Spoiler Alert This review contains spoilers about the movie’s plot.
If you do get spoiled, we’ll be waiting inside Augma. Let’s settle this in the SAO way.
Sword Art Online is one of those overly popular anime series that found international success. Unfortunately, in these cases of abundant fame, whatever they produce with the SAO name, despite its quality, becomes instantly a hit because of the fandom. But, that was not the case for Sword Art Online The Movie – Ordinal Scale.
I recently reviewed Sword Art Online: Alicization. I had a complete turnover on the way I see the SAO franchise, and I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Its visuals were so stunning that made me regret, probably for the first time in my life, not being able to see it on the big screen.
Four years after the Sword Art Online incident, a revolutionary new form of technology called the Augma, a device that utilizes an Augmented Reality system, has become an instant hit on the market.
The most popular application for this system is the game Ordinal Scale, which allows players to use it while they are conscious and immerses them in a very ‘real’ fantasy RPG environment with player rankings and rewards. Kirito and his friends, start diving into this game but they soon find out that the game is not as innocent and fun as it seems.
Plot & Story
The story shows the usual gang getting into the Ordinal Scale game and Kirito being a bit hesitant about it, because he prefers the immersion of actual VR games. Things start getting interesting when Kirito joins Asuna and Klein in a boss fight event where the game’s mascot, AI idol singer Yuna, appears and gives players buff effects and where they have to win over Aincrad’s original level bosses. This is where they first encounter Eiji, the second best player in-game and a previous member of the Knights of the Blood Oath. SAO survivors start losing their in-game memories. Klein and Asuna soon become victims of this weird situation and Kirito decides to find out what’s going on and save his friends. Even though the story is full of plot holes (like how the hell did all the characters from ALO and GGO managed to log in at the same time and fight the last boss, without even knowing what is going on), it was actually nicely paced and interesting to follow. It brings the nostalgia of the original Sword Art Online scenario, with the necessary romance and drama woven into it.
I really enjoyed this film, but what really let me down was the villains. Eiji had so much potential to become a great antagonist for Kirito, (physically stronger and more experienced with the game mechanics) but Kirito starts killing monsters for two days and there you go, he is better than him, plus I found his hatred towards everyone a bit ridiculous. The professor ,on the other hand, had a believable motivation of bringing back his deceased daughter and that was actually a great idea, but then he had to go and betray Eiji in the last minute. I get that he wanted to get his memories but he could have done it from the beginning. Why go to all the trouble so he could be defeated and have his plans ruined by Kirito? Come on…
Art & Music
Okay, let’s just put this out there. The animation of the film is far superior to the first and second season of the anime andA-1 Pictures certainly brought their A game on this one, but it doesn’t surpass the quality of Alicization. I see it as a small introduction to the amazing things that they had in store for us.
For me, the most unfortunate thing about the movie was probably its prologue. It really lacked immersion and the use of recap TV footage made the production difference so obvious that it was a bit painful to watch. Other than that, I can’t really complain because everything looked gorgeous. The character details, the use of light, the direction, the CGIs, the environments, everything was just amazingly well done: Asuna’s hair and that scene of Eiji pointing his sword at Kirito’s throat was so good it gave me goosebumps. The action scenes are phenomenal: beautifully choreographed, easy to follow while simultaneously being fast and exciting. All the action scenes are backed up by such an amazing soundtrack that gets you more and more excited in every sequence. Sword Art Online never disappoints when it comes to its soundtrack and sound direction and this movie is undoubtedly another great example of that awesomeness.
Themes & Trivia
Augmented reality (AR): It is an interactive experience of a real-world environment whereby the objects that reside in the real-world are ‘augmented’ by computer-generated perceptual information. The primary value of augmented reality is that it brings components of the digital world into a person’s perception of the real world, and does so not as a simple display of data, but through the integration of immersive sensations that are perceived as natural parts of an environment (think of Pokémon GO).
One thing that frustrated me once again in the filmwas how they portray and treat female gamers. I have mentioned this before in my Sword Art Online Season 2review, but having comments like ‘You are kicking butt even though you are girls.’ is just completely stupid and wrong, because I am sure that the majority of the fandom includes girl gamers and it’s wrong to insult them like this.
One thing that makes this movie thoroughly enjoyable is the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s great: when Sugu says ‘I am glad that I smuggled my Amusphere with me’, I was like: ‘Well at least they know that that scene didn’t make much sense’. I also liked how there were even small references from the last two seasons of the series like when Asuna uses the skill that Yuuki gave her and most importantly that we got to see the final boss at the top of Aincrad. Okay, seeing Kirito gaining a sword and one-shooting every single boss in the arena was a bit too much for me, but that won’t chance anytime soon; Kirito will always be effortlessly badass. Last thing, I really like the ‘Welcome to Rath’ at the end of the credits and that ‘SAO will be back’ message. It really would have hyped me for Alicization.
‘We must never forget any of the nameless characters.’
Amazing action scenes and fight
Well-designed characters and environments
Kirito and Asuna’s romance meaningful development
The plot holes…
Why are their hands so ugly? (seriously in some scenes Kirito’s hands look way bigger than they should and utterly disgusting)
I would recommend this film to anyone out there, because it’s goddamn beautiful to watch. Even if you hate Sword Art Online or stories with plot holes, you still have to watch this just to experience the marvel of good quality animation. It is honestly an amazing experience.