The Sky Crawlers(スカイ・クロラ)- Blu-Ray Review


Sky Crawlers doesn’t really sound like a aerial dogfight-y kinda title to me. It makes me think of flying spiders or something. But what’s in a name, anyway?


Sky Crawlers doesn’t really sound like a aerial dogfight-y kinda title to me. It makes me think of flying spiders or something. But what’s in a name, anyway?

From the beginning of Sky Crawlers, it’s apparent there is something weird going on with the world. There are pilots in the sky shooting down enemies, being shot down, and being replaced. But the pilots don’t seem as though they’re really that into the war. There’s not a crazy lengthy backstory to which side is which (one of the reasons I can’t watch Gundam, too much backstory). Instead, it’s nameless side versus also nameless side.

The pacing of Sky Crawlers is really slow. Some parts of the film were excruciatingly slow. I fast forwarded the beginning credits and there were parts of the movie I seriously could’ve watched in 1.5x speed. I’m convinced it has to do with the aesthetics of Japanese cinema.

It would be deceptive to label this with the genre “action” or “war.” It’s more about the characters. At its core is a drama with war and aerial dog fighting as the setting. As the story progresses (slowly), we learn more about the world the characters are living in, their own circumstances, and the world view that is quite different from our own, though not completely foreign. I wouldn’t want to give too much away, but I think the story is definitely affected by post-war Japan’s pacifist movement and is a criticism of war and its modern day television production values. In other words, a criticism of war television as entertainment.

I must’ve read this or heard this idea somewhere, that while Western cinema really focuses on “the good guy won in the end” kind of story, Japanese cinema goes for “the protagonist accomplished something, or grew, or something.” In other words, it’s about winning the war (Western) versus character growth (Japanese). Not that these two are mutually exclusive, but you’ll see a lot more dead protagonists and “bad endings” in Japanese movies. Ummm… don’t consider that a spoiler or anything…

Overall, I liked Sky Crawlers. I think it suffered from a really slow pace (again, aesthetics), incredibly generic character designs (except for the hookers) and sloppy visual coordination (I still hate CG paired with hand-drawn cels + painted backgrounds? And the hand-drawn animation seemed really low-framerate for a feature film). I think the story could’ve used a bit more tact too (some parts seemed super preachy but were necessary for exposition). Despite all these shortcomings, I enjoyed the movie and it made me think, at the very least. At least they try to turn the thing into a Hollywood action film or anything.

One more thing. At the very beginning, I groaned because the CG elements made the film look more like the cutscenes to a video game. Later on in the movie, a character refers to their situation as a sort of game. I wonder, then, if the comparison I made about the similarity of the fight scenes and the “war as a game” theme were not a coincidence, but an intended juxtaposition. Probably not; I think the Japanese just have a thing for crappy CG in their anime.

Thanks to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for sending me an advance review copy of The Sky Crawlers(スカイ・クロラ). It’s out on May 26th.

36 thoughts on “The Sky Crawlers(スカイ・クロラ)- Blu-Ray Review”

  1. >>I’m convinced it has to do with the aesthetics of Japanese cinema.

    No, it’s the director’s fault, Mamoru Ishii. He actually purposefully tries to distance his movies from the audience because he’s a pretentious fuck, but his work is often great (and also often crap).

    I thought the character designs fit the tone.

    As for it looking like a video game, much of the CG was done by the team behind the flight simulation game series Ace Combat.

    Sky Crawlers is a tough nut to crack and really needs rewatching to be fully grasped (which is difficult to do because it’s so slow) but there’s a lot of reward to be had for plunging the depths.

  2. I agree with basically what you said, slow but beautiful. I was very confused with the story for the 1st half of the movie to the point my head started to hurt (could’ve also been done by the animation).

    One think that you didn’t comment on that I really enjoyed was the soundtrack. I though the soundtrack was amazingly beautiful.

  3. It wasn’t the pacing, or the character designs, or the maddeningly ambiguous plot, my biggest gripe with Sky Crawlers was that the characters just weren’t interesting. There was no connection, nothing memorable, or even anything about them that made me want to like them. They had about as much personality as drywall, and for a narrative attempting to accomplish more than just to be pretty aesthetics and simple reassurances, establishing a remarkable cast has to be first priority. Instead it was the story’s greatest failing.

  4. I wanted to like Sky Crawlers, I really did. I just couldn’t manage it. It’s pretty to look at, I’ll give it that (assuming you can get past the character designs).

    Maybe I’m not “artsy” enough, but all the pretty pictures couldn’t do anything for the rest of the film.

  5. Yay! A new review! 😀 Heh, sorry, I just enjoy your blog a lot.
    Anyway… despite the fact that most of you all have given this flick a thumbs down or sideways, would it be worth a watch just for the artwork? I’m aesthetics crazy, so that’s a big draw for me. How similar is it, in terms of pace, narrative style and the like, to Ghost in the Shell? Obviously the character designs are way different, but I’m curious.

  6. my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

  7. Generally Blu-Ray just looks better and sounds better, but it depends a lot on your TV, too. I use a computer monitor hooked up to my PS3 and it’s noticeably nicer. I mean, I’d rather watch stuff on Blu-Ray than DVD, but DVD is still pretty nice.

  8. Slow pacing is usually absolutely fatal to these kind of films, which on the outside should promise thrilling dogfights and explosions. It’s interesting having a war film criticizing the glamorization of war, though like McDonald’s telling you Big Macs are bad for you, it’s kinda hard to sell unless you do it just right.

    Also, I might be crazy but the BluRay cover reminds me of Top Gun.

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