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SKY BLUE


VOICES OF: David Naughton, Joon-ho Chung, Hye jin Yu

2005, 90 Minutes, Directed by: Moon-saeng Kim, Park Sunmin


Moviegoers unsure of South Korea’s foray into animation and Japanese-dominated anime should stick around for the end credits of any episode of The Simpsons Korea has been a hotbed of animation for years.

Originally released in South Korea in 2003 as Wonderful Days, Sky Blue is the international release with English dialogue and some re-editing. It is a gorgeous-looking and expensive film that combines CGI with traditional animation to create a vivid panorama of a future gone wrong. Set in 2140, the world is poisoned with toxic rain so the survivors are holed up in a giant bio-city called Ecoban. Claiming lifeboat rights, the founders of the city set themselves up as the ruling elite while the “Diggers” – the considerably larger refugee population – live in the city below, digging and mining carbon to fuel the city which in turn creates more pollution.

The Diggers, growing restless at the callous treatment of their people, plan rebellion. And Ecoban expatriate, Dr. Noah, has a radical plan that might just revitalize the skies. Soon, the elite have their security force running Gestapo-like campaigns to stamp out any threat to their way of life.

This class division theme shouldn’t come as a surprise to sci-fi fans. We’ve seen this ever since Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or Classic Star Trek and the troglytes in The Cloud Minders. And the dire warnings about ecological disaster are also common fare in apocalyptic themes seen as recently as The Matrix. The key significance of Sky Blue is that the movie is a vivid opening salvo that Korean anime is easily the equal to the slick work coming out of Japan.

There are some great scenes in Sky Blue an aerial chase between mini-fighters and a glider, the giant city of Ecoban itself, and a liquid sky that’s ever seething and turbulent. There’s also some great imagination at work as the vehicles, machinery and technology of Sky Blue are slick with clear influences of Giger (Alien) and Syd Mead (Blade Runner).

But Sky Blue’s plotline suffers from a soggy PG-rated soap opera plot. Security agent, Jay, discovers that one of the Digger rebels is her childhood love, Shua. But Jay doesn’t realize that her superior officer, Cade, is also in love with her. Adding this trite love triangle occasionally slows down the movie, especially as the storyline gets complicated with an assortment of secondary characters which are almost mathematically created and subtracted so that the audience feels when a character ends up getting killed.

Compared to the recent release of the Japanese cult classic Ghost in the Shell 2, Sky Blue steers away from overtly erotic or disturbing imagery. It’s not as gory or as bloody. Though there are some sensual renderings of both Jay and Shua, we’re not talking hentai here. Sky Blue is a straightforward adventure that should keep anime-lovers fascinated with fresh new art. It’s also a great sign of a new source of anime to come.


- Harrison Cheung

 



 

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