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Pastry to the Power of Ten — Cookie's Corner Y10

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Well... We made it. Ten years of CAYOM. Somehow, we outlasted 2.0., if only by a year. Let's drag this belated sh*tshow kicking and screaming through another decade, shall we?


No grades for any reviews until after the top 25. This is to allow for some suspense, and also allow me to change my mind on this or that film once I actually grade them. I'm also reading everything in posted order, so if things are off chronologically, that is why.


Without further ado, let's get reviewing...


The Second Water War


Tammy when shooting a flare gun at a mountaintop to cause an avalanche causes an avalanche:




The Second Water War weirdly takes a while to get to the actual, you know, water war, but it's harmless kids fare while it lasts. Not much to say about this one, honestly.


Cloud Cuckoo Land


Well… This was probably not an easy book to adapt.


Cloud Cuckoo Land very much follows the structure of something like Cloud Atlas, but I think compared to that film, my emotional investment in the narrative wasn’t as strong. 


That isn’t to say the film is lacking in emotion or that the individual storylines leave too many things to be desired. However, Cuckoo Land isn’t just five interwoven narratives tied together by telling the journey of a fable from its conception, to its fall into obscurity and disrepair, and its eventual restoration through nearly a thousand years — it is a film where each of the five storylines are littered with their own timeskips, with many scenes lasting for what feels like less than thirty seconds, meaning it eventually becomes somewhat meaningless to try and get too invested in individual characters given much of their development is going to be hurried past (one of the five leads, Anna, even unceremoniously dies before the last act). This kind of structure, at least in my opinion, works much better in a novel since it’s up to the reader to set their own pace, but when played out across three hours of film feels like I’m getting the cliff notes version of an even longer film played back to me. It does make me relate to the character of Konstance in a sense; spending much of my time trying to unwrap the story from a distance, but since I don’t have her urgency, I’m at the same time feeling like I’m being left at the waysides emotionally. This is something I feel Ridley Scott has struggled with when it comes to many of his films lately, and unless you have a singular protagonist in an easily rootable situation like Matt Damon’s character in The Martian, his approach to scale and spectacle over emotional resonance isn’t really helping things here.


Scale and spectacle, however, is one of the things Scott is best at, at least when it’s appropriate, and he brings ample of it here. Cloud Cuckoo Land never feels small, even when that is to its detriment, and some of the film’s more stellar moments are when it focuses on singular setpieces that place their characters in either peril or at a road’s end. These setpieces become more frequent towards the back half of the film, fortunately, and the two climactic sequences of Seymour’s attack on the library and Konstance’s escape from the vault are some of the film’s highlights. The film is also smart in casting lesser names in central roles, meaning you’re able to slink into the characters more easily (whenever the film allows you to and isn’t preoccupied with timeskips) when celebrity faces would’ve been far more distracting in those roles.


Speaking of distracting, though, I’m not entirely sure if the film’s approach to constantly ageing and de-ageing everyone works to its benefit. Seeing Jake T. Austin strot around as an octogenarian in the final act is more than a little silly, especially when he then has to carry an entire action sequence looking like that. Some of the ageing/de-ageing also comes across as a bit unnecessary when only a decade or so differs from the character and the actor’s age, such as Julie Delpy throughout most of the film. I’m not gonna say that the effect is poorly executed, but it often stretches it in terms of necessity to the point it just feels overdone.


Cloud Cuckoo Land is an ambitious film, no doubt about it, but it's also one that left me moderately intrigued rather than enthralled. It’s not a bad film by any means, and that the film manages to pull it off at all and not fall flat on its ass like another Cloud Atlas-inspired sci-fi/fantasy film that graced CAYOM a few years back (do I need to say anything other than ELIXIR BAD?) is remarkable in and of itself — but ambition alone doesn’t make a film great. The film, as it is, is solid but could’ve needed a fair amount of tweaks to make for a stronger final product.


Klonoa: Door to Phantomile


This is why you don’t do straight adaptations of video game plots — because they often don’t have any.


