Date: 2011 May 19th Thursday [0:12] | Posted By: Eeeper
Red Line is about the biggest racing game of the universe and it's only held once every 5 years. And naturally everyone wants to take part. Follow the racing skills of men and women alike.
I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to view the 2010 animated film Redline since reading about it from a fellow blogger.
MADHOUSE, that studio of wild concepts and unsafe ideas of unconformity, decided to sink money by the barrel into this crazy lunatic idea of cars and hovercraft racing each other around tracks in wild planetary locations. With no certainty of success, they allowed Takeshi Koike to make anything he wanted. Did they succeed? How to describe Redline, now that I've seen it?
Have you ever wanted to see a man's face stretch in hyper exaggerated G-force? Or watch a smoking hot female racer destroy her opponents chances at a quarter of the speed of sound? How about watching a super fairy sprinkle magic dust over a race course while a massive space army, consisting of cyborgs, tries to prevent anyone from landing on the planet the race course is on? Finally, haven't you always wanted to be ringside to see, what looks to be, a Gamma irradiated Garara Gator from Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro's Toriko fight a giant, nuclear-powered jelly baby?
Have I just blown your mind?
Welcome to Redline.
If the internet has taught me one thing, it's that a person's opinions are subjective. I could completely agree with someone else over any viewing opinions they give me and then totally disagree with the next thing they recommend. So, Redline carries with it the baggage of "It's so cool!!! It's the next Akira!!!" (I'm waiting to read that headline from the next mainstream online review site). It hangs on a knife edge, all the while threatening to derail itself with the very ideas it's trying to get across. If you stop believing in it for a second, the illusion is lost. I imagine that people, seeing Akira in the cinema for the first time, must have had a similar experience. If you try and disseminate any part of Redline, it would unravel. But the films steadfast pace, building the world, building the characters motivations keeps the concept together. It wants you to take it apart AFTER you've left the cinema. Then you have time to decide if you want to continue liking it. Because I'd be hard pressed to say I wasn't liking the movie while I was watching it. I need to break with the Internet and say that I'm not in love with the Wachowski Brothers live-action version of Speed Racer. I know that it was a solid film and that the love of the source material is up on screen. Like Redline, Speed Racer is a film that you love watching. But for me, there are parts in the film where I have a kind of disconnect with the film and I have to keep saying that it's Speed Racer and the interesting stuff is coming in a moment. And the interesting stuff does happen but I shouldn't have to will it to happen. Yes, I know that it's just a movie and that it's fun and I shouldn't ask too much of a film where a car moving at 500 MPH can simply leap over another car but still I feel somehow like the really amazing stuff happens when nobody says anything. But with Redline, the whole idea is that nothing makes sense. People can't survive end over end crashes at 200 MPH. Drivers can't link with their cars and eat nitro pellets and gain speed boosts. Cars don't survive orbital entry into an atmosphere. But they do in Redline and that's the beauty of the film.
The film firmly revolves around Sweet JP, a racer whose friend keeps asking him to throw races to win big. It also revolves around JP's relationship with fellow racer "Cherry Boy Hunter" Sonoshee, a female racer who qualifies for the Redline, a race in which the very best racers in the galaxy compete every five years for untold riches and endorsements. This qualifying race, the Yellow line, that Sonoshee wins also sees JP crash and burn on the finish line after his friend, Frisbee, the designer of the cars JP drives, intervenes and sabotages JP winning the race. But because the upcoming Redline is taking place on Roboworld, a world in the administration of a techno-cyborg military society, two racers drop out rather than get their heads blown off. So, JP gets bumped into a qualifying spot. The film has a brilliant story arc for JP, through his beginnings as a young racer, the reasons his reputation is in tatters and the drive in him to see the race through to the end. Some people have their way of racing and he has his. And as for Sonoshee, her story arc is no less compelling. By story's end, we know why she races and why it's a second pulse for her to check that she's alive. She's here and she's taking part for all her own reasons. And that's good enough for her. Her back story is, in some ways, more compelling than JP's but I can't say why without spoiling the Dickens out of her arc.
The background characters are brilliant. From the spectators lining up to see the races (when they're not being blown over by the cars sonic boom) to the rest of the racing opponents, to JP's race crew, Redline builds on all of this, making you interested in their arc if not their plight. JP's mechanic reminded me of Kamajii, the operator of the boiler room in Spirited Away both in design and world weariness. He provides a great balance between the "It'll be fine" attitude of JP and the hidden motives of Frisbee. The best insight to the other racers is the racer profiles that Sonoshee watches before the Redline starts. From the two sisters barely covering their skin while promoting their latest single to the police chief barely covering his ass over the affair he's having with one of his deputies plus the bounty hunters who curse like sailors and deface orbital weapons, this made me laugh and laugh. Add to that the fact that Sonoshee watches the profiles while topless. I mean, think about it: you'd only go around topless if you thought you were alone. Just so we know the animators are taking this seriously, she even comments, complaining that her profile piece starts with a shot of her bum!
The character designs by Katsuhito Ishii and director Takeshi Koike are amazing. JP looks so cool in a James Dean-meets-Johnny Depp-in-Crybaby kind of way. His duckbilled hair is an amazing piece of L'oreal follicle engineering. Sonoshee is gorgeous in a classic kind of way. I see a young Jane Fonda when I think of Sonoshee. And her 78 numbered t-shirt, green glasses and quiet demeanour speak more for her than any amount of dialogue could elucidate. I cannot remember the name of the character but he is the reigning champion of Redline. He's all metal, his head looks like it bolts into something else and he eats nitro pellets for bursts of speed. I'll write this line again so you got it the first time: he eats nitro pellets for bursts of speed. In the background there are two characters, Trava and Shinkai, who featured in an OVA series called Trava: Fist Planet, also directed by Takeshi Koike. They don't add anything to the main plot but if you've already seen the OVA they are a welcome sight. I walked away from this film and realised that there were no villains per se in it, no all powerful overlord that everyone bands against but strangely, I think I would have hated the film if there had have been one.
