Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mamoru Oshii's Avalon

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Product Description
From Mamoru Oshii, the acclaimed director of GHOST IN THE SHELL, AVALON is a mesmerizing sci-fi thriller with explosive action and state-of-the-art visual effects in the stunning style of THE MATRIX! In the not-so-distant future, desperate young people risk everything to play "Avalon" -- an illegal and potentially lethal virtual war game where addicted combatants earn points and wealth. For one of the game’s greatest warriors, the "noble soldier" Ash, the search for Avalon’s legendary game stage Class Real will either lead to an entirely higher level of existence -- or be a journey from which she will never return! With awe-inspiring visuals and an intriguing futuristic story, lose yourself in the excitement of this amazing cinematic adventure!
Mamoru Oshii's Avalon is one of my top favorite sci-fi movies of all time. I've seen it countless of times and have never gotten tired of it. I don't play virtual reality games nor did I know they are still popular so I was surprised to learn that early this year Facebook bought for $2 billion a virtual reality company, Oculus Rift VR. The news prompted me to watch Avalon for the umpteenth time. I still love it!

The 2001 live action anime-like virtual reality game themed movie is filmed in Polish with Polish actors and directed by Japanese Mamoru Oshii. The incomparable animation, CGI, and digital effects are done by Japanese artists. The story and visual effects are IMHO way superior to The Matrix.

The story is set in a dystopian future where young people spend their time playing virtual games both for fun and to earn money. The top players are able to cash in their accumulated points and they buy good food, books, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. Ash, the top player tries to locate a player named Bishop who topped her record just the day before. The character Bishop and the desire to find what happened to her former teammate Murphy, who became catatonic when he reached Class Real level, challenge her to learn more about the game and to eventually reach the final level, Avalon.

The English-dubbed movie is currently streaming on Netflix but I don't recommend it. The dubbing is atrocious. Although I really ship this movie, the DVD available here in the US is unsatisfactory for these reasons:
  • The original color is sepia which would have been beautiful but Miramax and the Weinstein brothers added a bright orange tint to the whole movie. This is unfortunate because the vision of Oshii and the artistry that was painstakingly done by the Japanese artists were significantly diminished.
  • Miramax and the brothers added dialog where there are none. I think this is condescending of these brothers to think that the audience will not understand the movie with long scenes sans dialog early in the movie. The ignorant brothers practically put spoilers that early. My advice is to completely ignore the subtitles on scenes without dialog to be able to peel the layers of the story as the movie progresses. You won't miss a thing by ignoring it and it will make you better appreciate the movie. I assure you.
Avalon DVD is available on Amazon

the beautiful Ash

BTW, I also love the original soundtrack and bought a copy from a Japanese online store many years ago. Sorry, I couldn't find the website anymore and it's not available on Amazon.

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