Klonoa: Door to Phantomile is a ”film” in the sense that it has visuals, audio, and a beginning, middle, and end, but the fetch-quests-leading-into-boss-fights structure it utilises just doesn’t serve it well, especially when your protagonist is bland as a cracker and any sense of worldbuilding is either dumped at you through mounds of exposition or just not addressed at all. All of this is fine in a video game because you’re distracted by the gameplay, but when you see it play back as a movie it just becomes annoying, tedious, and at times overly confusing. That’s before the film suddenly pulls a last-minute twist that leaves the protagonist subject to a seemingly ambiguous fate, which is probably not going to go down all that well with younger audiences. Klonoa has the cutesy visuals to distract its main demographic for the allotted runtime (albeit, 110 minutes is pretty long for a movie that doesn’t have that much going for it), but anyone older is probably going to check out long before its end twist leaves them scratching their heads.




Feels more like a sanitized episode of Bupkis (and not just because Pete Davidson’s in it), only it doesn’t end with Pete waking up having imagined the whole thing in a drug-induced haze. Pac-Man is incredibly slight, even for its 88-minute runtime, but it is harmless family entertainment, and at least has more to offer story-wise than the preceding Klonoa, even if it’s not much.


Room 131


It wouldn’t give anything away to say that this ties into the infamous Poison & Wine trilogy that certainly had a, uh… lasting impact on the early years of this iteration of CAYOM. What is a spoiler is how exactly this ties into that series, and it is a bit of a left turn for a franchise that, while it certainly got absurd by the end of its brief existence, didn’t involve the supernatural as far as I recall. I suppose you gotta do something different if you seek to breathe new life into it, so I’ll give the filmmakers credit for trying at least.


To Room 131’s benefit, while it ties into Poison & Wine and its increasingly ludicrous sequels in a rather unexpected way, it’s smart enough to avoid many of that trilogy’s downfalls. It certainly becomes melodramatic to the point of near-farce in its final act, but the preceding film is tightly plotted and involves a fairly decent mystery, even if the resolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The main characters are all fairly grounded and relatable, and the film’s approach to depicting homophobia, both internal and external, are done commendably and effectively. The eventual supernatural explanation did get a little much for my taste, and the post-credit scene, as hilarious of a reveal as it was, left me with way more questions than answers, but I can see a path forward for the franchise that embraces the camp horror in a way that doesn’t overdo it. As a return to the Poison & Wine universe, Room 131 is quite solid of an entry, and may even be its best instalment, but where exactly the story goes in the future may have to be the deciding factor. As it stands, it’s a welcome return for O$corp Pictures to CAYOM.


Adam & Cindy ft. Cersei in: Guinea Piggest




As far as crossovers go, this might be the most unnecessary in all of existence.


Not just because the Adam & Cindy series’s gentle charm didn’t need to clash with the nonsensical trollpasta nature of the Guinea Pig franchise, but also because Adam and Cindy themselves felt like they had no reason to even be there. The result is a Guinea Pig threequel featuring two embarrassed guest stars that ends on a dumb climactic fight scene that doesn’t actually resolve anything the film was setting out to do, yet the movie wants to pretend somehow ties up Cersei’s story in a neat bow. I don’t often say this, but I seriously question what the point of this whole exercise even was — outside of squeezing a few more dollars out of a franchise that should’ve been put out of its misery once we found out what ”the power of fresh lettuce” meant by dragging an otherwise harmless series down with it. Just a complete, utter waste that may end up killing Adam & Cindy via collateral damage. Do not recommend.


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Posted (edited)

The Boy with the Green Eyes (*spoilers*)


Oh, good, after delivering a consistently solid entry with Room 131, the Poison & Wine cinematic universe has dived straight back into insane trainwreck territory. That brief reprieve was fun while it lasted.




The Boy with the Green Eyes starts with promise, but it quickly unravels once the "horror" elements rear their head in the second half. The musical approach, even if it causes quite a few tonal neck snaps, is actually the film's strongest aspect, mostly with the upbeat, energetic song numbers that litter the first half. Once the plot goes off the rails those song numbers become a little more hokey, but at least they provide relief from the car crash of an endgame reveal that unfolds around them.


That's not even to say that the finale is awful, just that it's... bonkers in a way that I don't think entirely works to its intended effect. I think the issue for me is that the impetus Giovanni's backstory is centered around (his stepfather violently and sexually abusing him) being resolved with magic, time manipulation, and an eventual wizard duel that ends in Giovanni ripping his opponent's heart out of their chest I'm likely going to find iffy almost regardless of how it is executed. I don't want to say the filmmakers were wrong for trying, but mixing those two elements didn't entirely gel for me. It's a bold swing, even by the standards of a series that's known for exactly that, but I personally would've gone for a slightly different approach.


And then there's the post-credit scene...


