AXIS, a gigantic coiling plant, stretches high above the clouds... At its center is a village whose people are in mortal danger because Axis is withering... it's sap is drying up. The ... See full summary »
American astronaut Captain Charles "Chuck" Baker lands on Planet 51 thinking he's the first person to step foot on it. To his surprise, he finds that this planet is inhabited by little green people who are happily living in a white picket fence world, and whose only fear is that it will be overrun by alien invaders...like Chuck!
A woman transformed into a giant after she is struck by a meteorite on her wedding day becomes part of a team of monsters sent in by the U.S. government to defeat an alien mastermind trying to take over Earth.
In the middle of her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into animals; and a bathhouse for these creatures.
AXIS, a gigantic coiling plant, stretches high above the clouds... At its center is a village whose people are in mortal danger because Axis is withering... it's sap is drying up. The people beg their gods for help... but to no avail. Compelled by a mysterious force, Kaena, a rebellious, high-spirited teenage girl will defy the High Priest and her people's ancestral beliefs to take the perilous journey through the Axis and discover what dark secrets lie beyond the clouds... A dying world, an evil force, a terrible secret... Written by
OK, let's get the bad news out of the way right now. The plot is weak. There are some gaping silly holes in the story, numerous unexplained critter origins, shaky science, and a few threads that don't resolve at all. Automatic scoring deductions, across the board.
So what's good about the movie? First, the graphics. This is the natural evolution of French animation, of which there isn't nearly enough. Rene' Laloux's "Fantastic Planet" is one of the all-time animated psychotropic classics, and there is much in this film that pays homage to it: the visuals of the Axis "forest", the xenomorphic life forms, the conflict between master and slave races, etcetera. At the same time, the animation technique is the sort of hyper-real CGI used in Final Fantasy/Spirits Within, where each hair follicle is individually rendered. Like these two sibling films, Kaena abounds with brilliant bong hit graphics and mind-bending action sequences.
One common pitfall for animated features, particularly those of foreign origin, is the voice acting. To its immense credit, Kaena has a fairly decent dub, and I felt none of the accustomed grumpiness that comes with de-synced speech for any of the characters. The main characters were all well voiced. The IMDb cast list doesn't appear to mention all the voice actors, and I'm pretty sure the little kid was voiced by the same person who plays Shippo on Inuyasha (Jillian Michaels?). Sounds that way, at least.
However, while the voice acting is fine, the same cannot be said for the dialog. Long in exposition and short in character development, I get the feeling that this was an editor's nightmare. The balance between ensuring that people understand events and helping them care about the consequences of those events can be a difficult one to achieve. This has been the bane of science fiction films since the genre's inception. Unfortunately, dialog in Kaena finds a way to fail on both sides of the equation -- albeit at different times.
Without revealing any more details, I will say this much. The story tries to operate on a grand scale, but is undercut by the uneven development, jerky scene transitions, mediocre dialog, and the aforementioned plot-holes.
This is a film to be enjoyed as a raw sensory experience, not as a total cinematic product. It's not going to end up on any top-20-all-time lists and its pretensions to epic film status are undercut by its many weaknesses.
The overall effect, however, is extraordinary; it merits viewing as an exploration of what can now be accomplished with CGI. I enjoyed it immensely from this perspective, to the point where I was quite distracted from the numerous shortcomings.
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