Friday, December 29, 2006

[1980] PHOENIX 2772: It's an adaptation of the future portion of Tezuka's Phoenix series, produced by Tezuka himself, and it's really quite good. Obviously in 1980 it predates the whole "overpowering visuals" style of anime (for lack of a better term, and I'm sure there is one, unknown by me) and gets by more on character design (and everything looks like Tezuka sketched it out before hand, it's a very true representation of his style, down to the always-jarring "graphic death visited upon cute little cartoon characters") and lush orchestration (nearly the entire film has the orchestra booming away in the background.) Storywise it's in the mystic science fiction tradition: The Earth is dying, there's this mysterious "space firebird" that can provide the energy to bring the planet back to life, or something, so space pilot Godoh takes it upon himself to get out there and bring back the bird. He's accompanied by robot-girl Olga (who raised him and is in unrequited love with him) and assorted comic relief characters both alien and human. It's a very busy movie, and that would be my biggest complaint--it tosses you from the Godoh-Olga story, to the sidekicks being goofy, to the power of the phoenix (or the corrupt dystopian government back on Earth) and back to Godoh and Olga again, without giving you a chance to take anything in. But though it moves around a lot the constant orchestration helps to give everything a consistent tone (and maybe a consistent tone was what director Taku Sugiyama was going for, as opposed to a fully coherent narrative.) The opening sequence was wonderful, though, a lengthy dialogue free sequence showing Godoh being raised by machines, including Olga. And the ending was a bit of a riff on 2001 and Pinocchio as Olga is transformed into a real woman and Godoh is reduced to infancy (a bargain he made with the phoenix to save the Earth) and they are left to reprise their roles from the start of the film. This movie isn't going to blow you away, but you're going to enjoy it because it's so solid and well-done. A movie doesn't have to blow you away in order to be really worthwhile.

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