Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nirvana


   This is more my kind of Cyberpunk, and boy... how the hell have I not seen this before? Nirvana is a slick and stylish treat, full of stunning visuals and an engaging story. It's biggest shortcoming is not having a better American release. I recommend this movie right out of the gate, but that leaves you- the potential viewer, with a problem. See, Miramax released Nirvana in America, and they butchered it. A horrible dub and they also chopped up the movie itself, for reasons I can't even fathom. Unfortunately, you're screwed on both fronts. The original Italian copy with English subtitles fetches somewhere around $90 on eBay and might be region locked- leaving you completely unable to play it on your DVD/Blu Ray player. It gets worse, ever so slightly. The only version on Netflix... is the Miramax release.

  I got my hands on the Italian version without having to rape my wallet, but it's not freely available to all that way either. Nevertheless, it's worth seeking out. Skip the Miramax release, because you'll likely be saddled with a horrible version of a great movie. I tried watching ten minutes of it in comparison to the original version, and the differences were stunning. The original cut is only an hour and forty six minutes, and as is, that's thirteen minutes longer than the Miramax cut. Starting to see the severity of this? Anyways, point being... Nirvana is great. It's a total gem I had no idea would be so damn fun. If it wasn't for my cyberpunk kick lately, I probably wouldn't have gotten around to this one for another couple years.

   The movie is set in the future and is about Jimi, a game programmer for a company called Okosama Star. His Christmas day deadline to deliver his new videogame "Nirvana" is closing in when while putting the finishing touches on it... he discovers that the main character, Solo, has become fully sentient and self aware. Once Solo realizes he's just a character in a video game, he asks Jimi to delete him. Jimi feels obligated to oblige and sets off on a journey to try and delete Solo, and erase the backup of Nirvana from Okosama's servers before the game is released worldwide. This is actually a lot crazier than it sounds. Solo is a tragic and funny, yet fascinating character.  He constantly tries to convince other characters in the game... that they're not real. It doesn't work out so well for him.

  Of course, the movie also doesn't neglect to tackle the all-time cornerstone of video gaming: dying. You die, you restart. What kind of life is that? Well, it's not so much of a life as it is just a headache for Solo. He doesn't want to play, to shoot, to kill- but being that he's in a video game, he's dogged by madmen, mafia men, yakuza footsoldiers, and even "organ hunters". Yeah. It's also kind of funny that Solo doesn't look anything like your typical video game hero. He's a middle aged, kinda portly fellow with a mustache and neck length hair. He looks more like he'd be running a pizza parlor instead of running for his life. At first, it was hard to reconcile his appearance with his role- but he grew on me, and ended up being a total delight to watch.

  Yet, his whole struggle is just part of the movie. The rest is Jimi's very-real struggle to try and acquiesce Solo's request. In search of hackers and black market experts to help him out, his mission leads him to some very dark and gritty places. But, the movie is no slouch. Every location is visually stunning, from the slums to the big cities. The sets are fantastic and eye catching as much as anything you could see in a middle-budgeted cyberpunk movie. This isn't a genre juggernaut like Blade Runner, but it doesn't need to be. It pops with color and neat gadgetry, oozing pure 'cool' and pulsing with energy. Much to my surprise, it's also a very emotional movie. Like, that aspect totally blindsided me.

   Solo falls for a fellow game character and spends his time in the game desperately trying to get her to 'see' what's really going on. This mirror's Jimi's side quest (for lack of a better term) to find his old flame- the love of his life, who one day had up and left him. This ends up being very important to the main plot, and I commend the writer for weaving everything together so neatly. There's two or three absolutely stunning character driven scenes in here that had me all but choked up. Great acting from all involved, and they had great material to work with as well. Speaking of emotions and love stuff- I'm in love with the technology of this movie. I exaggerate, but only just. From eye-impants, to hacking gear, and old computer interfaces, all the cyberpunk tech in the movie is well thought out, and designed with a unique artistic flair.

  It's also worth pointing out that the movie never goes wild with virtual reality environments. In fact, for a cyberpunk genre flick made in the 90's, this movie shows astonishing restraint. Maybe that was a budgetary restraint, but it works in the movie's favor. It feels much less dated that way and more in line with The Matrix or The Thirteenth Floor- showing a 'real world' simulation when necessary, instead of the shiny plastic-looking virtual worlds of The Lawnmower Man and Johnny Mnemonic. When they finally do indulge and show those visuals, they look really good for their age and I was pleasantly surprised. Visuals and such aside, Nirvana is not an action movie. It's solid science fiction with high stakes and a chase scene or two, but don't go in expecting shootouts or kung fu.

   It's simply not that kind of movie. But, what's great it, it's still wildly entertaining. It's full of wit, humor, and gadgets galore. If you're the type of genre fan who appreciates cool looking props, and well designed sets, you'll find a lot to like about Nirvana. By no means does it feel like a small or low budget movie. It just feels like a low key sci-fi thriller. I loved it. It was a lot of fun, and while not perfect- it is definitely worth seeking out. Maybe my standards regarding this genre are fudged, or maybe I'm just a sucker for cyberpunk flicks- but maybe you should find out for yourself. I give Nirvana a full recommendation. It might not have the spit-and-polish of a big budget American sci-fi flick, but it has a certain charm to it that's unshakable. Nirvana is an atmospheric, colorful, engaging, fast paced, and gadget-filled cyberpunk blast.

No comments:

Post a Comment