Story = B-
Video = A-
Audio = B+
The story unfolds in another 'possible' modern age. The main characters are youngsters called "Kildren", who are destined to live eternally in their adolescence. The Kildren are conscious that every day could be the last, because they fight a "war as entertainment" organized and operated by adults. But as they embrace the reality they are faced with, they live their day-to-day lives to the full. (Source: ANN)It's hard for appreciate a Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Avalon) film the first time through. His movies are filled with weighty silence and philosophical characters and deep themes; and usually it's hard for me to understand what it's all about, especially when all I want and expect is something entertaining. Sky Crawlers is no exception to the rule. Sure, it's more accessible that some of Oshii's recent work, but that's mainly because it has some visually dynamic, intense, and innovative aerial battle sequences and the relatively smooth and detailed character animation. But when it comes to the rest of the story there is still that deep, moody character interaction. Usually it takes me a couple of viewings to fully appreciate it and pick up on the subtleties and story details I might have missed the first time around (although I'm not sure I'll get that chance).
But putting aside the thematic depth or dark mood of the movie, I think the story suffered a bit due to its lack of explanation for some key plot elements. For example, the movie the pilots talk about this unbeatable enemy pilot called "Teacher," but no further explanation of "Teacher" is provided. And then, near the end of the movie we are told that the pilots are eternally young and are created purely for the purpose of taking part in battle. But I can't help but think that there might have been greater opportunity for dramatic impact if I had known that closer to the beginning of the movie.So in the end, this is probably among the more accessible movies that Oshii has made, and it is certainly praiseworthy for its mood-building and action sequences. But the story itself, while full of meaning (I think), suffered from either misplaced or a complete lack of plot explanation -- although, maybe that was the point.