mother! “Review”

mother! 1

Indeed, your eyes do not deceive you. There are quotations around the word “Review” in the title. That is because this will not be quite like the traditional style of review, but also not quite my own version of putting down my thoughts. Instead, I will treat this post as a hybrid creation, something that can both pass off as an official review and personal diary. And for those aware, I did also do this with my “review” of La La Land.

So then, what do you call a film you consider good, yet cannot help but not enjoy?

mother! 2

mother! is symbolic to its very core. Everything that is shown onscreen is an allegory to some bigger picture that the audience is pressed to figure out. Now, a number of theories creeped into my head with every scene, with issues such as female empowerment, idol worship, abusive relationships, rape culture, patriarchal dominance, and the toxicity of humankind giving weight to the things being shown to me. Little did I know, there is an answer to this film, a key to understanding the puzzle of mother!. After learning of it, I’m left with only regret. Something of this magnitude, so delicately precise and foreboding in its imagery and atmosphere, to all come into one simple answer.

This isn’t a fault of the film itself, but rather the intentions behind it. I believe ambiguity could’ve served to make this film all the more interesting, without the need to pin it all down on a single aspect which generalizes the film’s potential. This also isn’t a disagreement with mother!’s ultimate message, as I feel it makes (enough) sense to have the scenes collide the way they do. Strange as it sounds, I can’t find myself enjoying the film after knowing the answer; I found the film a lot more inviting when I hadn’t a clue.

mother! 3

It ended up being more fantastical than what it appears, especially in the beginning. I found out a lot about myself when all the theories I concocted for myself, things that shroud themselves in today’s society by the screeching mouths of dozens, ended up being of a practical sense. I considered nothing of the fantastic, of how or why the bizarre things occurring could be happening. Assuming it would all explain itself in the end, the final minutes only strengthened my previous theories. It seems I do not enjoy giving up without a fight.

Should this review seem obnoxiously vague, that’s because it is intentionally. Much like mother! itself. Critiquing the film is more akin to the Chinese finger trap, where one can only pull and struggle with the solution when, in reality, the answer lies through unexpected perspectives. An open mind is critical when viewing, as the film certainly doesn’t pull any punches (or kicks or insults). It’s no surprise to me that mother! is such a polarizing experience for many. In the end, how one feels about it may very well say more about the person than the film. This sounds like common knowledge, but I think there’s more to it than that. Either you enjoy a cryptically chaotic experience or you prefer the simple strategies of good vs. evil. In this case, there’s very little in-between.

Final Score: 7/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

Entry #13: Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (SoA 2017)

code geass 1

(Recommended by a pretty humble guy, completing his recommendation trifecta.)

Will make this entry quick. Want to get a move on.

I would encourage anyone interested in my semi-quick thoughts on the first season to check here, as this post will deal primarily with the second season, the one I hadn’t seen coming into this. I will note that upon rewatch, my impressions of the first season were more positive than before, but only slightly.

The second season is a MASSIVE OVERLOAD OF FUCKERY. While it deals with a lot of the same conflicts and characters as the first season, R2 has a tendency to not only alter one’s expectations, but completely overloads them with mindfucks and retcons. It’s too abrupt, too glossy for its own good. To some extent, it’s hard to watch because it’s so horribly overdramatic, but one must admit that it’s by no means unentertaining.

There was a nice potency to the emotional value in R2 that, while somewhat better handled in the first season, was spectacularly used to create one of the most intriguing and twisted endings I’ve seen in all of anime. People whom I would have never expected to die are ripped from the world cruelly and coldly. If only the series did that more often. With the first season going more for intellectual set-up and strategy, the second season kind of just throws logic into the afterlife and employs all sorts of different strange scenarios, some I feel could ultimately have been avoided.

To some extent, it becomes a soap opera. One that is not handled in the best manner and cannot seem to find that same balance as once before. Its ambition is admirable, but their effort is wasted on trying to make it all seem true and real. And the manifestation of everything into a single line of thinking for the ending to indulge in is just insulting. It made for a bitter taste. Certainly not as good as it could be, but better than most that would rather go for clichés.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: C+

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #6: Steins;Gate (SoA 2017)

steins gate 1

(Recommended, once again, by a pretty humble guy.)

