been watching it forever. Part of that I think will be solved now that the full show is released and I intend to revisit this show and binge it in three or four blocks to see if that makes the pacing any more tolerable. With the pacing as it is though… Well, you have to either be really interested in the premise or find the characters really fascinating if you are actually going to push through with this one particularly during the first twelve episodes. Fortunately the second half definitely hits the accelerator and while it is still fairly measured, it isn’t making you want to pull your own hair out anymore.

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But these aren’t the only issues the show suffers from. It also suffers from a main character whose motives and actual personality are murky. He isn’t the good guy trying to save the world because he can. He isn’t on any kind of ego trip. He doesn’t necessarily want to be the best. He openly admits he is being selfish and that his own goals don’t have any higher meaning other than they are what he wants to do. Basically Kei Asai is the central figure of a story and his actions do drive a lot of the plot but those actions regularly have no significant meaning behind them. There is the motivator of trying to undo the death of Sumire Soma from early in the story, but most of the missions Kei undertakes for the Bureau have no direct connection to that event and it is hard to see what benefit Kei is seeking from his actions sometimes. That made it hard to care whether he succeeded or not, a lot of the time.

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Misora isn’t much better. Particularly early on. She seems so empty and useless as a character, her entire identity defined by how Kei sees her. It would be very easy to rant about female characters lacking agency but when we see the entire journey Misora takes, while it doesn’t make her earlier character all that palatable, it makes it hard to get on a high horse about character development. Misora arguably has the most development as Kei, despite changes that you would expect from the life he has lived, doesn’t gain anywhere near as much in terms of personality as Misora does from the events and experiences.

With the two central characters being hard to care about or rally behind, it keeps the audience at a distance from the show. There’s limited investment in the events and in their outcomes early on. Not to mention, Misora’s Reset ability is overwhelming and it is hard to imagine something coming along that she couldn’t fix despite the early blunder where a Reset had already been used making it ‘impossible’ to fix Soma’s death.

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Yet despite all these potential criticisms and deal breaking flaws that the show exhibits, there is one thing that having watched it from start to finish that I am very happy with. This is a planned and fully cohesive story. With one exception (that I’m hoping does tie in and I just missed it), every one of the earlier stories and events that Kei and Misora go through in that first half of the series is utilised and drawn back into the central plot as the show moved into and through its final arc. Conversations and ideas that felt meaningless, bewildering, or tacked on and then forgotten, suddenly serve great purpose and come together to make an ending which is rich in meaning and purpose and feels genuinely rewarding. Part of the reward is that you succeeded in the endurance test of not dropping this show, but the other part is that what you are seeing is actually satisfying story telling.

It is the kind of thing that is seen far too rarely in anime. As a medium, anime is there and then gone. One season is quickly followed by another and so many shows come out that viewers take one or two looks (and a lot follow a three episode rule) and make their choices. So shows stack their ideas and displays of prowess and frequently forget the greater narrative leading to stagnating middle-seasons and convoluted or messy endings (or worse, a non-ending). For everything that Sagrada Reset has against it, that ending alone made it worth my time.

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But, I wouldn’t have gotten there if I hadn’t been drawn to other aspects of the shows. The main draw for me was the premise. The town of Sakurada was interesting and the way powers could be combined and used for unexpected purposes was enough of a novelty for a slowly moving plot to keep me coming back even at the mid-season point where I seriously considered letting this show go from my line-up. The interactions between the students and the bureau also gave me hope that this story had some greater purpose or meaning in store for us and ultimately it did do something with those ideas even if it was never quite what I expected. And that was the other part of the show’s charm. It never quite went the direction I thought it might go but it never did anything that you could consider overly crazy with its narrative. Everything was logical and methodical and while that may not sound all that appealing, I quite appreciated it.

I will put a warning on this anime though if you are triggered by acts of self-harm. Kei has very little sense of self-preservation and some of his tactics and moves are quite underhanded and on at least two occasions violent. So while this show is not a gore fest or anything of the sort, those scenes are confronting, more so because the rest of the events are so benign.

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This isn’t an anime I will recommend because the vast majority of people are not going to like it. However, it you’ve got the time and you like to see something that takes a slightly different approach (not a radical reinvention or innovation but just not exactly the norm), then this is worth watching. If you make it through to the end you’ll probably gain some satisfaction though whether you end up feeling it was worth the time it took to get there is something only you can decide.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 24: Kei is Everyone’s Hero

Review:

As this is a final episode review I’m not worried about spoilers so if you are concerned, please go back and read some of the reviews of earlier episodes.

