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Avalon


Did you see Gamer? Yeah, neither did I. Did you see The Matrix? If you’re answer is no, then stop what you’re doing, take off your shoes and step on a Lego. Well if you’ve seen neither, I have found a nice middle ground for you all the way from the mystical land of Japan-Poland called Avalon. However, sepia tones and intensely tedious cinematography will scare many of you away—and rightfully so.

Grade:

In a bleak existence with little source of happiness, an illegal, virtual reality game, Avalon, was created to serve as an escape from people’s dismal lives. Ash (Malgorzata Foremniak) is one of the solo players who cannot be defeated. Formerly of the renowned team “Wizard,” Ash now works alone to gain experience points and…well that’s about it; she wants to be the best. As she continues completing missions, she learns of a secret level in the game—“Special A”—with a supposedly impossible mission. With the help of Bishop (Dariusz Biskupski) and former-teammate Stunner (Bartlomiej Swiderski), Ash works her way through the conspiracies to find the elusive “Special A.”

I seem to be on a roll finding films that have potentially solid stories, but end up being crushed by the weight of expectations. Like Metropia, Avalon builds a solid foundation for a story to develop and take flight. As the film progresses, you discover the film can go in one of two directions: the Gamer direction of the game actually killing you, or The Matrix direction of indistinguishable realities. Spoil…screw it, you won’t see it anyway…By the time Ash reaches “Special A,” you have ruled out the former choice, but the latter option is still in jeopardy. What happens? Basically nothing. After one hundred minutes of uneventful foreplay, the film just ends. Bitterness ensues.

How uneventful you ask? Good thing I sat through the whole thing for you! With exactly fifteen minutes to go, there is the final showdown so something big and epic should be imminent, right? Wrong. We get between six and seven minutes watching the philharmonic in the nearby chapel playing/singing, then five minutes of credits. So if your math skills are lacking, that’s between three and four separated minutes devoted to the most crucial scenes of the film. After countless extended scenes of increasingly mundane activities (Ash cooking for her absent dog, Stunner eating an entire meal, Ash buying books, etc. ad nauseum), such a lazy ending is on the verge of insulting to the viewer.

Unlike the aforementioned Metropia, the aesthetic of the film does nothing to aid the deteriorating plot. Filmed almost entirely in a sepia tone (your reprieve comes with twenty minutes as Ash enters “Special A”) and given an atrocious dub by the folks at Netflix, Avalon is somewhat difficult to watch, and I mean that in the comprehensive sense, not the entertaining sense—although that is somewhat true as well.

The effects attributed to the world of Avalon and game-specific properties are muddled and blurry, which literally makes it difficult to discern what is happening. Some descriptions of the film say the game is watched by all, a la Hunger Games, but that is never alluded to in the film apart from the non-active players within the building watching a screen that looks like 3-D without the glasses. Even outside the game there are incomprehensible pieces. When Ash uses her computer we are shown what is on the screen. It might as well be an alien language as she clearly understands it, but there’s no plausible reason for us to.

I may be excessively negative at the moment, but where Avalon fails, it fails mightily. The pace of the film is simply too slow. One Netflix reviewer bemoaned the American addiction for shoot’em up, fast-paced films, but I can enjoy a slow film, as long as it contains some substance. The attempt at philosophical enlightenment at the end is feeble at best (definitely heavy-handed and lacking in subtlety), and the sepia tone, in general, should be forgotten unless you’re having an old school photoshoot.

I have heard much better things about the writer and director’s other collaboration, Ghost in the Shell, so I’d suggest going that direction first.

Here’s a Polish trailer, but you get an idea of the visuals. This shows an inaccurate representation of the action:

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