Avalon, a movie by Mamoru Oshii (best known for the Ghost in the Shell movies) is a live-action CGI-packed film about a woman who makes her living playing an immersive computer game; kind of like a Matrix version of Everquest, only with a more military concept. The film's style is so consistent with Oshii's other films that he's starting to look a bit artistically constipated; the same moody, fussily composed shots, the same quiet, joyless, tough female lead. Most of the film has a digital sepia tone that I don't care for; I like real sepia but the digital stuff just looks digital, like the high-tech equivalent of putting a color filter over the lens. But the special effects were simple and convincing to my eye.
I liked a lot of things about it. The movie has some teasing ambiguities: the logic of the game becomes disturbing in ways that reflect the logical shortcomings of most complex video and role-playing games. Not to give anything away, but there's a "little girl" who plays a key role in the game, and the way the heroine interacts with this girl is disturbing but logical according to the limitations of the seemingly realistic game. Is it misanthropy or just poor coding? We never know, but by the end it's apparent that the girl represents the morally ambiguous forces behind the game, or at least that's how the heroine seems to regard it. The final shot of the girl has a wierd wrongness that was achieved with subtle digital effects and was prompted by a minor problem with the footage, a happy accident (all this is explained in the making-of featurette on the DVD.)
The movie also plays games with the virtues and limitations of teamwork vs. going it alone, and where reality and convincing simulation phase into one another. This is nothing new for post-Philip Dick SF movies but is handled with wit. Oshii lets the ambiguities resonate and never tries to slap The Answer onto it.
The fight scenes are surprisingly dull; lots of intercut shots of people shooting, then the tank blows up or someone falls down. It makes me wonder to what extent the elegantly choreographed action scenes in Ghost in the Shell, were the work of animation directors and such.
Apologies if this reads sloppy; until I get my computer fixed I'm posting on the fly. Also apologies for posting about such nerdy and obscure stuff, but it's hard to forge in the smithy of my soul or what have you while I'm forced to wear pants. It is only while pantsless that truly great blogposts can be composed.