My views on Madoka: Rebellion

February 1, 2016

(There are some spoilers here.)

I finally got around to seeing the third Madoka movie last year. This is the controversial one, the one with an all-new story and various other things. You can read a lot of commentary about it around the net and I'm late to the party, but I feel like saying something.

On the one hand, what pretty much everyone says about the movie is true. It is basically fanfiction, which makes it essentially indulgent fanservice of the 'not naked people' kind; it's giving the fans the easy, comfortable thing that they (we) all wanted. All of the major characters have been changed around, smoothed over, neatened up, and turned into the popular fan views (and desires) of them. The movie even invents a relatively absurd partner for Mami. Everyone works together to fight things, we get some nice set-piece fights, and so on and so forth. The character fanservice continues even as the movie reveals more and more things and reaches its climax.

And yes, the movie has somewhat of an explanation for all of this. It doesn't really matter; a creator can always find some way to justify this sort of stuff if they want to.

On the other hand, the movie is also about the only genuinely interesting resolution to Homura's story arc that we could have had. I won't say that it redeems the movie, but it does make it interesting; a version that took the easy and obvious way out at the climax of the movie would be clearly worse. It's also a resolution that makes sense if you interpret Homura as fundamentally selfish and unable to let go, which is actually a running theme in the TV series from some angles.

(It is Homura's cycle of decisions, trying over and over again to save Madoka instead of letting her go, that wind up creating so much power in Walpurgisnacht. But for the ending of the TV series this would have been an utter disaster.)

But being intellectually interesting (in part for the fan reaction to its ending) does not make Madoka: Rebellion particularly important to see. The movie contributes essentially nothing to the TV series and is not good enough on its own to be particularly compelling. I mean, it's a movie, it looks pretty. But it doesn't have an edge and it's lazy and indulgent, with only a few scant moments of genuine emotional impact. It's more interesting as an artifact than as a movie to watch. Regardless of Rebellion's underlying motives, it's a movie that is only really for fans of Madoka (and it will enrage some of them).

(Part of this is that it's impossible to detach Rebellion from the rest of Madoka and consider it as a stand alone work. Its story is inextricably tied to the series and it can neither be watched nor considered in isolation.)

Some people consider this in part a meta-commentary on Madoka fandom (eg). I suspect that they are right, partly because I don't think the first part of the movie could have been written without an awareness of fan memes. However this doesn't make the film any more engaging to me; it remains an interesting intellectual exercise, not an affecting one. But then I hiss at End of Evangelion, so you can take my opinion with some salt if you want.

(See also Bobduh on, in part, Rebellion as fanservice.)

Written on 01 February 2016.
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Last modified: Mon Feb 1 21:49:07 2016
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