Wonderful Days (South Korea 2003)

Rating: ****
Alternate Title: Sky Blue (US title)
Review Date: 12/14/03
Director: Moon-Saeng Kim

This movie sure took me by surprise. "Wonderful Days" is a breathtaking tale of political oppression, revolt, sacrifice, and war, set against a dystopian backdrop of ecological terror. In the near future, a catastrophe of biblical proportions strikes the earth, and a group of elite scientists manage to survive by creating a technological safe haven called Ecoban. The existence of such a paradise in an otherwise ruined world creates a huge rift in society, as the small group of priveleged Ecobans exploit the downtrodden masses who dwell in the wastelands. However, The real horror of Ecoban is that it relies on pollution to sustain itself (!), and so the Ecobans promote the destruction of what's left of earth to keep their elite society going. A group of rebels led by Dr. Noah make a desperate attempt to destroy Ecoban, in hopes that they'll once again be able to see the sun. Throw in a disenchanted security guard named Jay and her hunky love interest Shua, and you've got yourself a complete (albeit confusing) epic in the vein of "Akira" (1989).

However, the story isn't nearly as important as the presentation, which is absolutely stunning. A virtual orgasm of visual delights for anyone who's an animation buff, "Wonderful Days" combines cel animation, computer animation, matte paintings, miniatures, and live action footage to amazing effect. The rich colors do an excellent job of portraying the atmosphere and environment, and show that there's beauty even in decay. At times the lengthy fly-throughs seem gratuitous and video gamish, but that never detracts from their sheer beauty. A superb job all around. The overall result looks and feels very Japanese, even down to the character designs, stereotypes, and voice acting. The music is haunting and beautiful. If I have any complaints, it would be that the pacing is a bit slow in places, the characters are a bit shallow, and that the ending (although gorgeous) is completely imcomprehensible to Western eyes (much like "Akira").