I know with absolute certainty that writing a full season review of this is going to be really hard. There are some things about this show that I have loved (and that’s why I made it through all those very long feeling episodes), but the glaring flaws of the series haven’t gone away. They carry through right to this final episode and are actually emphasised by the fact that a lot of this episode returns us to the thoughts and feelings we had back in those first few episodes nearly six months ago.

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Having resolved the whole power loss thing and the future of Sakurada (or at least found a temporary solution so things can go on hold) the majority of this episode focuses on the inter-relationships between Kei, Misora and Soma. Though, we do get flashes of pretty much every other significant character from the series so we can see that they all in fact got a more or less happy ending. It is a blink and you miss it nod to the fact that other characters exist.

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Despite the fact that the main plot resolved itself, I actually found this ending reasonably satisfying because the story started with this trio and has been shaped around their relationships, so giving a final episode to properly provide closure here didn’t feel like an added extra. It actually felt like the writers had carefully considered what the main story was and realistically it was always about Kei, Misora and Soma as the whole powers getting taken away crisis only really came up toward the end of the run.

Yeah, I’ll get to a full review soon but right now I’m feeling pretty happy with how this played out even if the actual viewing during the mid-season became incredibly frustrating.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 23: When Going Back to the Beginning Works

Review:

Sagrada Reset has been an odd watch and as watch the penultimate episode the show is truly demonstrating that if nothing else this was an incredibly well thought out project, even if that very calculated nature early on made the series a someone stilted viewing experience and one that wasn’t particularly enjoyable in the early stages. Despite that, this episode only works because of the foundation that was carefully laid out and these last four episodes and this final arc has been an incredibly satisfying viewing experience.

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As always, the characters take time out even during what counts as an action sequence, to discuss their personal philosophies and question the meaning of their actions in dialogue that really does not sound natural and yet after 23 episodes of this I’ve kind of gotten used to it as a viewer.

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Kei still settles issues with threats of self-harm rather than threats against others, a throw back to one of the very first cases he worked on where he actually cut himself before a reset. It is pleasing to note that Asai Kei isn’t on some epic journey of self-discovery. He is who he is and while his views might be a little off, he remains true to them and they dictate his every action. Personally I find him too idealistic and immature to really get the admiration many of the other characters seem to have for him, but as a character he is ultimately more interesting than someone who is just going to fight to get stronger every episode. I also like that the double agendas characters have used all the way through the series comes back in this episode where Kei is seemingly trying to convince Urachi but is actually working very solidly on persuading someone else to join his side.

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Unfortunately, Misora’s role in all of this was glorified secretary but it kind of looks from the preview like she’ll have a bigger part to play next episode. And I am really kind of wondering what is going to happen now Sumire has returned to Sagrada?

It is hard to say without seeing the final episode, but I really think this is a series that if you bailed out on early is worth giving another shot to now that you can binge episodes in bulk. This has become quite an interesting story when you look at the whole rather than the individual parts which admittedly are a little buggy.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 22: What’s Next, Kei?

Review:

We’re so close to the end now and I have to say, this show has becoming surprisingly great to watch in its final arc. I’m actually thinking this story would have worked much better as a binge because all that set up wouldn’t have taken months, but hours and I’d probably have tolerated it better. However, that’s hindsight for you and it isn’t as though I can go back and tell myself just to wait until this finishes airing.

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Kei is getting the gang together and then faces off with Urachi in a last ditch effort to save Sakurada from having memories of powers removed. It is odd because I don’t want Urachi to win but Kei’s overall motivation is pretty flimsy. He likes the town and the powers. That seems like a really weak motivator for attempting to defy a government agency, reverse time, and now kidnapping.

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Still, Urachi is entirely self-motivated and really hasn’t thought about anyone outside of himself so I wouldn’t want to see him come out on top. It is also good to see Kei relying on the others to keep his plan, whatever it is, moving even if he does seem to be using his ‘friends’ like chess pieces in this match.

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From the looks, this show has two episodes left and I’m really hoping it can end on the high it seems to be heading for and doesn’t manage to fall apart by trying to be overly clever at the end. If it can do that, than this has the potential to be one of my favourite shows of the year despite how irritating I found a lot of the first half. Of course, that is ‘if it can do that’.


