Sunday, 26 February 2017

Offline (4 Stars)

"Offline" is a highly original German film that doesn't fit neatly into any genre. It's the antithesis of fantasy films, so if anything I'd call it an unfantasy film. It's a comedy, but the film's implications are very serious. It's been marketed as a teenager film, but I can guarantee you that older viewers will enjoy it just as much. I'm no longer a teenager, in case anyone doesn't know.

Jan is a 17-year-old boy who spends all his spare time playing computer games, in particular an online role-playing adventure game called Utgard. (The game used for the graphics is "Risen 3"). He spends far too much time on the computer, sitting playing all night before he goes to school. I can relate to that. There were times in my own life when I sat all night playing games, despite having to go to work the following day. In the game Jan is Fenris, one of the mightiest and most feared warriors in Utgard. He completes all quests and defeats all monsters with the assistance of his companion Gotrax, a blue-skinned giant.

In 60 hours Utgard will host a player vs player tournament called Ragnarök, in which it will finally be decided who the strongest warrior in Utgard is. Both Fenris and Gotrax are at the maximum level, so they're favourites to win the prize, one million gold. Then disaster strikes. Jan's account is hacked. He can't get into the game, and he loses his Internet connection. He gets a text message from Loki, another of Utgard's top warriors, claiming responsibility.

Jan, who was used to spending all of his free time at home, is forced out into the real world. He visits the game's headquarters in Stuttgart (Germany) to ask for assistance. He can't get any help, but he meets Karoline, a teenage girl whose account has also been hacked. He finds out that she is Gotrax. A girl! That's something he never expected. She's the opposite of him. Jan is a good boy, but Karoline is a rebel. She's been shifted from one foster home to another, and she's learnt to steal whatever she needs. She manages to find Loki's IP address, and they travel across South Germany to challenge him. Loki knows they're coming and hires a group of Utgard players to meet them in the woods.

Do you now understand why I called "Offline" an unfantasy film? It's a common theme of fantasy films, from "The Wizard of Oz" to "Doctor Strange", that a person is yanked out of his normal life into a fantasy world where he has to become a hero. In "Offline" we have the opposite story. A mighty hero is yanked out of fantasy into the real world. Jan has no weapons and no special abilities, he's just an awkward teenager who's never had a girlfriend.

Once more, this is an example of the outstanding quality of German films. I couldn't imagine a film like this being made in America or England.

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