Summer Wars Review
Summer Wars is Mamoru Hosoda‘s follow up film to his hit, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Like that film Hosoda mixes teen/family drama with science fiction elements. Is Summer Wars as great a film? No, but it is still pretty good.
What is becoming an apparent theme in Hosoda’s work is his merging of a fantastic element in an otherwise normal setting. In Summer Wars we are presented with the world of Oz, a cyberworld in which everyone in the world interacts similarly to the Oasis in Ready Player One. It has become such a mainstay of the world that even the trafficking system is connected for some reason.
Enter our protagonist, Kenji who works with his friend doing work as a moderator in Oz. After we are introduced to the world he is asked to go with Natsuki Shinohara to a family gathering to celebrate her grandmothers 90th birthday. Natsuki doesn’t mention why she wants him to come along, and instead uses her popularity to win him over.
Once there Kenji learns that he is supposed to be Natsuki’s boyfriend because she promised her grandmother that she would get to see her get a boyfriend. Then we are introduced to the large and colorful Shinohara family. I won’t go into all the characters because there are a ton, but most of them boil down to a few traits. That is one of the women you will know because she spends her time glued to her son’s baseball games on TV fretting over every play. Or the uncle who yells about the old samurai days of the Shinohara clan. It goes on. Suffice it to say the film does not suffer because the characters are rather 1 note. In fact it would only drag the film down to try and explore all of the characters.
That night Kenji, uncomfortable with what he has gotten himself into, can’t sleep and when he receives a text with a number puzzle he decides to solve it. Because Kenji is a math wiz – one of the best in the country.
When he wakes up in the morning Kenji finds his name on the news as the boy who hacked Oz. Scrambling for answers he goes to the only person in the house with a computer, who happens to be the world renown Oz player Kazuma. Together they start to figure out that Oz was hacked by some program and that it is controlling a bunch of users accounts, including Kenji’s.
We learn that the Shinohara family is connected to the virus, called Love Machine, because one of them, the outcast Wabusike, developed the program for the US army.
The virus was supposed to be a test however it gets out of control, becoming super powerful and creating chaos by controlling any technology it can. Kenji and the Shinohara family have to work together to stop Love Machine before he does too much damage.
Visually it has the same cartoonish flat, eye pleasing look as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. And it gives Oz its own unique outline as if having rabbits and crazy airplane thingies wasn’t enough to tip you off that Oz is different.
The film brings up an important message in today’s technology driven world. That is we rely on it too much, because you never know when the system could all fall down.
The Bottom Line: Kids will love this film. It has some good action scenes, and enough laughs to keep kids entertained throughout. There was a few too many anime-isms for my taste, but the story was solid, with a geeky character as the lead. Some of the characters fall flat for me. As a whole the films team work and family themes work and even though I think kids will like it the best, I think adults will like this film as well. It is not a great film. But its good.