Aww man, just when I was in a zone and ready to launch into yet another ra-ra ‘modern Asian cinema can do no wrong!’ spiel I get knocked off my perch and onto my ass with Avalon.
So it’s the near future, and things are seriously fucking weird. It appears the world is all sepia-tones and looks more like post-war Berlin or the Czech Republic than the slick futuristic designs we usually find in movie-land. Computers still obviously dominate our lives and a virtual-reality video game called Avalon has captured the attention of a nation where players are like celebrities among the gaming subculture and handsomely paid. Why? No idea.
Calling this plot very laboured does it great favours. It’s a muddled tedious mess that doesn’t even seem to follow its own rules. Considering it is from the director of the much-lauded anime Ghost in the Shell it is surprising that Avalon is so slow and plodding, almost a direct contrast to the often hyper-energetic anime genre. A stylistic decision for his first live-action endeavour perhaps, but I fell asleep within minutes every time I tried to watch it, day or night, and thus it took about 8 days for me to actually get through it.
The film’s worst sin is making the mistake of assuming we would care about ‘the game’, a mundane run-of-the-mill war simulation. It’s just not interesting enough to devote so much talk, talk, talk to it and time to show us it. The game has all these Dungeon & Dragon type rules that made me snooze, and you better believe they crap on about them every given chance. You need to find a Bishop and a Thief to unlock the Ghost who helps you open the door to advance to Section 8, the end stage. Zzzzz. Whatever.
The end stage is of course the real world. A colourful world. Our modern world. Gone is the sepia wartime depression-period look replaced with a lively vibrant hub of cars zooming, advertising screaming, and hordes of people scrambling about their daily lives. The sudden splash of colour woke me from my slumber, but it was all left too late to grab my full attention.
So what does it all mean? Don’t know, don’t care. Perhaps a political statement on war (not that I saw any evidence) but most likely some "what is reality?" type deal, with no answers, and pretty boring questions that we’ve heard too many times lately. Cronenberg’s eXistenZ did it before and did it better, and the Matrix trilogy bludgeoned our interest to death with all their pop philosophy bullshit on the subject. Maybe hardcore gamers would appreciate some of Avalon’s ten-minute discussions of strategy, and dystopic visions of a future where gaming has been taken to an all-new level, but me, I would much rather actually play Grand Theft Auto, watch something else, or just finish my damn nap.