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Sagrada Reset Episodes 19 + 20: An Interesting Development

Review Episode 19:

Thinking about it, I would have to say that this was the best episode this show has so far delivered. What is kind of strange about that statement is that nothing that happens in this episode makes sense of is interesting if you haven’t sat through at least 17 of the previous episodes (the glass marble one is still making me scratch my head about why it existed). Still, this episode delivered and while I expected Misora to be targeted I probably should have paid more attention to the time frame for the show; both the time Kei and Misora have spent together and the time that Urachi can actually effect. I may have seen that development coming if I’d put the two together after the last episode. But I kind of like that sort of development that catches me by surprise but makes perfect sense.

This week we get a back story for Urachi and I like that they don’t spend too much time trying to make him a sympathetic character but do establish his goals and motives and it all kind of makes sense even if you do not want him to actually succeed.

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However outside of this, we finally get closure on why Soma Sumire died. No more speculation or half answers but actual truth and understanding. Also, the whole swamp man story from way back when returns which is a nice bit of cohesion for the series.

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The scenes between Soma and Kei this week are some of the best with Kei actually emoting in a genuine fashion for once and Soma finally not being the ‘witch’ but just a girl (or a copy of a girl) who isn’t going to end up with the guy she likes because she prioritized his happiness (maybe). It was kind of adorable.

Anyway, glad this show made a last minute attempt to pull itself out of a downward spiral and this second half has been really quite interesting, though probably not enough to offset how slow that first half was.

Review Episode 20:

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And we have entered what appears to be the final story with part one of five and abilities have been wiped from Sakurada with people forgetting them. However, Kei can’t forget and after one day of exploration he decides that abilities need to come back so he’s going to get Misora to reset.

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Of course, she’s been reverted to before she met Kei and has no reason to do what he says and more importantly has no memory of his power. Enter the photo that they were given which creates a replica of the place when abilities existed and then give a nod back to the fact that before Misora met Kei she just reset whenever she saw someone cry. Yes, the guy who has been pretty robotic all the way through has finally cried though to be honest I’m not sure if it was because of the situation or just because trying to reconcile all those different memories, both real and fake, just finally got to him.

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So, they now have two days to find a way to stop history repeating and abilities being wiped from Sakurada. On the bright side, even Kei acknowledges there isn’t really a reason abilities are needed and that he just likes it. I’d be kind of disappointed if they tried to pull some kind of theme of justice out of this at this point given all the way along we’ve been subject to the whims of the characters.

Looking forward to these final episodes.


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The Empire of Corpses Movie Review: Another Case of a Plot Getting Lost Amongst Literary Allusions and Sci-Fi Spectacle

Overview:

Watson, a student doctor, becomes obsessed with the idea of bringing back a human soul after his friend dies. Using his friend’s corpse, he begins experimentation using the work of Victor Frankenstein as a guide. When he is caught, he is sent on a mission to retrieve Frankenstein’s notes and then a whole bunch of other stuff happens.

Review:

I don’t watch anime movies very often but every now and then one comes out that I think I’d really appreciate watching. The Empire of Corpses caught my attention early on being set in the 19th Century and focussing on the idea of Frankenstein’s legacy having become a reality. Building the British Empire literally through the use of an army of corpses and corpse labourers is a fascinating idea and thinking about how that would change the world, and the sheer number of arguments it would cause in terms of morality,  is something that I thought I’d really like to explore. Unfortunately, this movie is interested in introducing those ideas but it isn’t interested in dealing with that reality. While the first half an hour or so sets up what looks like it will be an interesting moralistic tale about the subjective rights of the deceased and empire building, those ideas quickly get swept aside and make way for a convoluted and not entirely realised narrative that exclusively follows Watson’s obsession with death and scientific pursuits.

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Points therefore must be given to Watson’s characterisation. He really does follow the mould laid out in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein perfectly. Pursuit of answers and science at the expense of anything and then the horrible realisation of what his pursuit has wrought but still an attempt to justify the actions and to bring some good from what is in this case a steaming pile of corpses. If the movie was seeking only to bring the tale of Frankenstein to a new era through a story that could almost be seen as a very late entry sequel it may have even been successful as Watson’s links to Frankenstein are incredibly clear and his relationship with Friday, the corpse he has brought to life, is definitely the high light of this film.

