Fireworks and Trusting Audiences

Fireworks isn’t available anywhere at the moment, it seems.

There have been an awful lot of anime films getting limited runs in theaters just this summer – aside from the “Ghibli Fest” running a Hayao Miyazaki movie through wide-ish distribution about once per month, we’ve already gotten the delightful Maquia and fan-anticipated Fate/Stay Night, with old favorite Cowboy Bebop, staple series Dragon Ball Z, mouthful The Night is Short Walk On Girl, and terrifyingly intriguing Perfect Blue coming up just in the next month as of this posting. Kind of a shame that these only go for a day or two each, which isn’t nearly enough time for them to get the positive word of mouth that these movies deserve.

Not-listed-in-the-above teen drama Fireworks, There’s a Long Subtitle Here But I’m Going to Drop It Now got a bit lost in the shuffle, largely because it’s running against a list of top-shelf directors and a couple of nostalgic picks, but partly because of a mixed-to-negative critical reception. And that’s a shame, because while it’s a bit of a mixed bag taken as a whole, there are a few aspects of this movie that really sparkle.

One of the most notable high points for me was actually borne out of a common complaint from other viewers – that the premise was trite and derivative. Personally, that’s never bothered me terribly much (one reason of many why I’m happy to keep coming back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies), but Fireworks leverages that to deliver a powerful reveal.

Or rather, a powerful lack of reveal.

The most basic of spoilers lie ahead, but as it’s not unreasonable to think that an awful lot of viewers will go into Fireworks fairly blind, I’m including an image as buffer so that you can bail out and come back later if necessary.

uhwindturbines
Wind turbines are the bee’s knees, as is all the art and animation on display in Fireworks.

Just those who have watched it and those who don’t care so much are still reading then?

Great!

It’s not apparent from the film’s title nor any of its scant marketing material (at least, not in the United States), but Fireworks is effectively an short-term time-travel movie in the vein of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. That is to say, the main character happens upon a means to travel back in time to the tune of several hours, turning his Saturday into a protracted series of chasing down “what-if” scenarios.

And it’s never explained to the audience.

We never learn how time travel is possible in this setting, nor anything at all about the MacGuffin object that enables it, because those details are thoroughly unimportant.

The audience-stand-in protagonist never even stops to remark “why is it morning on Saturday again?” because he’s a surrogate for a viewer who’s already fully aware of what the plot is doing.

The camera doesn’t dwell on repeated scenes or frame them in oh-so-spooky angles, becasue that’s a waste of time for the 99% of us who already get it.

Yes, abusing time travel for the sake of your social interactions is a very old story contrivance that American viewers are very familiar with by way of Bill Murray and Japanese audiences are likely equally comfortable with through the aforementioned The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (popular enough to have six separate visual adaptations, apparently).

But that means that, instead of retreading exposition on a rote premise, it can leapfrog the bit where most viewers will zone out a bit and instead get right back into what it really wants to be doing with its time.

Granted, that largely involves using a very talented suite of artists and animators to vividly portray a romantic drama that ultimately has a notably uneven power dynamic for a movie made in 2017.

Hey, not everything about the movie has to be great for me to remember it fondly and gush about it. I’d much rather a few things stand out strongly and proudly – and its stunning visuals and unique trust in its audience’s media literacy do just that.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not going to sit patiently while Star Wars: Episode IX inevitably explains the plan for its heroes to strike at the weak point of a massive battlestation again, of course. Just that I’ll be absolutely delighted if it skips over the paint-by-numbers briefing.

 

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