Mr. Link recruits explorer Sir Lionel Frost to help find his long-lost relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La. Along with adventurer Adelina Fortnight, this trio of explorers travel the world to help their new friend.
The charismatic Sir Lionel Frost considers himself to be the world's foremost investigator of myths and monsters. The trouble is none of his small-minded high-society peers seems to recognize this. Sir Lionel's last chance for acceptance by the adventuring elite rests on traveling to America's Pacific Northwest to prove the existence of a legendary creature. A living remnant of Man's primitive ancestry. The Missing Link.Written by
Studio Laika has quickly built up a strong reputation for themselves as being the equivalent of Pixar in the world of stop motion animation. From their beginnings in bringing Neil Gaiman's nightmarish Coraline to life to the epic scale of Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika keeps consistently making some of the most impressive pieces of stop motion filmmaking and Missing Link is no exception.
The film stars Hugh Jackman as Sir Lionel Frost, an adventurer who travels the world searching for legendary creatures. He's very charismatic, albeit also very selfish with his ambition to become recognised for his exciting exploits. The only problem, his high society peers think he's nuts. They don't believe in any the creatures he claims to have seen and disregard his progressive ideas such as evolution. After receiving a letter claiming to know the location of the Missing Link in the human evolutionary chain, he issues a challenge to the leader of the distinguished gentlemen society Lord Piggot-Dunceby (who's name is just as fun to write as it is to say). If he can bring back proof of the Missing Link he will be allowed in to the society and earn the respect of his peers, in a setup which bares a strong resemblance to Cornelius Fogg's challenge in Around the World in 80 Days.
Upon arriving in America he sets out on an epic quest to find this legendary creature that has been a mystery to man for thousands of years, before finding him in about five minutes. Also the creature turns out not to be a savage beast but is instead a friendly and slightly hairier version of Zach Galifianakis who Frost names Mr Link. It turns out that Mr Link is the one who wrote the letter and agrees to provide proof of his existence in exchange for Frost taking him to Shangri-La to reunite with his yeti cousins so he can become part of a family. Thus begins their great adventure which includes stealing a map from Frost's former lover, confrontations with a deadly bounty hunter and a granny with a chicken on her head.
It's a fairly basic plot and one that we've seen from a lot of adventure films before, but just like most great adventure films its real strength comes more from the charm of the characters and the incredible scenery. Laika apparently made over 110 sets for the film and all that effort shows in every frame of the film. From the gorgeous wilderness of the old west to the close confines of an old ocean liner the films packed full of fantastic visual eye candy. We also spend just the right amount of time in each of the films different environments to absorb all the atmosphere from these settings and allow these environments control the tone of the film.
Despite its anti colonial themes, the films humour ironically seemed to have a very strong British influence. At times it felt more like an Aardman production with its clever wordplay and the Frosts' deadpan sarcastic nature. And just like all Laika's work, they sneak in a lot of heavy themes like the subtle effects of prejudice in our society, but without overshadowing the lighthearted tone of the film.
Unlike Laika's other films which feel a lot more self contained, this feels like there could be a lot of great potential for future sequels. It would be great to see Frost and Mr Link go after other great legends like Atlantis or travelling across Ireland to capture a leprechaun. Though whether ideas like this will go the same way as the planned sequels to The Road to El Dorado that never got made waits to be seen, but as a standalone adventure this is another strong outing for Laika who always leave me eagerly waiting to see whatever project they have coming out next.
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