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But why stop at just referencing Frankenstein? Why not reference any and every classic work and character from the era, even when it makes zero sense to do so? Also, why restrict the story to just one location and setting when we can trot around the entire globe? Let’s deal with a former American President visiting India, the Russians attacking various groups through the use of exploding corpses, a trek through Afghanistan, skip on over to Japan where we can get some cliché culture before exploring a lab, and then we’ll just jump across to America before getting back to the Tower of London. The whole movie is so incredibly cluttered with unrealised ideas and most of them end up being fairly pointless.

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The entire Russian influence is one of the most pointless aspects of the story. There are Russians attacking our main characters, but they meet with a Russian who is going to guide them to where the notes might be in Afghanistan. We’ll meet another Russian scientist who will point out the horror of the research (and in so doing will turn his actual living friend into a living corpse before having the corpse do the same to him) and then somehow this becomes the point that everyone will remind Watson about later on that they died for something. None of this ends up feeding in to the overall narrative where we end up with The One (Victor’s original creation that could talk), using Frankenstein’s notes to try to create a soul in an android and trying to transfer his own mind into the mind of Friday because apparently Friday’s corpse has been well taken care of. In case you got lost there, don’t worry, it doesn’t actually make any sense while watching it either.

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And this brings me to one of the most maddening points of the entire movie. The final half an hour. Let’s just ignore the fact that they were on a quest to retrieve the notes, which turned into destroy the notes, which turned into Watson’s obsession with copying the notes before destroying the notes, and then they had to retrieve the notes when they got stolen again. Let’s just ignore that. It isn’t relevant. And we’ll ignore that midway through the story we suddenly had characters who could influence corpses by sound, either voice or stamping their foot. Why and how this works is clearly unimportant to anyone writing the story so we’ll just let it go. I’ll even ignore the fact that somehow our main group of two guys, an automaton girl and a shuffling corpse managed to get through a heavily armed military installation in order to get to the final confrontation even if that doesn’t end particularly well for the corpse and the girl as they end up at the centre of the whole thing.

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What I won’t ignore is that until this final part there was an attempt to at least make corpse technology look like a technology. Out of place in the time period technology, but technology. This final sequence forgets all of that and instead we suddenly have green lights floating about and random blue crystals growing over things as organ music plays. It is all visually spectacular and all completely fantastical gobbledygook with no grounding in anything that could be considered reality even within the reality constructed by this movie. It is like they just ripped up their own rule book and went for broke. Including, after one of the character cuts the power, smashing some keys on an organ manages to repower up the device momentarily. I’m really willing to suspend disbelief during a film, particularly one about reanimating corpses in the 19th Century, but there is suspension of disbelief and then there is swallowing bull and this movie crosses the line far too much in the final sequence.

Not to mention, even after it is all done and we get an aftermath, the story only deals with Watson and Friday. We do not get to see how the world has changed after the night the corpses that were relied upon as labourers went crazy and the sheer mass murder of civilians. You would think that there should be some significant social reform going on but why bother letting the audience know about any of that. It’s clearly just background noise.

Anyway, I bought this film on sale and I’m glad of that because full price would have been asking too much. I’m also glad I watched it with someone because the two hours would have felt really long if I didn’t have someone to help me make fun of the sillier moments in the narrative. Not to mention it was nice to know it wasn’t just me losing track of what was going on at the end. It just does not make sense.

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So do I recommend this?

That’s tough because I know I’ll probably rewatch this next year at some point. It is bad, terrible in fact in terms of story, but there’s enough ideas and the like here that I wouldn’t mind another watch. It also looks really good with some great atmosphere. Not to mention, its a zombie anime and I like bad horror stories. So, no, I probably wouldn’t recommend it but it isn’t a completely unwatchable, fling the disc out the window kind of movie. That’s not exactly high praise but its the best I can manage for this one at the moment.


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Karandi James.

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Sagrada Reset Episodes 17 + 18: Too Late To Save It But Things Are Finally Moving

Review Episode 17:

It is a shame it has taken 17 episodes to get to this point where finally the audience is given some insight into how such a town came to be and what its purpose might have been. Though, outside of that, the story continues as Kei tries to correct everything he sees as wrong even though no one else seems to even care what is going on the Bureau continues to either be a faceless entity or represented by the sub-group who are clearly pushing a personal agenda that may or may not be problematic (I can’t see the future so what would I know).

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Overall, Soma seems to still have things going her way but we’re still in the dark as to what it is she’s trying to ultimately accomplish. It would be nice if there was some clarity around that soon. As always, I find the idea of this show more interesting than its reality.