...You know what, fuck it. If the endgame for this cinematic universe is going to be Giovanni, a resurrected Nicole, and (I presume) Jordan forming a perverted Legion of Doom to presumably take revenge on Hunter and Tyler, then I can't say I fault the franchise for embracing its own madness. I just hope we get a few more semi-subdued works like Room 131 to go along with it.


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Posted (edited)

Berserk: The Golden Age

*major spoilers below*


To say this film is a mouthful would be putting it lightly — and I mean that in more ways than one.

Sci-fi/fantasy epics are nothing new in CAYOM, and Lager Pictures is no stranger to them either. In fact, they’ve produced what I personally think is the most defining one — Matt Reeves’ Odyssey trilogy, with its middle chapter, Counsel of the Dead, ranking as one of my favourite entries in the entire game. While that trilogy got to ride high into the sunset, with its final entry winning Best Picture in Year 4, Lager hasn’t quite been able to recapture its magic since. A spiritual successor of sorts came with Year 7’s Attack on Titan, but despite good reviews and strong box office, the story of Eren Jaeger and his titan-killing comrades ended up stalling before it had a chance to really take off, leaving its cliffhanger ending unresolved. I bring up Titan because it’s a film that, despite the reservations I had, is one I keep coming back to in one way or another. For good and for ill, it was an undertaking that I think was trickier to pull off than it might seem on the surface, and one I maybe wasn’t giving as fair of a shake as I could’ve. Not that I was being disingenuous with my initial assessment, but I feel like I was being a bit too harsh on it, and if I ever do a full reevaluation I might come out with a more nuanced second opinion.

Fitting, then, that Lager Pictures is back three years later with their second stab at a bloody, R-rated fantasy epic based on a hugely influential anime property. I can’t say I know too much about Berserk, but I can tell that The Golden Age was done with sincere love and respect for its source material, going as far as to include a solemn tribute to its late author at the very end. Across 54,000 words of text, there’s not a sentence in this that feels cynical, or thrown together on a whim (although I did notice the writing quality faltering slightly in the second half, which may have understandably been due to time constraints. Not something I intend to hold against it, anyhow). As someone who’s written his share of beefy texts, I’m honestly impressed that something this big and sprawling holds together as well as it does, as it could’ve very easily been a much worse chore to get through.

But passion aside, does the film itself hold up to scrutiny?

See, Berserk isn’t just any old fantasy epic. It’s based on a long-running manga. It’s animated. It’s gory and grisly to the point that some of its bloodier moments become nearly farcical. It contains multiple sequences strongly implying sexual assault against underage characters, and it uses those sequences to illustrate the dichotomy between power and powerlessness.

And it’s all under the guiding hands of Zack Snyder.

Snyder’s involvement in The Golden Age is one I was looking forward to seeing how it would play out. Turns out, it’s both a blessing and a curse. 

If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from Snyder and his highly controversial run of films, DC Extended Universe included, is that his interests lie in depicting his characters as mythological figures existing in a world that is as raw, unsanitized, and yet hyperreal that we can easily distinguish it as vastly different from our reality yet doesn’t provide that kind of clean escape you’d otherwise find in most genre blockbusters. There’s very little inviting about the world of Berserk, a medieval setting torn asunder by a seemingly never-ending conflict where either side will stoop to the worst of lows just to ensure their victory over the other, and demonic entities crawl along the sidelines waiting for an opportunity to throw a giant wrench (or in Zodd’s case, a blade) into the proceedings and cause even more chaos. Forging your own path might as well be a death wish, for it is a world where unquestioning loyalty and your willingness to plough through opposing forces at the behest of brutes, manipulators, and abusers matter above all. ”Justice” exists in the eye of the beholder and not by the rule of law, provided you don’t have the wealth, blood, or influence to simply bend the law to your liking. Many of the characters in Berserk seek an escape from this permanent state, but even in their attempts to change the world they still perpetuate the cycle of violence and suffering that shaped who they were to begin with.