Fun fact: before completing this today, I had watched one episode of this series in the past. It had been left sitting, alone and afraid, in my “on-hold” category for, no joke, nearly five years. I was intrigued by it, especially it’s #4 overall rating on MyAnimeList in terms of average user score, but I could never find myself properly motivated to delve into something with such mountainous expectations. I’d like to thank Mr. Humble Guy again for giving me an excuse to pick it back up after all of these years.

After completing it, I only have this to ask: why is this series rated so high? I mean it. I am scratching my head wondering why, specifically, this series has an average rating of 9/10 on most anime databases and is heralded by many as a modern masterpiece. Is it the time travel aspect? The kooky characters? The presentation of never being able to escape fate? Is it because it somewhat resembles Doctor Who???

By no means is Steins;Gate a bad anime. Before throwing every insult at me for shaming such a flawless series as this, let me present my overall, general feelings immediately by saying I think the anime is… good. It is good. Not great, but good. By traditional anime standards (I am very cynical), it’s leagues better than the standard high school rom-com, but #4 ever? The Magnum Opus, the Mona Lisa, the Statue of David, of anime? I… I can’t lie and say it even compares. The series is good—perfectly, solidly good.

steins gate 3

A part of my feelings towards the show is the result of how little emotional attachment I had for it. I see a lot of members put Kurisu and Okabe among their favorite anime characters. This only further confuses me. The characters of Steins;Gate are likable and definitely solid within the performance of their one-shot personalities. I question, however, their development and the relationship they have with one another, specifically Okabe and Kurisu, seeing as the concept of time as a play thing resets the progression certain characters could have with one another, yet goes forth as if everything somehow retains itself because magic. Characters are rather important in a series that relies so much on drama and a heavy-narrative foundation, so if they are not examined and executed perfectly, one likely won’t be along for the emotional ride (I’m likely within a small minority).

Another thing of note I almost never see when people discuss this anime is its roots as a visual novel. And its anime adaptation doesn’t really transition all that well. One can simply feel the way they position the characters in the second-half, one by one without any interruption with one another, as they are “saved” by Okabe. More than repetitive, it comes off as formulaic, something that contradicts the first-half’s somewhat varied approach at telling a story and creating a quirky family bond between the many characters that tag along the “mad scientist’s” eccentric exploits. While I understand the context of Okabe’s feelings within the second-half, as he tries his hardest to prevent tragedy upon his loved ones due to fate’s cruel hand, he loses a lot of the charm he originally had as a character as he becomes more in line with “Standard Male OC #4,502.” It feels as though the anime flipped a switch that was marked “Serious Mode,” with characters being toys for the plot to do whatever with and suffocating their more charming characteristics.

steins gate 4

A lot of this seems completely out of context, but I think this is a series best served with as little detail as possible. Still, it’s difficult to properly rely what I found wrong with the series without ruining everything, seeing as it is so wordy. I guess the best way I could properly wrap it up is with a neat little bullet point chart.

  • Second-half undermines the first-half’s attempt at making the characters’ personalities seem natural, and slowly transitions into making said characters chess pieces for a grand scheme of dramatic overindulgence.
  • Pacing is generally acceptable, but comes to a screeching halt around the halfway point, then crawls its way through every minute until the final episode.
  • Okabe and Kurisu’s relationship has the illusion of being deep and profound, but the reality is that they only experienced one another for a short time and a lot of that was introductory stages and technical experimentation. Very few scenes of (realistic) progression of a romantic attachment.
  • Okabe goes from mad scientist with visions of grandeur to Male Lead in an Anime.
  • Many side characters don’t get developed in a way that presents them as people who matter. Daru is a pervert otaku. Mayuri is a bubbly airhead. Etc.
  • Many attempts at defying fate barely seem as though they’re trying. Get a bunker or something. C’mon.

steins gate 2

With this avalanche of negative aspects, don’t let this muddy the waters for an otherwise very intriguing and entertaining experience. Steins;Gate is not among the greatest anime I’ve ever seen, but it is definitely worth a watch if one hasn’t seen it already. There could definitely have been more to the characters, but the story was pretty compact and air-sealed in terms of (non-nitpicky) plot holes. Consistently entertaining, splendid art and animation, and a nice change of pace with a sci-fi setting that actually makes sense. There’s no guarantee this series will become one’s all time favorite (or maybe it will), but I can absolutely recommend it as an overall pleasant viewing experience.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: B-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.