Review Episode 18:

That was actually a really good episode. Not just good compared to everything that had come before it, but just great to watch. You finally feel like there’s some pay off from watching through all the very stilted conversations this show has thrown at you.

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The character motives still remain a little murky and at times you just have to wonder how they think things will be better if they succeed, but at least all the little incidents are starting to make sense as to why we sat through them (except the girl in the glass marble – that one is still a mystery).

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There’s one more part in this particular arc and I’m really looking forward to it now. I still don’t actually think I should recommend this for people to watch. As a viewing experience it is still kind of lacking, but at least I’m starting to feel like it has been worth sticking it out.


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Karandi James.

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KADO: The Right Answer Series Review: The Higher They Rise, The Further To Fall

Overview:

One day a giant cube appears off the coast of Japan, swallowing a passenger plane. Turns out a visitor from the anisotropic (or outside of the known universe) has come to Earth to give us some gifts. One of the passengers on the plane is a negotiator and he begins the process of communicating with and negotiating with zaShunina as the world is inevitably changed.

I reviewed KADO week to week so if you are interested in my individual episode thoughts, click here.

Heavy spoiler warning on the following review.

Review:

Two thirds of this show is absolutely brilliant science-fiction. There’s no excess, no silliness, no teenagers in giant robots, no random power ups for the sake of it, no actual fighting, but just new ideas and humanity reacting to those ideas. Here’s an unlimited power source. Okay, who is going to control it? What are the economic implications particularly for countries that rely on the export of fossil fuels? Are there any risks? It’s smart and incredibly thought provoking and while it may not be the most exciting thing to ever grace your screen, it is compelling and it was distinguishable from so many other first encounter stories. Yes, we’ve had peaceful first encounters before, but they are few and far between. Even with the nagging feeling that the benevolent zaShunina was up to something, and even if he had turned out to be evil, this show could still have maintained the tone that had really set it apart from the other anime in the Spring season.

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Alas, it was not to be. The final third of the story plunges us headlong into conflict, introducing a second anisotropic being, before going into a finale that really just needs to be scrapped and rewritten (more on that later, be warned about heavy spoilers coming). Previously, I wrote a feature about anime that end badly and some of the ways that anime manage to stuff up their endings. It is a frequent problem with anime in that resolutions seem to be really hard for them to get right. I’m not expecting a happily ever after for all involved but I would like my endings to make sense and that is where KADO failed completely. Somehow I left that option off the list of ways endings annoy me but KADO has definitely made it clear that this is worse than pulling a power of friendship card.

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However, I shouldn’t start by reviewing the end of the anime. Despite the appalling conclusion we arrive at, there is plenty to admire about this show and I would still argue that for avid anime fans it is worth the watch. At the very least, the first two thirds are quite compelling and even when it falls apart, it is more the disappointment of it that hurts rather than the story itself. There are plenty of worse endings out there. While the disappointment you feel as the show veers away from being that must watch, must talk about show of the year to something far more average is palpable, overall the show remains above average as a viewing experience because even at its lowest point it is still perfectly watchable (just no longer brilliant).This one just feels much worse because of how much better it could have been and that’s really an unfair scale to judge it on (though it doesn’t take away that bitter taste in your mouth after you watch it).

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Visually KADO is impressive. I know some people hated the look of it and that’s fine. And yes, there are some scenes where the CG doesn’t sit quite right particularly in some character movements, though fortunately they don’t move a lot because there’s a lot of standing or sitting and talking (it was a show about negotiation for the most part). There are some really beautiful sequences and moments and at the very least it is visually striking. The characters are easily distinguished and the settings are appealing to look at. Overall, it is a visual feast for the eyes and while it won’t be to everyones’ tastes, it certainly worked for me.

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The music is equally grandiose and memorable. The opening theme is one of my favourite for the year (not sure if it is my favourite yet but it is certainly a contender) and throughout episodes the background music is suitably subtle or dramatic depending on the requirement. I really enjoyed the music in this series and felt it really added to the overall tone.

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For the first two thirds, I really liked the characters. I liked how the different representatives in the government and on the UN council were portrayed. I liked how average citizens, reporters, the military, scientists, and a whole range of people and their reactions came across as the world essentially changed after the arrival of the cube. Other than a small group, very few of these characters progress beyond being a stand in for a larger section of society but that is the role they’ve been given and they do it well. Shindo and zaShunina and their interactions were thought provoking and occasionally even amusing. As the central characters they really had a lot of work pulling us along through what was an otherwise fairly dry first encounter portrayal and they did it really well.

