Director Hosoda Mamoru's The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is one of the best movies (animated or not) I've seen in the last five years. It's entertaining as fuck, light, funny, and filled with great, likable characters from top to bottom. It actually restored my faith in the Japanese film industry that had (for the previous few years) stagnated a bit like an abandoned rock quarry that's become home to the abandoned and decomposing bodies left by a serial killer.
It's with this high praise already implanted in my mind that I first heard about Hosoda's follow up feature to TGWLTT, Summer Wars.
For the past year people have been touting Summer Wars as "the most awesomest and terrific animated movie since like forever and a half," (before it had even come out) and I got caught up in the hype waiting for my chance to see it ever since. Well, you ask like an impatient asshole child who's never been told "Get over here so I can spank some of that retardation out of you!", is it as good as TGWLTT? Is it even better?
No. No it is not.
No, Summer Wars is not a terrible movie. No, it's not even a bad movie, but it's only average... Okay, maybe slightly below average. There are maybe a handful of parts of this thing that were indeed great, but there are soooooo many more that just annoyed the shit out of me and made me scratch my head in wonder as to why the creators actually felt the need to place them in this feature in the first place. All but three of the characters (and there are DOZENS that fit into the plot and play a part in the story) didn't outright suck; the rest pissed me off because they were either stupid, annoying, or complete and royal douchebags of the Eddie Cullen-calliber. Or they were all of those things combined. And of those three personas that I didn't hate, one is just a big pussy, and the coolest one actually dies halfway through the story. The lead female protagonist (Natsuki) simply enraged me with her bitchiness too, and it's obvious by the way she's played up in the end that we were supposed to have actually liked her the whole time, and thought of her as heroic... I personally don't find ditzy selfish bitches who lie to their entire family (and drag their adoring underclassmen with them into their boiling stew of deceit) to be heroic or even likeable... But I think we can all agree that I blame Just Kidding for that and that may simply be something I have to get over myself. Whatever.
Let's just get on with the plot, shall we? We begin the story with high schooler Natsuki using her wimpy kohai, Kenji, in order to pretend to fulfil a promise to her ancient grandmother that she did indeed have a boyfriend, in order to therefore let the old woman get off her back about the subject, and therefore let Natsuki relax and enjoy her oba-san's 90th birthday party that the entire extended Jinnouchi family is gathering to celebrate... And to try and get all her relatives to forget that she (Natsuki) wants to boink her loser uncle, Wabisuke, who fucked the whole family over by selling off a huge portion of its lands (wherein he kept the cash) so that he could run away to America and party like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton's mentally challenged lovechild.
So despite the fact that Kenji has the social maturity of a shy and partially retarded golden retriever, he's forced into lying to Natsuki's entire clan for the week just to save his cute senpai a slight bit of possible awkwardness. Oh, and the Jinnouchi family is pretty much run by bossy and pissy women, and all the husbands and brothers (though respectable members of society themselves) are thoroughly whipped and treated like autistic children who can't even tie their velcro shoes. And because Kenji can barely function outside of a math book or the internet, he's perfect cannon fodder for all the annoying cunts (who take over Casa Jinnouchi for the matriarch's birthday celebration) to mock and emasculate for their twisted shits and giggles.
Aaaaaaanyway, during all of this standard shitty sitcom setup comes the fact that Kenji is a genius at numbers and coding. He's got a part-time job fixing up code for the super Facebook of the future known as OZ. OZ is pretty much an interactive, avatar-fixated, bubblegummy-colorful, Skynet-run web program of tomorrow. EVERYTHING is on OZ (government agencies, gaming, bill-paying, chat rooms, etc.), and everyone and their unborn child is already logged into it via their computers, cellphones, and Nintendo DSes.
While crying himself to sleep on the first night at Castle Jinnouchi, Kenji gets a mysterious text message from somebody he doesn't know. It's a giant list of numbers that the mathematical geek immediately begins to see a hidden message in, and he gets started on cracking it. When the message is translated to English text (resembling something along the lines of "Don't forget to drink your Ovaltine"), Kenji is happy, and he sends it back to the original texter without thinking anything of it. Honestly, what kind of a complete fucking moron does this?!
