Starring: Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Nananmi Sakuraba, Mitsuki Tanimura
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Running Time: 114 mins
Summer Wars is a Japanese film about a high school student who, while pretending to be his friend’s boyfriend during a visit to her grandmother’s house, becomes the centre of an international crisis as he accidentally hacks OZ, the digital network that forms the core of most of the world’s entire lives.
I really enjoyed this movie. Although it takes a little while to get into its stride, Summer Wars is a very entertaining action flick with an engaging, exciting and often heartwarming story that will easily grab you right up to the end. With wonderful animation to go with its imaginative plot, this isn’t anything too heavy-going, and yet it’s tense enough to have you biting your nails and hanging off the edge of your seat.
But first, a quick word on the film’s brief opening act. After a slightly overlong exposition about what OZ is, Summer Wars goes into typical high school territory by focusing on teen angst and romance before shipping out to rural Japan for a quick insight into a family story.
Over those first twenty or thirty minutes, everything is very pleasant and fun, but it really feels like the film is following a generic pattern that’s likely to go on to the end of the movie, meaning I briefly felt a little underwhelmed in the opening act.
Fortunately, that all changes with an explosive move into more action/sci-fi oriented territory as the crisis surrounding OZ takes centre stage. It may feel a little too abrupt at first, but it’s a great way to set about the urgency and excitement of the situation that very impressively carries you all the way through to the very end of the film.
And what’s even more impressive is that most of the story takes place in one rural household, separating big action for a more unorthodox approach by setting the main conflict in the virtual world. Although it may initially seem a little unclear and strange as to how literally you should take what’s depicted in the virtual world of OZ, it’s an issue that doesn’t persist for long, and is replaced by some hugely entertaining action sequences that all play a good part in a fun and unpredictable story that exponentially grows in pace and urgency right up to the last.
However, the thing that I really liked about Summer Wars is the fact that it’s not all about the action, and gives a good deal of development and depth to the main characters. Above all, the story focusing on the relationship between the high school boy and the family he is unexpectedly accepted into is fascinating, but individual plot lines such as his friend, his friend’s younger relative, and a collection of side characters in the family, all come together to give the film a very strong and often heartwarming vibe, as if it’s all about a family pulling together in a desperate time, something I really didn’t expect to see.
Finally, the animation here is wonderful. Bright and colourful throughout, and brimming with the imaginative qualities necessary to bring its somewhat outlandish but thoroughly entertaining action/sci-fi story to life, Summer Wars is just as good a film to look at as it is to becomes invested in, adding to its entertainment factor significantly.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Summer Wars. Although it has a few wobbles early on, the film grows and grows throughout until it becomes a hugely exciting and very entertaining action movie, all supported by a heartwarming family vibe and wonderful animation throughout, which is why I’m giving it a 7.9.