In 2042, a disaster threatens all life on Earth. Fleeing from the disaster to an island in the Pacific one group of people set up the city of Ecoban to ensure their survival. When other refugees come to the shores of Ecoban, the citizens of the city deny them entry interested only in maintaining their own life style and purity. One hundred years later, the citizens of Ecoban and the descendants of the refugees, the Marrians, have settled into an uneasy coexistence. A terrorist attack on the pollution-fueled Delos energy system of Ecoban begins to signal the end of the status quo.
I have seen very few animated films of any type in a movie theater. Often I find that most of the time I don't particularly care. However, every once in a while I view an animated film that because of the nature of its technical production quality I wish I could have seen on the big screen. The last animated film I saw like that was Metropolis, and now I have just seen another: Wonderful Days.
The film is beautifully put together on a technical level. It uses a combination of 3D animation, 2D animation, and even a small bit of live action. All of this is integrated extremely well and to the point that I think even die- hard opponents of 3D/CGI imagery would be impressed. The general attention to detail in the setting is impressive. The film is a bit dreary in the color department, but that is fitting with its general setting, and the use of a dark palette is very necessary for certain contrastive purposes early on and later on in the film when they do use some brighter colors.
The animation itself, both the 3D and the 2D, is smooth and well done. I have no particular bias against CGI imagery, but often I find that when integrated with 2D moving images seem a bit clunky and that tends to dampen the quality of the scene. That was not the case with Wonderful Days as all the 3D animation was so fluid. This is not to say that the 2D animation work wasn't any less fluid. This was a not a film that relied on any lazy animation tricks in any part of the production.
Musically, the film wasn't nearly as impressive as it was visually, but most of the soundtrack is good at providing the appropriate level of mood enhancement. I do want to take special note of the music involved in one of the climatic final scenes. Without spoiling the scene itself, I just wanted to note that the use of a beautiful and powerful operatic theme combined with the general visual design work of this scene made the scene wonderfully evocative and poetic.
Well of course, movies, even animated ones, aren't all about just the visuals and music. The plot itself is fairly intriguing and while not perhaps as heavily philosophical as some, it does touch on a number of interesting sociopolitical themes that relate to today's world despite the science fiction setting such as the exploitation of the Marrians by Ecoban's citizens. The nature of the Delos machine's fuel source is particularly revealing, as the implications about what the Ecoban are willing to do to preserve their life style is somewhat chilling.
Characterization is the only area of the film that I had some issues with. They do have a number of characters and most of them tend to seem fairly three- dimensional. Even the glorified thugs of the "Hot Dogs" gang that you figure are just there to cause trouble seem to actually human motivations and emotions. Unfortunately, the two main characters, Jay and Shua, around which most of the pivotal plot moves, seem a bit underdeveloped for their roles. It felt like we could have used about fifteen more minutes or so to bring them to life a bit more. We do see the seeds of their childhood friendship and flashbacks to certain events that defined the life of both, but it just seemed like they could have done a stronger job of defining them as people. There is also the mysterious Dr. Noah, an Ecoban renegade. Though one can derive some of his disgust against Ecoban from certain statements, I would have liked to have heard a bit more about why he became a renegade. In the end, this isn't to say that the characterization is flat, just that given how it seemed like they had a good handle on bringing the people to life overall, I was a bit disappointed by how they couldn't quite bring it to the next level. Perhaps if it had a long series behind it to develop the characters for it, it could get away with not spending as much time on that aspect but alas it does not and so it ends up being a good film instead of a truly excellent film.
While technically superb and overall a good science fiction action piece, slightly weak character development of the leads keeps this from achieving the fifth star. If you really don't care about character development, feel free to add a star. If you don't like action movies or movies with environmental/political messages, subtract a star. — Jeremy A Beard
Recommended Audience: Given that one of the major plot elements of this involves Marrians guerrillas and Ecoban security fighting each other, there is a lot of violence. We have people getting shot, stabbed, and clubbed. Most of these scenes, while not as bloody as some other productions, still are far from clean. There is at least one scene involving a child being shot and another involving a child stabbing someone. There is a brief scene in a strip club, but there is actually no nudity (that I remember). There is a bit of substance abuse here and there but really it is the violence pushes this up to an R rating.
Version(s) Viewed: R3 DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Wonderful Days © 2003 SeoWoo Entertainment / TIN House / Pass 21 Entertainment / Cream Entertainment
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