Where I think Snyder tends to go off the rails, other than applying moral murkiness to characters and stories that I don’t think should be ensnared by it (see: Superman), is that his photography is often too gleeful of its subjects for what they actually represent, and that sometimes comes with some highly unfortunate subtext. The endless lionising of Leonidas and the Spartans in 300 becomes chilling when you realise that the only way the movie can make it work is if you then portray their opposing force, the Persians, as demonic, perverted entities hellbent on destroying all that is good and pure. In Watchmen, Snyder took a work that made no mince about the fact that its costumed vigilantes weren’t to be idolised and made them look as slick and cool as possible, regardless of what they were doing or where the story was actually headed. Even Man of Steel got in on this; the writing going to great lengths to portray Superman as the aspiring, hopeful figure people he's often depicted as, only for Snyder to film that same figure ramming Zod through collapsing buildings with thousands of people still inside, because he’d rather defeat Zod than save them. Mind you, a culminating scene in that final act is Clark and Lois making out while the centre of Metropolis, the city Clark was supposed to protect, lies in ashes in the background.

Now, I’ve read and seen enough about Zack Snyder to know this *probably* isn’t intentional. Snyder rarely if ever talks about whatever subtext his work’s supposed to have (one of the rare moments that stood out to me was when he admitted to giving Xerxes effeminate traits in order to make young male audiences uncomfortable and intimidated by him, which could be the topic of a whole other essay) and seems way more interested in making his films look ”cool” at any given moment, audience interpretation of it be damned.

I bring this up because Berserk has much of that same glee. Most of the film’s action scenes don’t go ten seconds without an enemy opponent getting cleaved in half like they were butter going up against a hot knife, and if you’re squeamish about seeing horses bite it on the battlefield this movie will probably leave you deeply traumatised — even if it’s an animated film so there was no chance of animals ever being harmed during production. Guts and his bandmates tear their way through hordes of enemies with swipe and precision to a sometimes ridiculous degree, turning the named members of the Band of Hawks into near-invincible superheroes that nevertheless have the restraint of angry teenagers on adrenaline highs. Even their downtime in the first half of the story is mostly taken up by them yelling at, pranking, or being oddly mistrustful of one another, even though there’s never a moment when any of them betray their friends, and any break from the ranks is momentary and rarely detrimental to their outcome in battle. The one character that differs from this crowd is Griffith, but we’ll get to him in a second.

For the most part, however, Snyder’s approach doesn’t have the same chilling effect here as it does in something like 300 or Watchmen. That’s probably because the world of Berserk is complete fantasy instead of being drawn from real-world history or meant to deconstruct the genre it represents, and so the gleefulness of its ultra-violence is much easier to swallow. The protagonists in Berserk also come from suffering and injustice themselves, and so them taking their anger out on their enemies is more about catharsis rather than upholding some sort of ideological standard — although Griffith is unquestionably ideologically driven, but like I said, we’ll get to him in a bit.

Guts, as a protagonist, is less concerned about the world around him than he is about what’s immediately in front of him, whether it’s his friends being in trouble or an opponent trying to kill him. There is an internal conflict of him being a hound for Griffith that culminates in their duel at the very end of the film, but it doesn’t get much play outside of him saying he feels like a slave to Griffith’s will. On the battlefield, he often takes his own incentive for one reason or another, and it rarely ever backfires on him or his relationship with Griffith. Though he challenges Griffith’s authority over him at first, he comes to more or less just accept it until all the work is finished. He rarely seems to stop and question who he’s fighting for and why. In a way, that’s kind of the point, as it’s the story of a man struggling for his free will in a world where that’s in short supply, but the contrast between him on the battlefield and him outside of it stuck out to me nonetheless.

There is one moment, however, where I think Snyder’s gleefulness and Guts’s character collide in a way that I think came close to causing the whole enterprise to collapse underneath itself, and that is a seemingly pivotal moment towards the end of the first half. After an assassination attempt on Griffith on behalf of a rival of his, Julius, Guts is sent to exact bloody revenge on him on behalf of Griffith. Guts, without ever hesitating, does exactly that, slicing an unarmed Julius’s chest open in the middle of his living room, turning Guts into an assassin as opposed to a soldier. The murder, however, doesn’t stop there, as in a panicked frenzy to cover his tracks he ends up shoving his blade straight through an innocent young child—Julius’s son, Adonis—whom he had witnessed just minutes prior being mistreated by his father, not dissimilarly to how Guts was mistreated by his own father figure in the film’s copious amount of flashbacks (which we’ll get to in a bit).

The first time reading it, I assumed this was going to be a big turning point for both Guts and the overall story. He has just murdered an innocent, and he can no longer excuse it as having been an enemy on the battlefield or a superior who badly mistreated him. His penchant for violence and his loyalty to Griffith have finally come of great consequence. Is his relationship with Griffith irrevocably changed now? Is Guts going to break from his ranks and try to flee? Will he confront Griffith about this head-on?