Later the next day shit hits the fan in OZ as a mysterious hacker (using Kenji's OZ avatar), who we eventually find out is called "Love Machine," starts wreaking havoc and releasing the hounds of war on the online community (as we all dreamed we could do to the MySpaces and Facebooks of today ourselves). Information is "devoured," links to EMS vehicles, traffic lights, and the stock market are destroyed or fucked with causing a global calamity like something out of Live Free or Die Hard... Only not as believable. Really, the bullshit technobabble in this flick is so ridiculous that at one point nuclear reactors across the globe, as well as satellites in the heavens, become weapons to the mysterious OZ hacker... and it all comes down to uber-geek Kenji, total bitch Natsuki, and Natsuki's younger cousin (and super-gamer) Kazuma to save the world and have some LULZ... I'm just glad they were able to have some, because I sure as hell did not. And really? The cooling programs for nuclear reactors are accessible via OZ? Someone should get a harsh talking to over this.
There are just so many problems with Summer Wars. Let's make a list, shall we?
Number 1 (as I've already stated, but really need to reemphasize): There are only three semi-likeable characters in the entire movie, and that's out of more than 2 dozen onscreen personas who have a part to play in things. And of those, our main character Kenji is a big fucking pussy who makes it very difficult to root for him half the time.
Number 2: There are so many plot points that are caused by obnoxious or stupid (repeat, STUPID AS FUCK) characters doing stupid things that make no sense to rational minds (like Natsuki's idiot cousin removing all the ice from the super-server room allowing it to overheat and the Love Machine hacker to break free from the good guys' cybernetic clutches just when they finally captured him. Stupid. Just fucking stupid).
Number 3: There are way too many "Yayz! We can WINZ!!!111!" moments that I'm guessing are supposed to make the audience cheer in appreciation, but instead felt goofy and forced. Cheering moments should never feel forced. The big "insert cheer here" scenes that I remember most are the final attack at the end when Natsuki is playing a really dumb card game against Love Machine that looks made up with rules I've yet to comprehend (seriously, I've talked to many Japanese friends since watching this flick and even they've never heard of this game before, yet we're supposed to yell out "Whoo-hoo!" whenever the movie tells us "Alright! Natsuki pulled out a 'Super Flip-card Power-clash' maneuver! Awesome!"), and then when Kenji starts doing Math in his head... That's right, we're supposed to do "the Wave" and piss our pants in excitement when an autistic character does math equations in his mutant brain. Christ...
Number 4: After two days of Love Machine fucking with the world's digital infrastructure and causing untold countless false alarms for paramedics and fire crews to chase, nuclear reactors to start to Chernobyl, and satellites to crash into populated areas, we're told at the very end that "Thank the gods that not one person died!" Okay, yeah, I might buy the entire bullshit techno-science of the whole OZ-run world, and how nuclear reactors and defense satellites are somehow hooked into a cheezy facebook clone, but that "not one person died" in this whole ordeal? Well, we already know of one person who could have been saved had OZ been up and running the whole time (the one of the three likeable cast members who kicked it), so this movie already makes no sense by its own logic. My head hurts...
Number 5: All the forgiveness and love that's given to full-blown douchebags in this story is just painful to me; Wabisuke is a smug dickhole whose actions would make the cast of The Jersey Shore blush, and yet he's actually treated like a hero in this thing, and Natsuki still loves him in the end. Yeah, those two assholes deserve each other, but keep in mind that Wabisuke stole and sold land worth BILLIONS of Yen from his family, ran away to America, and is pretty much single-handedly responsible for all the bad shit that's going down in this movie. Oh, and while a guest in the Jinnouchi house he still treats all of his loyal relatives like three-day-old diapers worn by babies with the shits. But Natsuki loves him and trusts him, so we're supposed to too... No. Fuck you, douchebags of the world. You can always get cute girls to like you for some reason, but just FUCK YOU. Die.
Number 6: Math saves the day!!! Awesome. Well, I mean "awesomely gay."