Animation on Redline is almost beyond my abilities to describe. There are surreal moments like when JP puts a nitro pellet into his car's engine. The screen stretches and distorts as we approach warp speed. The quiet moments are handled very well, leaving the audience to ponder what's going on in the characters heads. The actual races are just exquisite and fast pulse inducing. Did you come away from Star Wars: Episode 1 feeling like the podracing scenes were too slow? I've got a film for you. Stuff smashes to pieces, drivers get thrown around and the camera threatens to shake itself to bits. Every turn brings the characters closer to the edge, the audience closer to that release breath. The worlds the race takes place on are all decently put together. While Roboworld is the most developed because it's in the last third or so of the film, the other places feel like they've had a lot of love put into them even if you're only going to see a "set" for five seconds or less. The final race is one of the most jaw-dropping moments in animation or live-action I have ever witnessed. From it's amazing planetary fall by the racers cars, to the all out warfare that breaks out between the military forces controlling Roboworld (who are desperate to keep it's secrets away from the outside world) and the racers and the race's organisers, and finally the last dash to the finish line, it makes me happy that there are moments when the pace slows down to take in dialogue and exposition while this sumptuous visual feast is going on at the same time.
Music is another place that Redline excels. There are scores that feel like they're always been there, so to speak. Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan is a good example in the sci-fi genre. JFK is another for drama. Then there are scores that grate and make you feel like you're being overtly manipulated. Titanic feels one and so does Home Alone. Redline sits in the happy medium between the two ideas. I know I'm being manipulated but maybe it's because I'm not from Japan, it doesn't have that much affect on me. Or maybe it's because I'm happier when music fits the mood of the scene rather than be a driving force (producers of films that have Limp Bizkit on speed dial I'm looking at you), no pun intended. James Shimoji deserves great acclaim for coming up with a score that might be mistaken for a English language derived soundtrack such is the ease in which you can find yourself. Easy listening tracks with Rob Loafer providing English vocals sit comfortably with Shimoji's Yellow Line which pounds the literal daylights out of your eardrums as the races build to a frantic and kinetic end. The Yellow line track seems to either be repeated or has variations of it being played at all of the races but I want it to be there, it's the damn race music! I know that awesome stuff will happen when it plays, so for more information watch an episode of The A-Team and wait for the theme music to play during the episode. Any film that has you foot tapping during the film and after has something on you, musically, that you'll find hard to ignore.
It's the completeness of the project that has me coming back again and again to scenes and concepts I witnessed in the film. I know I have mentioned the idea of world building before but my skill at articulating this to you does not do the creators of the world justice. People chew on food waiting for the next race to start, ships offload their racing cargo and drift into the sky. Watching their favourite racer on screen, dancers in bikini's hip sing when they're winning. Things explode, things stand still. You're left in the dark about stuff, you have things explained to you. You've seen it all before, you've never seen that. From trying to bum some decent cigarettes to falling into a flower bed from forty feet in the air moving at 150 MPH, I've only scratched the surface. All of this is here to discover or ignore. When you have a good long hard think about the film, the ideas going on in the background along the lines of just the fiction ticking over, while the story gets told, are just so simple and yet so soul satisfying, it makes me want to hug myself for having noticed.
Ultimately, Redline rises and falls with its audience. When a film has confidence in itself and you, that you're grown up enough to deal with it in your own cranial CPU, then what can it do to cause you to disregard it with all the other pretenders? Nothing in my book, though your actual awareness gauge may vary. Audiences will embrace either its skewed worldview or its characters or its sheer vibrancy. Go and see it, and tell your non-anime friends that grown up, not dumbed down animated films exist, today, in the here and now. The blu ray and DVD is being made available in August in Japan with English subtitles. Then in September, if you can wait, Manga UK will release it on DVD/BD. It's the sort of film that sits on your shelf and makes people ask you about it. Give yourself a pat on the back right now for remembering to pre-order this or kick yourself when it comes out and then you realise you forgot.
It represents the very best in anime, a visual tour de force, with a captivating concept. More than that, it has a chance to dispel the idea that anime can only be used to sell toys, fishsticks or the coddling idea that it can be boiled down into a few choice words. People will look back on it in five years time and say it was either the beginning of something new or the last bright light in an ongoing underground tunnel journey with few stops before the end of line. Thanks to the film, I know exactly where I was when I watched Redline, and I always will now.
The film also represents an ideal of anime, considered long dead: anime is only limited in its audience when its creators don't try. I've lost count of the amount of anime I have watched where the director or creator just could not care less about their idea and was more worried about his audience not buying the t-shirt and accompanying happy meal and therefore not being re-employed by his client who really only wanted to make the anime so they could sell more hug pillows. When studios solely become champions to the outside interests of groups who see only the bottom line, they make Oh My Goodness, My Master Owns My Panties: My Freedom is Finally Free. When studios become champions, at least once in their lives, to the concept of the anime, they make Redline.
I leave you with a remixed quote. Hopefully, after you've read this or even better yet, before that, you'll all be in the former camp rather than the later.
"You must accept one of two basic premises: Either you have seen Redline, or you have not. And either way, the implications are staggering."