Movie Review: The Sky Crawlers

Anime used to be more of my thing in high school, but in recent years, I haven’t really been able to find any that have appealed to me. My interests have simply wheeled off in other directions, and for the longest time, all I was finding in anime was a slew of poorly conceived and executed plots,  mindless, singular personality characters, as well as those funky hairstyles that seem to have become a cultural obsession (I blame you, Final Fantasy—but don’t worry, I still love ya). Then I picked up “The Sky Crawlers.”

The movie opens on an alternate history where, though the world is at relative peace, mankind has come to the conclusion that it cannot live without war and aggression. As such, private corporations have been contracted to continue war in the skies—but more as stage shows for the public. Kildren—teens that have been genetically designed to live in eternal adolescence—have been designed and are used to fly the planes that constitute these mock-battles, in an endless series of mindless combats. They die so no one else has to, while satisfying man’s eternal thirst for blood.

I’d seen ads heralding it and it had the recommendations of a few friends, so I decided to break my usual taboo and have a look. It also helped that its director was none other than Mamoru Oshii, the genius behind the original Ghost in the Shell.

What struck me first was how far Japanese animation has come. The movie was exquisite to look at, a seamless blend of the soft, smoothly drawn scenes of the 2d world, and the engaging, in-depth vision of 3d. The movie did not suffer from the same condition that turns many away from the genre: it was not flat, it had depth. Aerial combat was a real beauty to behold, the elegance of planes diving in and out, weaving between the clouds of a full 3d plane, explosions scorching the skies as bullets tore the hapless battlers to bits. The choreographing was excellent and everything moved naturally.

Symbolism marked the entire film. The distance between people—the loneliness of being. Wide, open spaces and silence, mingled with dark and grey atmospheres—an almost nonexistent outside world. You see newspapers heralding events, monotone news reports on a TV—but the people, the real people of the world are seen hovering in their corners, talking, but rarely heard. Repetition—the endless cycle of the world. Images repeat. Scenes seem to go through the motions, foreshadowing the great theme and twist of the film. Everything is hazed. The atmosphere is brilliant at drawing you in, leaving you wondering. It makes you think.

Characters have personality. They move and they act like real humans, and, in the case of the main characters, like teenagers. Everyone moves through their roles with a sort of single-minded haze, but when they begin to question their reality, what they want, what they need, what they think—you feel it, and the movie is brilliant for it.

Though peppered with scenes of beautiful, elegant destruction in the skies, this movie is not about the action, and the first half can feel somewhat slow because of it, but it picks up quick, and by the end, you’re hooked, eager to see how the building revelations play out. I wish there had been more action sequences because when they are done they are a real thing to behold, but they are often quick, as with real dog-fighting. Some questions also remain unanswered in the end, however, which I wish had been addressed with a little more depth. Some things feel without conclusion, others like they could have been fleshed out a bit.

Nevertheless, it is a good movie, and definitely one I’d recommend. It’s a good mystery film and it makes you think, as Mamoru tends to make you do. It doesn’t strike me as a group film, though. It’s more like a good book, so rent it for a night, grab a bucket of popcorn, and settle in for a good watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

~ by Chris G. on January 23, 2010.

One Response to “Movie Review: The Sky Crawlers”

  1.’s done it again! Amazing writing.

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