less charming and more strange than your average blog

June 14, 2004

SIFF / Sky Blue / ** 

There must be a reason why anime films are so fond of stories set in post-apocalyptic wastelands. Or, if not post-apocalyptic, at least in an unfathomably vast metropolis, enduring beneath an inky black layer of polluted cloud cover. The damned remains of humanity struggle below, wallowing in psychological darkness and out-of-control technology.

The good news is, it usually looks great. The Korean Sky Blue is no exception, opening with a promising sequence in which a mysterious rider navigates something resembling an armored motorcycle through the ruined landscape. So it's disappointing that the filmmakers have made the unfortunate decision to replace the original dialogue track with some painful English-language dubbing that undermines its grandiose thematic ambition.

The rundown: after the world as we know it was destroyed by something or other, a bunch of survivors came together and built the shielded city of Ecoban. This would be just wonderful except for the fact that they only allowed a certain number of people inside and then sealed it off, leaving everyone else to suffer in a polluted hellhole. Not only that, Ecoban is "powered by pollution." When pollution levels begin to decrease and it looks like the skies may finally clear, the leaders of Ecoban decide to perpetuate the outside pollution in order that their city may continue to thrive.

Now, even taking into account that we are dealing with a fantastical setup like this, there is a gaping plot hole here. If Ecoban consumes all the pollution from the surrounding environment, to the point where the rest of the planet will be a decent place to live for the first time in ages, isn't it in everyone's best interests to let this happen, even the Ecobanians'? The closest Sky Blue comes to explaining this is its suggestion that the leaders of Ecoban are Evil And Greedy, denoted by their angry eyebrows and flying chairs.

In any case, the narrative follows Jay and Suha, a pair of star-crossed lovers who grew up together in Ecoban but were separated when Suha was wrongly accused of murder and escaped to the outside world, joining a group of rebels planning an attack on Ecoban. (They are star-crossed because Jay has become a member of city security by the time they meet again.)

The thing is, movies like this usually don't rely on convincing characters or believable plot developments, they hinge on killer visuals and sustained atmosphere. When animes are dubbed badly instead of subtitled, it only breaks the atmosphere and reveals the inherent silliness underneath. There are some wonderful sights to be seen in Sky Blue, but too often you may find yourself feeling like you're watching a Saturday morning cartoon.

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