Summer Wars Review
Summer Wars (2009 Mamoru Hosoda) is a great movie. I had the chance to watch it last Saturday, and I loved every second of the movie. Having had some time to reflect, there are some issues in the film, but on the whole, I think it is utterly fantastic.
The film is about high school junior Kenji Koiso’s adventure with his classmate Natsuki Shinohara and her extended family over the course of four days as they try to stop a threat to Oz.
The film is only incidentally science fictional, and indeed, the scifi elements are the least interesting parts of the film (although the most gorgeous visuals of the film). The film is really about old styles of human connectivity. The relationships that are built up over time, starting with the family and extending out to friends, coworkers, and all the people one meets over the course of a lifetime. This is best embodied by the matriarch of the Jinnouchi family, Sakae, as she takes the initiative and manually calls all those she knows (family, friend, everyone) and organizes a far more effective response than the film’s antagonist can create by coopting millions of accounts.
This leads us to a discussion of the antagonist, the game loving AI called Love Machine. Love Machine, as an AI, does exactly what it is programmed to do, hack and create chaos. While programmed by a civilian, the Love Machine is purchased by the U.S. military and unleashed on the Oz network as a test. But while its attempt to create chaos are effective, it is no match for the power of human interconnectivity.
And that’s the theme of the film, whether embodied by Sakae’s amazing single handed organization of the response to Love Machine’s initial attacks, Kenji’s acceptance into the family (even after Natsuki’s deception is revealed), his willingness to sacrifice himself to save the family, and the willingness of the family (and millions of users around the world) to risk their accounts by giving them to Natsuki to gamble with against Love Machine.
But this does open up a problem. These relationships are born in crisis. And it is debatable whether these relationships, these bonds will last after the funeral, after the end of summer. One hopes so, but one can never tell.
The visuals are amazing whether in the real world or in Oz. Both the character design and the landscapes are breathtaking.
The voice acting (I watched the subtitled version) is really well done, I think.
After ruminating on the film for a few days, I do think there are a few issues. The fact that the creator of Love Machine is a member of the Jinnouchi family is too much of a coincidence. And Kenji’s stolen account is rather weird (unless it is stolen when he answers the email, not answers the code). Of course, that leads to how he is accused of being the kid behind the attack when he didn’t do anything.
Another issue is the sheer prevalence of Oz (think Second Life expanded out to encompass the entire internet). Am I to believe that everyone has an account on Oz? Really? And if that is the case, why would the U.S. military chose to use the biggest online community as a test? But these are minor quibbles.
Personally, this film should have been nominated for an Oscar. Really. If you haven’t watched this excellent and delightful film, you should do so. Now.