Director: Mamoru Oshii. StarringMalgorzata Foremniak, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Jerzy Gudejko. Japan, Poland, 2001. Budget: $9 mln. IMDb: 6.5. My rating: 1.5/4. Boring to death cyberpunk with occasionally interesting visuals.

As someone who is a gamer, a computer and sci-fi enthusiast, I found this to be a pretentious long winded bore.
Puddncakes T

The makers should be sued for comparing this piece-of-crap with a cult-movie like The Matrix.

Oshii uses the camera like an artist uses his/her brush and canvas: this movie is a painting.

“Avalon”, a Japanese-Polish co-production, may not be the most renowned sci-fi movie, but its director, Mamoru Oshii, must be well known to anyone even remotely interested in cyberpunk and virtual reality, as he originated “Ghost in the Shell” (1995), considered to be one of the cult fundamental pillars of the genre.

Let me be honest – I didn’t like the film. It suffers from the same problems as the recent “Ghost in the Shell” (2017) film adaptation, “heavy on style, but lacking in thought and intelligence”. But at lest ”GitS” has fast-paced action and big budget that helped to masquerade it’s emptiness. ”Avalon” doesn’t have it. Basically, it’s all about a videogame cyberpunk mode on and nothing else, and I can’t say I was very impressed by the style. Let me save your time…

…these are some of the most impressive scenes of the film. There a couple of others, but that’s it. The rest is much duller and looks like a bad melodrama. There’s little action and lots of awfully written dialogues. Yes, almost the whole movie is shot in a yellow sepia tone.  The visuals strongly remind of the videogames of early 2000-s. Decide by yourself whether it’s a compliment…

AvalonUnfortunately – and I say it with sincere bitterness because it sounded promising – “Avalon” did not live up to my expectations. It has 3 major problems. All of them are really just the basics of a decent filmmaking:

a) it is secondary to so many other films, stories and that could even pass if it wasn’t such a…
b) …melodramatic congestion of characters with stony faces doing…
c) …stuff that you just don’t care about.

Here’s Ash, the main character of the movie, played by Malgorzata Foremniak. She has one face expression for any kind of emotion. Just like Vladimir Putin.

Now, it’s a whole bunch of problems here, isn’t it? And what or who can save all this? Well, there’s one guy called Mr. Style.

…because what Mamoru Oshii was trying to create here is style. And style is like the wind breeze, often you cannot describe it, taste it, see it, yet you can’t stop feeling it. There are some die-hard cyberpunk fans that claim that “Avalon” is another Oshii’s masterpiece. Don’t believe them. It’s not a totally flawed movie… but it’s just boring.

And it looks horribly dated. “Alien”, shot in 1979, does not look dated. “Terminator 2” (1991) does not look dated. “Avalon” does, and I am sure it looked dated just few years after the release.

I have no idea who could be an audience of this film. The gamers didn’t like it – there are literally dozens of games out even in 2001 that were smarter, cooler and exciting. Japanese didn’t like it – the movie was a huge fail in Japan, it seems that they are not really into the classic atmosphere of a “moribund socialism” of Eastern Europe. Only die-hard cyberpunk fans may find something here or somebody who has never seen a VR movie. For everyone else the movie offers little, except for occasionally interesting visuals.

The production. “Avalon” was a weird co-production between Poland and Japan. All the cast, setting, dialogues and decorations were purely Polish and you can feel it straight from the first frames. I have no idea why Poland was chosen – probably because it was cheap (only $9 mln) to shoot there and the army even allowed to use their tanks and equipment for the filming.

The plot. The youth of the future is becoming increasingly addicted to an illegal and lethal virtual reality game “Avalon”. Ash, one of the best players, hears of rumors that a more advanced level of the game exists… Even if she discovers the next level, will she ever be able to come back to real life?


Worth watching? If you are not a die-hard cyberpunk and virtual ritual reality fan… then no. Not really. As for the visuals – maybe in 2001 it looked original and fresh, but I would rather replay ”Deus Ex” one more time. The original 2000 game. Which I have replayed at least 10 times already.

Watch instead… just to be honest about the technology advancement, here’s a selection of films released before “Avalon” – “The Matrix“, “Ghost in the Shell” (for anime lovers), “eXistenz“, “Dark City“, “Truman Show“, “Johny Mnemonic” – all these were much better movies about virtual realities (or just fake realities). Heck, even “13th Floor” was better. Far from being perfect ”Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”, the first big computer-animated feature film and a huge box office bomb with $137 mln budget was a better movie!

Check also:  Top 10 Mamoru Oshii’s films that are not “Ghost in the Shell”


9 thoughts on “Avalon

  1. Well, there is always a first time for things I guess lol. I usually agree with your reviews, but this is actually the first time that I have a different opinion. I really enjoyed this very unusual movie. I certainly agree that it’s not an easy movie, and at times is pretty slow. But the unique visual style abd the beautiful music for me made it a very enjoyable watch. That’s the beauty of films: everyone experiences it differently. Still enjoyed reading your post though 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      • It’s been a very long time since I last saw this film, so my memory is a bit hazy about this one. I do remember that there were a few scenes in this one that were defintely strange, but that was also part of it’s charm. Maybe it’s time that I do a rewatch for this movie 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • The point is to show someone who is so obsessed with ‘Avalon’ and as such is spiraling down into the usual game addiction pattern where food, job, real life become an afterthought. As such ‘stunner’ is like a junkie who now sees free food and shoves it down without any decency or manners. Ash witnesses this from a perspective of a person who still has decency and manners, and as such is disgusted by stunners eating habits. The entire scene is shot in a way that it should disgust the viewer as well (and it did).

        At least that’s my take on this. Avalon is full of these slow shots that make you think about the directors concept behind the scene, and that’s why I like this movie so much!


      • No, I haven’t written a review for this one (yet). I did a feature for Kenji Kawai (the man who made the soundtrack). As I said, maybe it’s time for me to do a rewatch if I can find some time for it 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I could have saif that there are more interesting movies around but you wouldn’t have agreed so I won’t say anything…. I’m kidding ;)))
        Thanks for reading my review anyway. It’s not always easy to write about something you didn’t like…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It was always style over substance, but anme is too- it just looks a little overbearing in live action. Soundtrack is gorgeous though, it’s a lovely score. One of my favourites, full of melancholy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I see your point! But I was so bored with the characters that even the score didn’t help… There is another film that I reviewed around the same period, also cyberpunk (“Paranoia 1.0”, 2004), and it also had a very strong style and visuals, however the narrative part was very strong too and you could really connect with the characters (Lance Henrikssen was particularly charismatic plus Udo Kier, Jeremy Sisto, Bruce Payne…).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.