Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale Movie Review
Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale is the 2017 movie adaptation of the acclaimed Sword Art Online light novel series written by Reki Kawahara. The movie is directed by Tomohiko Ito and produced by A-1 Pictures, just as the previous iterations of the franchise. Ordinal Scale is a continuation after the end of the second season of the Sword Art Online anime series.
(Slight spoilers to the movie and Sword art Online anime series ahead)
Ordinal Scale’s story begins just a week after the events of the Mother’s Rosario arc. Kirito and friends are shown to be using the newest trending gadget, the Augma. This is where Ordinal Scale stands apart from the previous iterations, where in the past it’s all about devices that can create a virtual reality, the Augma creates an artificial reality in our real world. Which means that players will have to move actually run around, fling their imaginary swords, and reload their non-existent guns all for the public eye to see. Totally not awkward at all, yep. Even so, the Augma seems to be largely well received among the masses because of its practicality and apparent risk free nature in comparison to the infamous NerveGear and even the AmuSphere to some extent. But is it really as safe as people say it is?
The plot for this movie is unfortunately very predictable and it does a TERRIBLE job at explaining past events to people who are new to the series or just decided to see this movie on a whim without prior knowledge of the franchise. Almost every major side character from the anime series makes an appearance at some point so if you didn’t watch them, you won’t be as satisfied finishing this movie compared to the people who did watch the entire series (or read the light novels). However, the main conflict of this movie pleasantly surprised me. The threat for the most part of this movie isn’t that of death, but something more personal; memories. I won’t go deeper into this subject because it might spoil too much of the plot, but I do need to address that this theme managed to carve a much needed grey and ambiguous color into the universe of Sword Art Online that consisted too much of the generic good versus evil conflicts, making things a lot more interesting and less cliché which is always a good thing in my book.
Kirito is the same as he’s always been in this movie (for better or for worse). Because the Augma creates an artificial reality in the real world and Kirito is your average nerd shut-in in real life, he initially has some problems adjusting to actually moving his body in order to play. I thought that this was a clever move as now Kirito has a chance to actually USE his brain and rely on his wits instead of being overpowered all of the time… but no, he doesn’t stay that way for long which is a huge wasted opportunity that could’ve finally developed his character into something more than just a copy-and-paste standard light novel protagonist.
Asuna has a some great moments where she gets the spotlight in the boss battles. Much to Kirito’s displeasure, she has the slight edge over him when it comes to using your actual body to play an AR game. It’s good to see Asuna’s actual competence as a gamer every once in a while.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Asuna and Kirito relationship. A lot of their dialogue with each other often feels forced and sounds like a conversations between two teenagers that just started dating each other, even though they’ve been together for a couple years and have been through hell and back with each other which makes the whole thing even worse for me. I just don’t feel any real believable chemistry between the two. The last scene of them together was pretty good but that’s just about it for them unfortunately.
A new character that made their debut in this movie is Eiji. He holds the second rank in Ordinal Scale and is athletically capable, the polar opposite of Kirito who is just your standard shut-in video game nerd. He has an interesting backstory and actually has believable motivations for his actions. Yet the movie somehow managed to screw him up by making him look and act like a total jerk every single time he appears. In my opinion, he was way more relatable than Kirito. Eiji felt like an actual person who wanted to make a difference in his life while Kirito seemed like a generic character trope in comparison to him. Unfortunately I can’t say anything more about him due to possible spoilers.
All of the major side characters from the anime series also have a part in this movie. I don’t have anything to say about them other than it was nice to see the whole gang together again, especially Klein.
A-1 Pictures really delivered with this one. The best part of Ordinal Scale for me is hands down the action scenes. The backgrounds are gorgeous, the animations are as fluid as they can be and you just can’t help but love the feeling whenever a boss appears and an action scene is about to come up because you KNOW that you’re in for an awesome time. I admit that I was quite bored for the majority of this movie but whenever an action scene came up I forget why I was even bored in the first place and actually enjoy myself… until it ends and I get bored again. So if you just wanted to see a movie with kick-ass action scenes, Ordinal Scale will satisfy your cravings indefinitely. The final fight alone made the expensive ticket price to see this movie all worth it.
Sword Art Online always had great sound direction and this movie is no exception. The soundtrack definitely made the boss battle scenes all the more epic, as expected from Yuki Kajiura. The sounds made when swords clash to structures being destroyed by the bosses were perfect and definitely added a more visceral feel to each action scene. Nothing more to say other than if you watched the series, you’ll notice that they used some of the old tracks for the sake of nostalgia I guess.
Ordinal Scale has:
- Great and fluid animations
- Realistic sound effects and awesome soundtrack
- Adrenaline-pumping action scenes
But is plagued by:
- Almost non-existent character development
- Predictable plot
- Generic dialog
Ordinal Scale is not a deep movie by any standards. The plot is laughably predictable, the characters were given so many opportunities for further development but almost every single one was wasted or never further touched upon and Kirito is still the shallow, generic, overpowered protagonist he always was who is just there to continue the plot. But did I enjoy watching it? Surprisingly, I did. It's a fun ride if you can just turn your brain off and if you can suspend your disbelief long enough to see the good parts of this movie, which are the superb animations and awesome soundtrack. Just keep in mind that you’ll have a significantly better time if you have watched the anime series or read the light novels prior to watching this movie.