I Expected to Enjoy This Film, I Was Not Disappointed
Alright friends I’m feeling pretty great after watching the latest installment in the Sword Art Online franchise. I was hopping to have a good time and enjoy myself, and I thought the movie would be pretty good too, but it exceeded all of my expectations. In this article I’m going to (briefly) run down my thoughts on SAO pre-movie and where I’m at it now having seen the film. With that, let’s get to it; Link Start!
I’ve seen both seasons of Sword Art Online and while it certainly has been riddled with flaws, I have always enjoyed it. Season one had me invested in Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and the death game angle during the first half kept me engaged as well. While it’s true that this was the first modern anime I watched, and I have a bit of a soft spot for it, these were two angles that had me willing to finish out season one. Sure, the second half wasn’t great but there was enough for me to enjoy and the first season got a pretty average rating from me.
Season two improved on many aspects that were lacking for me. I liked the GGO arc well enough and was stunned by time Mother’s Rosario played out. A lot of this was because the writing for this arc was pretty solid, and Asuna got a lot of screen time. This arc delivered a narrative that people could connect with and was genuinely touching. I absolutely hated the Excalibur arc but overall the second season was a massive improvement over season one.
I wouldn’t preach SAO as the best show ever, but I certainly don’t hate on it like others have in the past. Before this movie, I would have said the franchise was mostly ok (excepting Mother’s Rosario arc, that is really good) if you could look past some flaws.
So this brings us to Ordinal Scale.
Wow. I was not expecting this movie to be nearly as good as it was. First though, some grievances with my experience at the particular theater I went to.
Naturally, I am very happy that I was afforded the opportunity to see this film. It’s rare that anything comes closer than a day’s travel for me so this was a really cool opportunity. Unfortunately, the theater wanted nothing to do with us. The staff gave us looks of disapproval for being there, complained about us cheering and laughing during the movie, and they didn’t even bother dimming the lights until somebody went and complained to staff. That is the one black mark on the whole evening, I just can’t believe how poorly we paying customers were treated.
Back to the movie though.
Before the film started it had some silly trivia game about SAO. I got all the questions right and we all made stupid jokes about how easy some of the questions were. It wasn’t necessary to have this sort of thing but it was fun and got everybody in a relaxed mood. People chatted about how excited they were for the movie and talked about shows they grew up on. It was super cool, there isn’t anything like that IRL that really goes on around here so this was pretty neat.
Once the movie got rolling some of the staff members gave little speeches about how glad they were that people came to see the movie. They were obviously pre-recorded but a nice touch. The first speaker was LiSA who sings “Catch the Moment” for the film. Next up was the VA for Asuna, who spoke a bit too long but was pretty funny. Lastly, the VA for Kirito spoke with way too much enthusiasm but got everybody smiling, cheering, and ready for a good time. The most important thing he said was in regards to this being the culmination of everything SAO has done, and that’s 100% true. He was my favorite and it was an excellent idea for him to have gone last since it put us all in a great mood for the film.
The film opens up with a bit of exposition to remind people of what has happened thus far in the world of SAO. It was a fairly good recap of events and the lady behind me, whom had never seen any of Sword Art Online at all, told me afterwards that she felt like she had a pretty good grasp on what happened during season 1 and 2 by the end. There are a few things in the film that this recap doesn’t touch on, but nothing too major.
After that the movie gets right into explaining the new augmented reality craze and the Ordinal Scale game. There is a really cute scene with Silica that I liked a lot in the beginning where she sings karaoke in the middle of the mall. Any way, this is when the movie starts doing things right.
Immediately, you can tell that Kirito is not a fan of this AR game at all. This is then explained a short while later when Kirito is shown to suck at it. By doing this the show kind of pokes fun at itself but makes a lot of its events more believable with just this scene alone.
A lot of spoiler stuff happens but let’s just say that the best parts of SAO are called back on. The game has a real threat element to it, which is the original appeal of the franchise. Additionally, the main focus of the story is on the relationship that Asuna and Kirito have. These are the two most important facets of the franchise and the film knows it.
During its runtime of about 2 hours none of the time feels wasted. Three new characters are introduced and they all feel relatively fleshed out and fit into the narrative quite well. Their motives are clear and cam be empathized with as well. Just genuinely good writing.
On that note, the movie also addresses some problems that the franchise has had in the past. It does this by “retroactively” addressing things, but not like in season 2 where they just insert events you never actually saw. Instead a character will say something that clarifies a plot hole or issue, or an event relevant to Ordinal Scale itself will be shown that fixes some issues from the past without adding new scenes to the original two seasons prior. It is a bit hard to explain without going into it but not hard to see in the film if you watch it.
Another thing to note was that the film featured plenty of nods to the best bits in the past season’s. These were excellent touches that really enhanced the film for me.
There were a few problems with the film but nothing all that major. I wish that Kirito’s training sessions would have been shown a bit more at the end and that they wouldn’t have tried to explain the science behind a certain aspect of the plot, but other than that, no real complaints from me.
Character designs were sleek and nice. For me, the backgrounds and some of the enemy designs were the real winners though. They reminded me of a combination of Dark Souls and Bloodbourne which was something I thought was pretty cool. Especially for the final boss, woah, that design was crazy. The music was excellent, to nobody’s surprise as well.
I had three predictions going into this film and I think they were all true:
- I thought I’d enjoy the film at the very least
- The film would continue the upward trend in quality that Mother’s Rosario started
- Some flaws with the previous installments would be fixed or made up for in some way
While I don’t think this film is going to drastically change anybody’s opinion on the franchise if they absolutely hated it before, it was an excellent film. When I heard claims that this was the best the franchise has done yet, even better than my personal favorite arc (Mother’s Rosario), I was worried, but this is a fair claim to make. I give this film a strong recommendation and would happily see it again given the opportunity.
Did you see Ordinal Sclae? If you did, what were your thoughts? Please don’t spoil the film though, I think this is one that is best with less knowledge going into it. If you didn’t get to see the film, what were your impressions? Let me know and consider leavin’ a like if you enjoyed this and I hope to see you back around here soon!