The answer to all of the above, it turns out, is… not really?

I couldn’t help but think of the highly debated ending of Man of Steel, where Superman snaps Zod’s neck in order to stop him from killing innocents (not that it seemed to be of great concern to him before, but whatevs). By all accounts, this SHOULD be a moment of great consequence, one that’ll reverberate across Superman’s arc not just for the rest of the movie but for future entries in the DCEU… but it doesn’t. It’s filmed by Snyder and performed by Henry Cavill like it is, but it’s forgotten about in the very next scene and never becomes an issue again — even in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where Clark confronts a resurrected Zod that’s been malformed into Doomsday.

The child-killing moment in Berserk has a similar effect. It’s a little less egregious here since Guts DOES try to confront Griffith about it almost immediately after it happens, but he’s stopped by Casca and so he never gets the chance to. One intermission and a time skip later, Julius is only brought up again once, and Adonis isn’t at all. I can’t recall a moment past the intermission where having murdered an actual child in cold blood places heavily on Guts’s conscience, even when we learn of his own childhood trauma at the hands of Gambino and the two brothers. Maybe this comes back at a later point in the manga, I wouldn’t know, but it feels strange how such a seemingly pivotal moment ends up having so little impact. It’s a scene that’s shocking in the moment, but the reverb you expect it to have just isn’t there, at least not to my liking.

I think perhaps part of this stems from the story feeling a bit overly serialised in parts. This is something most anime adaptations in CAYOM suffer from in one way or another (Attack on Titan and New Journey Pictures’s Megalo Box mostly managed to avoid this), and while Berserk is far from the most egregious example, there are points in both halves that had me a bit lost as to where any of this was even going.

And then there’s the bloat. Now, a three-and-a-quarter-hour Zack Snyder film based on a serialised manga was inevitably going to have at least some bloat — I mean, we’re talking about the guy who added what felt like twenty extra minutes to his cut of Justice League for a teaser that no one but the most delusional of his fanbase thinks will ever pay off. Berserk is mostly self-contained, with only a few hints as to what may happen in the future, but that doesn’t mean it doesn't have its fair share of lengthy sequences and subplots that could’ve used some trimming in the editing room.

One part that stood out to me was the flashbacks. Not that they’re unnecessary, but many of them feel overly long and create a bit of a lull in the pacing whenever they happen. A pivotal one occurs right in the middle of an action scene, stopping said action in its tracks for what feels like five minutes when doing it in quick flashes would’ve been a lot more effective and kept the pacing up, at least in my opinion. I don’t know if it plays out like this in the source material, but given that it was a serialised manga doling out installments on an intermittent basis it probably worked a lot better there as opposed to a film where you expect the pacing to be a bit more consistent.

The serialisation also results in the lack of a strong central antagonist, as most of the conflict is instead taken up by a series of boss fights until a pair of characters from the past decide to show back up for the final battle. It makes the film feel overly crowded in the villain department, and though the last major threat (Boscogn) is the knot that ties the flashbacks together with the main story, he feels a lot less impactful as a threat than he otherwise could’ve been. This is perhaps where streamlining a few more elements (I say “more” because I’m not sure how much of this was streamlined from the manga already) would’ve made the focus tighter and created a threat that felt like it lingered as opposed to just sprouting up when it was directly relevant.

I didn’t want to harp on this initially, but an unexpected bloat honestly comes from a fair amount of the dialogue. Not during conversations between characters, as those flow just fine, but whenever either the villains or the heroes have to stop and make big, declarative speeches right in the middle of battle, it feels like it drags. Not just because many of the speeches are so over the top — it’s an anime, so of course everyone’s going to talk like an anime villain — but they go on way longer than I feel they should have, again creating major lulls in otherwise flowing action sequences. Dave Bautista’s Adon is particularly egregious in this department, as his constant shouting becomes more grating the longer it persists. Boscogn suffers from a bit of this too, particularly during the final battle, but at least his monologues are a lot more bearable.

Speaking of grating, some of Guts’ companions were neither the most developed nor the most endearing. This is me saying that Corkus sucks and I hate him, and I kept wishing for him to die whenever he jumped out and whined about petty bullshit. I get that you need some comic relief, but there are way less annoying ways to go about it.

