I remember the venerable Zaitcev asked me if I was going to compile my thoughts on the movie soon after it came out but I wasn’t able to form my ideas at the time.
Fast forward a few (re: many) months and a certain meganeshounen asked me about my thoughts on Summer Wars. What ensued was a torrent of mixed-feelings and expressions best left in the irc channel I spewed them on to, but I’m still going to summarize them here to amuse myself.
While the general consensus was decidedly positive, I found myself having to view the movie as a product primarily for children to abstain for being overly critical of the technicalities and developments. From what I can recall, the action, pacing, and character development were praised, and there really is enough substance to appeal to audiences of all ages.
For me I found the main strengths of the movie are the comfortable pacing and the presentation — starting from a fantastical intro they segue into the cast and then easily building up a wonderful crescendo. Despite the circumstances and actual action being quite ridiculous I found myself forgiving it all whilst watching, the experience was just that high strung and fun above all (koi-koi!).
As for the character development, I actually made a crappy analogy to Ruby on Rails. They went with a framework and produced very clear and clean-cut characters, there were absolutely no surprises or unexpected extensions of personalities. While this is a comfortable and welcome environment perhaps I was hoping for something more.
The directing was quite well done with the messages and morals being clear but not obscuring or bogging down the visuals and action. I quite enjoyed the aspect of the story dealing with the balance between the real world and the online, and how communication isn’t just lead by the medium (people are the endpoints! — connections). Miao had some nice thoughts on this, and there is no need to parrot him. The romance felt a bit shoe-horned and secondary, but people generally like it (hero’s journey, get-the-girl, etc.) and it didn’t detract at the very least.
I would say the movie is overall average (in a good way, as in using the full scale of experience) but a visual treat nonetheless; worth delving into if you have a spare hour and half.
P.S. I don’t know if it’s even worth mentioning but just in case: the art, animation, and production values are all great.