Solstice Movie Review: Summer Wars
If a classic is a movie everyone praises and no one watches, then Summer Wars is not a classic.
I have met only one person who knew the movie without me directing them to it—the one who directed me to it. Maybe I run in the wrong circles, though, and everyone else on LW knows the movie.
It should be a classic. A math-cryptography striver-class nerd is invited to his crush’s aristocratic family home to pretend to be her boyfriend.
Meanwhile, the highly integrated web universe, OZ, is undergoing a minor crisis. A video game AI is going rogue and cannibalizing user accounts. It very quickly escapes to other parts of the metaverse, stealing accounts and creating havoc.
I won’t say more about the plot. You should go watch the movie.
Instead I want to briefly discuss Summer Wars’ vision of the internet. Firstly, this virtual world of OZ seems to have originally been a social network. The social network became a massive, multifaceted platform upon which people would manage many parts of their lives.
Secondly, this platform hosts more than individual personal information. Entire state and municipal governments are running their infrastructure on it as well, which means that platform is considered very secure.
One possibility is that although the VR platform appears like unto a FB/Meta, under the hood it is a decentralized platform with extreme interoperability and nonexistent transaction costs. This would explain some points of plot within the movie that I won’t share.
The overall vision of this social media sphere is designed for cinematic action. More VR space, than text or code. It’s a brilliant theatrical creation, allowing for drama to unfold digitally, just as it does in the flesh and blood space of the film.
The scale of action of OZ and the flesh and blood world explores the global reach and coordinating power of a platform and the individual’s ability to form coalitions to affect change within it.
The rich virtual materiality of OZ displaces the value of the written word. The visual cue rules. For a movie this great makes for great narrative. For our future, perhaps not as much.