I also liked the themes and questions this show raised. The discussion about the wam being a gift to humanity and not countries was clever and thought provoking as were many of the observations by characters in the early stages of this anime.

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And then it all went wrong.

Keep in mind, that up until episode 12, they hadn’t done anything that could not be salvaged but a lot of eyebrows were raised when they revealed that one of the human negotiators was actually also an anisotropic being and wanted to send zaShunina away because she didn’t like him messing with the world. Then they had a fight between the two anisotropic beings that ended with Shindo getting severely injured and a really cliché anime encounter as the female anisotropic being first healed him and then got really embarrassed because she wasn’t wearing clothes. This was not good. First we’d moved away from negotiations to combat, we’d introduced another super being so they could have a fight sequence (no human could have) and then we went smack into teen drama territory. Where did the clever and intriguing writing go during this phase?

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Episode 11 tried to raise our hopes. Shindo had a plan. He reconnected with various characters who had assisted him throughout the series and humans worked on a solution to the problem. Okay, so we’re not just going to leave it to the super beings? Awesome. We might get back on track.

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Turns out, no (Final Warning – MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW).

The final episode delivers a mind-numbingly stupid twist.

In addition to the plan that the audience were let in on, a plan Shindo clearly knew was absolutely going to fail given the actual reveal, Shindo and anisotropic being number 2 hatch a second plan. Manipulate time, have a daughter, and have her deal with the problem.

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What?

Are you kidding me?

Now I could break into a rant here about feeling betrayed and all the rest but here’s the thing, just because this didn’t end the way I wanted it to or thought it might doesn’t actually make it bad. Certainly we’re left with questions and there’s a lot of logical gaps in how this concluded, and most certainly this isn’t exactly a satisfying ending when those of us who followed the show from the beginning followed it because of the different approach it was taking and not because we wanted to see super power beings babble at each other and then just end the fight. But, it does resolve the overall plot and given events in the final four episodes and zaShunina’s increasingly erratic behaviour in the final episode it kind of forced itself into this kind of conclusion.

I still think though if you are going to bring in time manipulation have the future daughter show up about twenty minutes earlier so that Shindo doesn’t die a completely pointless death. That wouldn’t make this ending any easier to swallow but at least wouldn’t make it a complete waste of space.

The show is actually a victim of its own earlier episodes. It set a tone and standard for its plot that the second half utterly failed to live up to. Most of us went in expecting nothing because we hadn’t even heard of the show until it started, and then it was amazing. It was well written and interesting and seemed to be heading somewhere a bit different. It just couldn’t hold onto that for a full 12 episodes. Pretty much everything after the introduction of the Sansa is questionable as to where this started going wrong. But, if I take away the expectations I gained from those first episodes and just look at the second half, this is still one of the better shows I watched this season. So for all that I want to rant and cry foul at such a travesty of an ending, stepping back I realised that while I am hoping for a fan-fiction ending that actually does the show justice, this is still not the absolute piece of dribble it could have been. It isn’t as though it all becomes a pointless dream sequence.

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But that then makes me wonder what the point of the ending was. Was that supposed to be a touching ending?

We had an incredibly pointless and avoidable death, followed by a dull and pointless chase and fight sequence, followed by dialogue that did nothing to answer any of the actual questions that people are sitting there thinking about. Where did the clever and thought provoking writing go? Where did an emphasis on dialogue and negotiation go? Hey, here’s a plan. It still sucks but might have worked a bit better. Why doesn’t future daughter actually try talking to zaShunina rather than turning him into pretty coloured lights? I might have believed her as Shindo’s daughter or legacy then. Some sort of compromise could have been reached once she showed up given zaShunina finally had someone who could stop him. Of course, future daughter is really an incredibly stupid plot device in the first place so it would have been better if Shindo had just figured out how to actually get zaShunina talking again given that would have actually fit the tone of the show.

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Basically, I’m annoyed because this show got my hopes up. It was so good. It was great. And then, it wasn’t. It doesn’t invalidate the good things earlier in the series. It doesn’t mean that this is a show that should be avoided at all costs. What it does mean is that you have to go in knowing that the ending won’t be as satisfying as you would like and just accept it for what it is. It is a science fiction that almost got it right but, despite its name, ultimately missed being the right answer.

Sorry that this review kind of flip flops around. I kept having to delete sections as I just went in to full rant territory because I was so disappointed by that ending.


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Karandi James.

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