I said I was going to circle back around to Griffith eventually, so let’s do that now. Griffith is honestly where I think both the story and Zack Snyder’s approach to it works the most, and not just because Pattinson really sells his calm messiah-like presence with his vocal performance. Snyder’s mythologizing is effective when it comes to photographing Griffith, and the relatively little we know of his origins creates an air of mystery around the character while still allowing enough trinkets of information for the audience to understand why his fellow bandmates look up to him the way they do. His relationship with Guts, where he’s allowed to be the most human, is one of the film’s more compelling aspects, which does mean that the second part of the film where they’re mostly separated is struggling to be as compelling as the preceding half. Not that Sophie Wilde’s Casca doesn’t make a game effort in making up for it once she enters the spotlight, though I kinda wish she did it earlier since most of her role in the first half of the film is just her being angry at Guts for one reason or another, which does get repetitive when it’s the fifth scene in a row where she’s yelling at him.

While most of the characters are appropriately cast, there are a few names that do end up underutilised. Thomasin McKenzie doesn’t get a whole lot to do as Charlotte except being either a damsel or giggling and swooning whenever Griffith’s around, and there are a bunch of recognizable names like Patrick Wilson, Paul Mescal, and Mathew Goode that take up bit roles that could’ve been filled by smaller character actors and the effect would’ve been negligible. This is a minuscule comment in the grand scheme of things, but some of it did stick out to me.

Since it’s an animated film, I guess it’s fair to also talk about the animation. It’s impressive, no doubt, and the film using panels from the manga to depict some of its more pivotal moments goes a long way towards crafting the atmosphere and scale that’s needed for a story like this. That said, the influences feel a bit excessive at times, as combining the manga, the 1997 anime adaptation, Golden Age cinema, Kurosawa, 80s dark fantasy, and various eras of Disney animation into one giant blender turns some scenes into of a stylistic mush. Perhaps limiting the influences just a little bit would’ve created a clearer but still vibrant image. From a technical perspective, the frequent battle sequences are some of the most impressive action animation ever done in CAYOM, so no complaints there.

I spent some time thinking about how I was going to wrap up writing about a behemoth like this (I had quite a few more paragraphs that I decided to cut since I felt like they didn’t add much). Berserk: The Golden Age is a work of passion in every corner of the frame, but it’s also one that comes with a long list of flaws. That’s almost inevitable when it comes to something of this scope since there’s so many moving pieces that it’d be impossible for all of them to hit bullseye 100% of the time. It’s also why I’m not as critical as I could’ve been because, as I mentioned before, the fact that the film doesn’t catastrophically collapse under its own weight is an achievement in and of itself. Berserk is a gigantic epic that nevertheless has the anger and emotion of something much smaller, and while not all of it works, I couldn’t help but appreciate the moments that did. How high this’ll end up ranking on my list come the end of the year remains to be seen, since there’s still a lot I feel like I have to mull over, even nearly a week after reading it, but I can still call it mission accomplished on most of its fronts, despite the plethora of warts that crop up along the way.


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I'm very frustrated at the moment because I spent two hours writing out a response to some of the points in the review only for it all to get accidentally deleted by the forum briefly crashing on me 🫠. I'll try writing it out again (on Google Docs first this time lol) on Sunday after my extended family leaves, but for the time being, thank you so much for the very long and detailed review. Regardless of how you've felt about my films over the years, I've always appreciated your engaging, insightful, and often very entertaining analyses of my work and others as well.


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On 3/29/2024 at 8:08 AM, cookie said:

Berserk: The Golden Age

*major spoilers below*

  Reveal hidden contents

A day later than I promised, but here's my response*.


*Full disclosure: this will be a slightly abridged version of what I had originally written on Friday before it got eaten by the forums crashing on me. Instead of typing it all out again, I’ll only stick to the stuff that directly correlates to the review and save the rest for my retrospective series on my filmography in my review thread. 


[Spoilers ahead, for those who haven’t read Berserk yet]



Before I go on, I want to, again, thank you for the review, which I know must’ve taken you a while to write out. Regardless of how you feel about the film overall, I greatly appreciate how in-depth you went on certain aspects you found interesting – positive, negative, or anywhere between. 


In particular, I greatly enjoyed your analysis of Zack Snyder and his films. I feel like you perfectly highlighted the things I find fascinating about him and his work – especially his interest in depicting his characters as mythological figures – and I enjoyed the way you applied that to Berserk in the review. He’s never been one of my favorite filmmakers, but as often as I find myself frustrated with his work, I still have great admiration and respect for the dude. He’s one of the very few bid-budget filmmakers who has a unique voice and visual style that makes him an instant stand-out from the rest of his industry peers. 


