The 2nd Dimension

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Viewing Journal: Redline

Movie Overview
DVD Info

Overall= A+
Story = A+
Video = A+
Audio = A

Every 5 years the race called Redline is held at a surprise location revealed shortly before the race begins. This time around it's being held on Roboworld, much to the dismay of Roboworld's militant government which has no intention of allowing the race to proceed. The race has no rules, whoever crosses the Redline first, wins. Sweet JP is a rare breed of racer who prefers retro style and raw power over high tech gadgets and weaponry. Troubled by their involvement with the mob, Sweet JP and his team just want a clean shot at winning the race. Sonoshee McLaren is a skilled and highly competitive rising star in the racing circuit. She beat JP in the last qualifier and caught his eye. Up against lethal hostility from Roboworld's government and their fellow racers, JP and Sonoshee are pushed to their limits in the race for the Redline. (Source: ANN)
Redline has a lot to live up to in terms of expectations.  Clips and trailers teasing its stunning animation have cropped up on Youtube sportatically over the past 5+ years. When it was finally released in the US, some reviews called it this generation's Akira or Ghost in the Shell in terms of sparking people's fascination with Japanese animation and its vast potential.  It was called a throwback to the golden era of anime in the 80's both both because it is completely hand-drawn cell animation and unrestrained narrative.  And that all certainly got me psyched, but is it really even possible to meet that extreme level of expectation?  Apparently it is — and then some.

The story of Redline is like a sci-fi action version of Cannonball Run in that it's about a no-holds-barred race that the authorities are trying to shut down.  This is certainly NOT the type of movie intended to stimulate esoteric introspection or to explore psychological and social themes and philosophies in the way Akira or Ghost in the Shell are.  This is a movie that is meant to get your adrenaline pumping and pull you into the thrill of the race. It's awesome and insane for its own sake, not necessarily because it advances some complex plot. Everything from it's fast pace to it's wild visuals to the intensity of the characters to the anything-goes storyline are all meant to get you to stand up and shout, "HELL YES!" 

First and foremost it's the visuals that bring people in to see this movie. And although the art style, designs and animation are unique and dynamic, it's not so much how it is animated as what is animated. It's not just that things look good, it's the level of detail included in the artwork, and the variety in the character designs, and the way that it shows the technology in action, and how it uses visual techniques to let you feel what the intense speeds that the racers are experiencing.  Like near the beginning when the main character Sweet JP puts a nitro in his car to give it a super boost, you see the nitro work it's way through the car then to the engine and explode in the engine and how that makes the the car blast forward.  And when it does, the way that it shows the car and the character warp and stretch makes you feel the incredible speed.  So much thought was given to every cell in this animation that it demands multiple viewings in order to absorb it all.

But awesome animation alone will only get you so far before you start craving substance to back it up; and Redline — beyond what I had any right to expect — delivers with absorbing characterization, a cool tone, and all-out insanity.  The variety of character designs are supported by just as much variety in their cool, psychotic or zany personalities.  You have the kind of masculine personalities reminscent of Cowboy Bebop where characters are brash or outright violent towards each other but still have a unstated respect or friendship.  Then you also have the hilariously paradoxical misfits like the crying soldier who is trying to kill his former comrades because of some past slight but apparently just wants their attention.  Plus, each character has a history, whether it's implied or directly shown via flashbacks, hinting that there is much more to this world than this standalone story.  It's that subtle depth mixed with characters' outrageous attitudes, interactions, and relationships that give the movie the incredible energy that the visuals alone could never have accomplished.

If I have one real criticism about this movie, it's the ending.  Not that the ending is bad, it's just that there is no time spent on resolution. It's like you reach the hight of the climax and then it cuts off right at that point.  There's no cooling off period, no "afterward"; there isn't even the extra scene after the credits.  Still though, the climax of the movie really is a true high point and well worth it.

This movie was years in the making, and you can really see that all of that time went to use developing not just the animation but the overall story and characters and world in which it takes place.  It's an all-out blast to experience and the kind of thing to pass around to friends because — anime or no anime — this is just too good to keep to yourself. 

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