The future isn’t bright. Poverty rules and young people tend to spend their time in an illegal and potentially deadly role-playing game called “Avalon” where they can play war-missions against other solo-players or teams, called “Parties”. Top players can earn loads of money with the game so next to fleeing the hard reality, youngsters can make a decent living with Avalon and buy things like real food which is extremely expensive in the future.
Ash is one of those top players, but unlike many others, she plays solo rather than in a team. The reason for this is that she used to be part of “The Wizards”, the best team that ever existed, but got destroyed because of one of the members starting to panic. This also caused her boyfriend Murphy to become one of the “Unreturned”, people who got so deep into the game that they get into a coma and have to be kept in hospitals like plants. When Ash hears about a forbidden level in Avalon where no-one has ever returned from, she decides to do everything she can to reach this level and see whether she can find her lover there. The only thing is that she’s unable to reach this level without any help so again she will have to find a Party which has to be strong enough to giude her to this level. But what is fiction and what is reality ?
Sound and Vision:
Every image in this movie has been digitally altered and although this film is made with real actors, scenes often look like Manga movies. The quality is very good but the fact that every scene has been adjusted makes it very hard to judge. The grain which you see throughout the film is put there by the director and the only minor disturbance one can find is some edge enhancement. The color balance is good much like the contrast although one cannot say that there’s much color. Everything is shown in only a couple of shades of the same colors, giving the film a very artistic atmosphere which suits the idea of a dark and eary future very well.
The soundtrack is really superb with constant use of the surround channels, creating a very wide and open atmosphere while the subwoofer often comes into action to give some extra depth to the sound. Certain scenes will have you hear bullets flying around your head (in split-surround) and that’s just the way we want it. Still, the effects are only half of the experience. Where the soundtrack really starts to come in, is the Opera-scene where the accompanying music instantly makes you have cold shivers going over your back. Really top stuff!
Gates of Avalon is a “Making Of” documentary including behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew, giving you a very good and in-depth view on how the movie was created. About every detail on the production gets exposed and although it looks much longer, the documentary lasts only 1 hour and 10 minutes. One detail: the interview fragments with director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor) have irritating background noise and when you’ve watched him for about half an hour, you’ll probably start feeling irritation towards the guy. The good thing is that for once you see that actors don’t always have to say how much fun it was to work with the director and vice-versa. Next up is a behind-the-scenes documentary which has almost two hours of footage without much explanation. You just see what happened during the shooting. Only for the fans I guess as I found it pretty boring.
We get a Special Effects documentary which goes on for about 60 minutes in detail of how the special effects were created and each company that participated gets to explain the shots they’ve made. Really good. Last we get 2 filmografies (director and composer), 2 interviews (same people) and a couple of wallpapers and screensavers (for DVDrom owners).
Avalon is not an ordinary movie. I would call it Art. The storyline is hard to find in the beginning but becomes clear later on if you pay attention really well while watching and the way the movie is portrayed with all the digital enhancements makes it look often like a dark manga-drawn movie. Anyone that liked Ghost in the Shell or Akira will probably love this one as well. The excellent extras are just that last argument that has to seduce you to buy this dvd. Even without the extras I would say this is a topper.