I knew going into writing this film that choosing him as the director to helm would bring a certain level of baggage and expectation with it that I was a tiny bit afraid would tamper people’s views on it. However, after completing it, I have to say that I’m very proud that I stuck with him all the way through. It was an earnest attempt on my part to give a director whom I respect a good deal but who I feel has yet to make a truly great film (IMO, the Snyder Cut of Justice League comes oh so close to reaching that but falls short with that unnecessary epilogue) a chance to make something with a relatively solid narrative foundation to build off that could perfectly compliment his style and sensibilities so that both could, in the process, elevate each other. I’m… still not sure how well I did on that front, but given the mostly positive response from everyone so far, I feel I can at least say I did an okay job. 


Now onto one of the main criticisms that you put forth in your review: the murders of Julius/Adonis and the seeming lack of acknowledgment or consequences that follow it. Honestly, even though I have an explanation for it, which I’ll get to in a bit, I do fully and completely get it. It’s most definitely the result of, as you put it, the “serialized” feel of the narrative, but also probably the effect of me cutting out a certain subplot from the manga. 


So basically, after Julius’ assassination, the Queen of Midland, Charlotte’s stepmother, who we find out was having an affair with Julius behind the King’s back, conspires with a bunch of nobles to off Griffith by poisoning him with a spiked drink at the banquet ceremony (which mostly plays out the same as you see in the film). The plan appears to succeed when Griffith falls to the floor, seemingly dead, creating panic and unrest, especially with Casca and the Hawks, but it turns out to be a ruse since both he and Guts knew the Queen’s plan all along thanks to an insider that Griffith blackmailed earlier in the arc. Long story short, the Queen and her conspirators are locked inside a burning tower while Griffith watches on, eliminating one more set of people to secure his path to the throne. As you could probably guess, I cut this whole section out as it basically would’ve been the equivalent of Peter Jackson keeping the Scouring of the Shire in The Return of the King. Sure, it would’ve faithfully adapted the section from the source material, but it’d come at the cost of lengthening an already long epilogue to an already long film. Even before I began writing, it was one of the most obvious cuts I knew I had to make going in to keep the film relatively streamlined.


But going back to Adonis, in particular, I’ll admit I probably could’ve done a better job conveying how that murder affected Guts afterward but I do think it does weaves the way to the biggest consequence of the story at the very end – Guts’ decision to leave the Hawks. 


The royal party scene where Guts overhears Griffith’s conversation with Charlotte at the fountain is the film’s major turning point, especially the part where Griffith says that he doesn’t consider those who don’t aspire to their dreams his friends or “equals”, as he puts it. It’s crushing to Guts, because up to that point, he’s devoted his last few years to fighting under Griffith and his dream, arguably becoming his most trusted ally on the battlefield and also the one person off the battlefield whom he feels he can be open with. All of this comes to a head with him murdering the King’s brother and his son in cold blood under Griffith’s command. All of that: helping Griffith get two steps closer to the throne by killing his main rival and accidentally eliminating his son, the main heir betrothed to the princess, too; nearly dying killing every royal guard who catches a glimpse of his face; almost drowning in the sewers, where he has a nightmarish vision of Zodd murdering his younger self, showing his adult face imposed onto the beast’s, visualizing how he has become like a monster, just like the one who took away his innocence when he was a kid. 


All of that pain and effort, all that unearthed trauma. All of that… just for Guts to hear the one person who ordered him to carry it out, the one person he most respected and admired, the one person he considered his closest friend… inadvertently deny all of that directly to his face.


From that point on, there’s an obvious shift in the way Guts views Griffith, especially after everything Casca divulges about him, and even moreso after their conversation during the bonfire of dreams sequence. There are still moments where the two are shown being close to one another, but equally so, you also visually see Guts viewing Griffith from a distance: riding out on horseback at the start of the new war campaign, with Casca on top of the Doldrey walls after the battle, at the banquet celebration where they smile at each other across the room (Griffth inside and Guts outside behind glass doors on the balcony). Their relationship is strained, even if neither one verbally acknowledges it. And it’s through all of this that Guts realizes that all this time living and fighting within a giant group, who all have individual dreams themselves and come together to fuel one man’s dream, he’s never once considered what his own dream might be, other than surviving day-to-day with his sword in hand, because, in the unforgiving world he lives in, it's an absolute necessity. That maybe, just maybe, there’s something he can aspire to achieve on his own, out from under the dream of another. That maybe, one day, the man he considered his best friend could look at him and consider him his equal. 