Number 7: No, wait, the real bad guys of this thing are the United States government. Really, Japan? Are you still sore from the ass-raping of WWII? Just let it go, you fuckers. Let it go. Tell you what, we'll stop bringing up what you did to Korea and Nanking, China if you forget about Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Deal?
Number 8: Shit, I could go on and on (I have a list 30 points long), but you get the idea. Summer Wars tries so hard to be either another Ghibli-like film (something that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time effortlessly achieved), or another Dennou Coil, but completely misinterprets what makes either so good. No, annoying and stupid asshole characters doing dumb things in a completely unbelievable world do not elicit any love from me, and they piss off Miyazaki too.
More than likely I'm going to get tons of hate mail over this review, but fuck it. I'd bet good money that anybody that vehemently argues against my reasons for not loving the mung out of this flick either A) didn't see it, or B) saw it but loves everything that's ever been animated from Japan, and especially Studio Ghibli stuff, because it's all perfect and [I'm] a douche-ass and [I] should shut up because one shouldn't say mean things about thing that they don't like so nyaaaaaaa! If you don't see the problem with any of my points that I made above, then you just keep on living in that windowless boiler-room tiny universe that you keep yourself locked up in. But you apparently just have to like everything (shitty or not), and you disgust me.
Oh, one thing that I thought was hilarious (unintentionally so, seeing as the forced humor in this movie is simply awful) is that fact that every last one of the avatars we see in the OZ network are all cute and silly creatures/beings... Not one disgusting one, or one obviously strange and bizarre meme to be found. That was probably the one thing that took me out of this story the most. Honestly, you just know that of the several hundred thousand avatars that we catch a glimpse of in this movie's cyberworld there would have been at least 5,000 Pedobear icons had this been the real world.
The capper to this whole review is something that reader Katya_Borgenson points out to me: that Summer Wars royally rips off a Digimon storyline called "Our War Game" almost down to the letter — situations, character actions, and stakes... That's just sad. What's even more sad is that Director Hosoda directed that Digimon movie too, but it was written by somebody other than the writer of Summer Wars (which if it was at least written by the same schlob it would have been slightly less sad)... So that means Hosoda made a retarded Digimon movie, and then was offered to direct a "new" movie (written by somebody other than the guy who wrote the Digimon movie) that was exactly like the Digimon movie, and he either didn't notice, or he thought "That's awesome! I get to make the same movie twice instead of something totally new and cool!!!" That's like James Cameron spending close to a half billion dollars making his new movie only to then find out that he just accidentally ripped off a shitty cartoon from the 90s that featured Tim Curry as the voice of the evil Smog Monster enemy... Oh, wait. Shit.
Fantastic! THIS is how I get the world to fall into despair! I give one mortal the gift of fantastic storytelling, and allow him to make one glorious movie (the one about the high school girl skipping through time, if you must know), and then YANK my gift back from said doomed soul before he can complete his follow-up film, and then make him reread his contract with me to see that it really only stipulated ONE work of genius, and a lifetime of only subpar to shitty movies to follow for the price of his immortal soul... Still though, he didn't have to make his follow up to his great movie quite this terrible.
Contrary to popular belief and any preconceived notions of my age, I am quite internet savvy. I was actually the one who first invented Napster and then bittorrent to the benefit of all of mankind... Or at least the cheapskates and closet perverts of the underworld. That's why this Summer War movie frightens me, frankly. If this truly is the face of the cyberworld to come, then we are in deep, deep doggie donuts.
I dislike cute and cuddly things that high school girls the world over believe are "charming." Unfortunately, this strangely prophetic motion picture appears to be right on the money with what it thinks is inevitable in regards to internet technologies... And that scares the bejeesus out of me. If the entire internet turns into one giant rainbow-colored piece of fluff aimed at keeping teenage girls happy I will just have to go ahead with my iBomb and systematically nuke the whole global communications network and start over from scratch again. In my NEW Internet 6.0 I will make sure that you have to be 55 or older in order to even log on. No goddamn whipper snappers will ever get on my cyberlawn again! You hear me, punks?! So keep on messing with your current internet and world wide webs, it's only a matter of time.