The Sky Crawlers is amazing in its themes but damn boring in its presentation. Although one could say the same thing about all of Mamoru Oshii’s films. Whatever, I only liked his Ghost in the Shell movie and only because I had already read the manga.
So the movie is about a war sponsored by countries, only for the purposes of keeping the populace at bay. The concept is interesting, few people keep on fighting with airplanes, the whole thing is filmed and broadcasted by companies, and the people look at fear and dread at the futility of death and destruction. Without that, they wouldn’t appreciate their peace and the tension between the nations would be far edgier. At the same time, the pilots who fight and die for this purpose are not normal people. They are specially created and bred to be emotionless and following orders. After all, their single reason for existing is fighting and dying in the name of piece. Sounds weird but the human psyche is based on an equilibrium of duality.
So yes, the story is very interesting. The whole thing is seen through the eyes of the protagonist, one of the pilots, and all exposition of the specifics is done through dialogues… which is also the downfall of the film. THERE IS TO MUCH TALKING AND TOO LITTLE ACTION. Which is the director’s trademark, along with that silly dog he loves to show in all his movies. I believe in what they say about the first rule of scenario-writing. SHOW; DON’T TELL. Yes, the story is great but being described like a dull monologue is not helping much. Neither does the emo style of the characters; everybody is way too emotionless and sad. Which is excused in the context of the movie but still doesn’t look appealing to the average viewer. Or me. It all looked much better in the Ghost in the Shell movie, because everybody there was already overtaken by technology and was supposed to be somewhat robotic. Over here the feeling is not sitting well. Heck, the world still feels like it’s still in the industrialization period and there are cottages and rural areas everywhere.
I admit that the director did a wonderful job at showing how the protagonist lives and DOESN’T feel. He even made him an exception to the rule by having him questioning his purpose in life. He even included a possible romance, a sub story about the opposing pilot’s identity, even the probability of him being constantly cloned every time he dies. We never get a clear explanation about all that yet they are there as food for the mind. Not bad but not great at the same time. The whole thing is based on some sci-fi book and the movie shows very little of the whole world described there. The lack of explaining ends up being another minus, as the average viewer is not allowed to immerge in this most unorthodox setting and instead is shown lots of characters that have gone through a lot out of screen. Not a good thing if you want the audience to like your characters and world.
Beyond all that, the production values are very good, feeling like a blend of old (the style of the dog-fights) with new (the covering of the events by the media). The thing is, the character figures don’t feel too uniformed with the backgrounds. Meaning, while the airplanes and the buildings are CGI, the characters are drawn in a rather simple 2D style and thrown in the foreground, making the antithesis too obvious. And as I said the emo expressions don’t help. This is hardly one of studio I.G.’s better works.
In all, The Sky Crawlers try to show too much and only end up telling too little. Just like the Ghost in the Shell movie, you are supposed to have read the background story prior to the movie, which is a weak excuse for not showing it on screen, or throwing the viewer to stare at things he doesn’t understand and spend most of the duration looking at emo caricatures piloting sleek retro airplanes. The whole thing was better of as a mini series or a movie trilogy. As it stands it is nothing but an interesting concept with a vague and boring presentation.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 2/2 (interesting setting)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 2/2 (smooth)
Visual Effects 0/2 (bad blend of CGI with 2D)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (colorless but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (way too slow and unexciting)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (solid but dull)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 3/4 (very good ideas to bother remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 1/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (good ideas, boring presentation)
Characters 2/4 (they are good but are presented in a dull way)