All of that’s to say, I feel that Adonis’ death does affect everything that follows in a major way… just not in a manner that’s ever verbally acknowledged past the Intermission point. To be fair, everything that follows afterward in the manga doesn’t dwell on it too much either, except maybe for the cut subplot I mentioned earlier (but that only really briefly touches on the Queen’s relationship with Julius without really acknowledging Adonis so… not entirely). And I will also say that, in regards to potential future sequels, Guts’ relationship with kid characters plays an important part, both for his character and the overarching story. I'll be curious to see what you and the others think of those elements when we get there.


I do understand, though, how that pivotal moment could get overlooked in such a long film with so much already going on in it and a narrative with a lot on its mind. I don’t imagine my explanation here will change your mind about it (or anyone else’s for that matter). Still, since you brought it up in the review, I felt compelled to add some necessary context to help connect the pieces of the overall story that weren’t quite clicking for you. I hope this explanation helped somewhat.


Other minor points in your review that I wanted to touch on:

  • Boscogn as the main villain was one of the major completely original additions I made for the film. His character is greatly expanded from his manga counter-point, whose only real purpose was to be the big boss Guts to fight during the Battle of Doldrey. Hell, he only shows up for the first time in that scene where he demotes Adon in humiliating fashion, lol. Everything with him being a figure from Guts’ past, not only as Gambino’s right-hand man but also as Donovan’s brother, was all to give the film an overarching antagonist that connected the past and present timelines, and also to give the Battle of Doldrey far more emotional stakes; not to say that there wasn’t any in that section of the manga, but for a film adaptation, I felt it was necessary to heighten those emotions in a way that would be narratively satisfying. In the manga, Casca and Griffith still got to confront the main figures from their past – Adon and Gennon – that gave them grief and trouble, but Guts fighting Boscogn was just another challenging obstacle for him to overcome and not much else. So yeah, that was kind of my thought process behind that change and the villains overall. I imagine the main complaint about the lack of a strong central antagonist probably stems from me not going quite as far with Boscogn’s character as I probably could’ve, but I do hope this long explanation gives some insight into my creative decisions behind all that.
  • I completely get the comment about the minor cast members, though, in my defense, it’s not like Snyder hasn’t included cameo roles from actors he’s collaborated with before in his following films. Many of my casting choices were informed by my putting myself in his shoes and imagining who he’d put in the role. Funny you brought up Paul Mescal, though. I cast him sometime after watching Aftersun, but also right before he was nominated for the Oscar, and I completely forgot about that fact until long after I submitted the film. Oh well, lol. Overall I don’t think it’s that big a deal, since there are already quite a few character actors and a few veteran voice actors (two of whom played characters in previous Berserk media) in the cast, but, again, I do get the sentiment of wishing for strictly smaller character actors for bit parts in films like these. I'll keep that in mind for the future.
  • Regarding the stylistic influences, the main reason that section is there is to give a little more of an idea of what the film would resemble beyond the generic stylized hybrid animation descriptor. Aside from the 97 anime, which goes without saying, the rest of them are all directly sourced from eras and specific films that Miura himself cited as ones that influenced him when making the manga. I do concede that if I had the chance to go back and re-edit the post, I’d probably cut out the Kurosawa bit, but I’d still keep the others since I think they provide a good picture of how the film would look, feel, and flow. I think for the next film, I’ll add some more expanded descriptions to them to give a better idea of what exactly they’re pulling from those sources. I know most animated films in this game provide detailed descriptions of their respective styles as well, and this was my attempt at that. Clearly, I could’ve done a better job at conveying it, though, and that’s my bad.


And that’s probably about it for all the major points I wanted to respond to. Again, I don’t think any of the explanations that I gave here will change your mind on anything. This was more just a chance for me to respond to some of the comments that stood out to me in your review and explain my rationale behind some of the creative decisions that I made when writing the film. I appreciate the detailed feedback you gave here. It warms my heart to see that something I wrote stirred such a passionate response from someone else in the game, and I greatly look forward to seeing what you think of my other films from this year. 🙂


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