Armour of God (1986)

As I said two weeks ago, tonight’s film review would be my last, and for my last film review, we have Armour of God, probably not the best Jackie Chan film, but a decent enough film for me to bow out on. The film is perhaps more known for two things. One, for its confusing release in the West (it was released as Operation Condor 2 even though it was made before the actual sequel, Armour of God II: Operation Condor). Secondly, the production of this film saw Jackie Chan come the closest he has ever come to death while trying to perform a stunt for the end of the film. All things considered, it’s a pretty good film, if mainly because it doesn’t take itself seriously, which is imperative considering its silly premise.

In this film, Jackie Chan is a former member of a Cantonese pop band called The Losers, but he became an adventurer under the name “Asian Hawk”. Later he is reunited with former bandmate Alan, whose girlfriend and fellow bandmate Lorelei has been kidnapped by an shadowy monastic cult who is holding her hostage in order to get Jackie to bring them the remaining pieces of the eponymous “Armour of God”, including the sword he found in Africa. To save her, he and Alan must strike a deal with Count Bannon, who has the pieces of the armour the cult is asking for, and allows Jackie to take them on the condition that his daughter May accompanies them. They are in for a surprise as the cultists know they are coming.

Right off the bat, it’s basically Jackie Chan’s answer to Indiana Jones and similar adventure films, with his style of action comedy. The writing isn’t great, but it’s simplistic enough that you can enjoy it, like a matinee film. My main problem is that the film tends to meander on, though only a bit.

As for the acting, it really depends on which version of the film you watch, and unfortunately, I saw the version where they re-dubbed the voices in English and created a newer, cheesier musical score (I think this is the Operation Condor 2 version, but the “Armour of God” title appears). This dubbed version is incredibly corny and at times, it doesn’t seem like it synced well with the original film. I almost don’t think Jackie here even sounded like Jackie.

But at least the film is pretty fun to watch, in the enjoyably cheesy sort of way, with decently well choreographed action scenes, and humour that falls into the “so bad it’s funny” category. That’s it from me. It’s been a good run.

  • Score: 68%
  • Grade: C
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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Nowadays very few Hollywood films get me going to the theatre anymore, chiefly because the cinema now more than ever is an outdated institution of public life, and I’m surprised that the Internet hasn’t killed it off yet. Last week, however, offered something different. From the director of The Fifth Element came the promise of an exciting new sci-fi adventure that I think was hoping to rival Star Wars in terms of scope and success. But nothing is perfect I suppose. While the film certainly has its flaws, however, I think it’s a good film with decent ideas, and if nothing else is good summer entertainment. But let’s get right down to it.

The plot of the film is set in the 28th century, largely in the Alpha space station, the film’s eponymous city of a thousand planets, where people of different species from different planets live together. The protagonists are two government agents – Valerian and Laureline – who are given the task of investigating a mysterious force lurking within part of the space station, from which people have never returned, leading the government to assume it is toxic. But all is not as it seems, and when the two agents venture further towards the area, they realise that something else is going on.

The first half of the story showed perhaps the most promise. Aside from the prologue, you had Valerian going on this wild dimension hopping mission where anything can happen and it was fun. In fact, the fast-paced action oriented parts of the film are the best part. The second half of the film, however, is rather formulaic in terms of its writing, and when you get to the big reveal (which is almost a given nowadays), it sort of dawns on me that the big twist reads like something written by Noam Chomsky. It’s not terrible, but aren’t we sick of the bad guys always being some repetitive comment on Western foreign policy? I know Hollywood is full of Marxists but give me a break.

Valerian himself was a decent protagonist. Sure, he acted a bit like a high school jock, but when it counts, he acts like a real hero. For his faults (and those of the writers) he’s a good example of what a male protagonist should look like. Laureline isn’t too bad a character, but my main problem is that the producers and writers tried too hard to make her into such a badass action heroine that she might outshine Valerian for no reason other than to appease pretentious “culture critics”. The rest of the cast gave some good performances, particularly Clive Owen’s character.

For me the worst character is Rihanna’s shapeshifting character Bubble. It seemed like a gimmicky way of getting Rihanna into the film for cheap promotion, never mind that the generation of kids who thought Rihanna was cool probably pirated her music when she was big. Even worse is that it’s another attempt to politicise the film by writing Rihanna’s character as an illegal immigrant. In times such as these it makes to come to the conclusion that it’s a naked attempt at dogwhistling open borders politics in a market that again, is oversaturated with leftist politics.

If nothing else, the film looks amazing. Valerian sports some of the finest production values I’ve seen in a contemporary film. I know it’s common for sci-fi films to have a big special effects budget, but this film just takes this to incredible heights. I think that’s what made the film so ridiculously expensive to make though. The film costed €190 million to make, and thus far it has yet to turn a profit, which unfortunately means that this ambitious sci-fi flick could end its run as a box office flop.

On the whole, however, Valerian is a good film that in the end is hindered by Luc Besson and the producers’ desperate attempts to make it hip. It obviously didn’t work, which I guess is sad because it’s a good film with good ideas, but in this day and age what tends to happen with good films is that they get crushed under the weight of the producers’ overextravagant tendency. Vanity thy name is Luc Besson.

  • Score: 72%
  • Grade: C

Sorcerer (1977)

For whatever reason I found myself interested in a 40-year-old thriller called Sorcerer, which turned out to be a remake of a European 1950’s thriller called The Wages of Fear. Whatever you want to call it, the film came out at perhaps an awkward time. It was released just a month after Star Wars came out, and became an instant phenomenon, and when that happened, films like this were left twisting in the wind, and thus Sorcerer, which was produced on twice the budget of Star Wars, failed to turn a profit, and was generally dismissed by critics. That’s a bit of a shame because it’s actually quite a good film. Not as good as I might have hoped, but still a good film.

The film’s story revolves around four men, each from different parts of the world, who are invariably forced to flee from their previous lives, assuming fake identities of course. They all end up meeting each other in the remote South American village of Porvenir, where they live in abject poverty and earn meagre wages. After a local oil well explodes, the men are hired by an American oil company to transport cargoes of nitroglycerin to the oil well using two trucks. If successful, they will be handsomely, but it’s a highly dangerous job and it’s likely that they might die.

With that in mind, why is the film called “Sorcerer”? Well, apparently one of the two trucks in the film is called “Sorcerer”, which I guess is a somewhat logical if silly reason to call the film Sorcerer. The other explanation comes from the film’s director William Friedkin, who links the title to one of the themes of the film. In his words, “the sorcerer is an evil wizard, and in this case the evil wizard is fate”. That’s quite a stretch, but it’s not uncommon for directors to have pretentious ways of rationalising batty artistic decisions. Friedkin isn’t the worst in that regard.

As for the story itself, the concept is actually quite good. It’s main focus is taking people of different backgrounds who hate each other, but not as much as having to work with them, keeping in mind that if they didn’t co-operate, they would surely die. This kind of story is guaranteed to have some drama and suspense. I also like how the film’s prologue shows you how the main characters got from where they were to where they are now.

That being said, my main issue is with the film’s rather slow pacing. Parts of the film end up being rather boring, but certainly not at the very end, and it does have some surprisingly explosive moments to keep you on your toes. The acting is very good, thanks to the casting of skilled actors such as Roy Scheider. With this film you can really get a sense of their emotions, and while no character is completely likeable, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that that’s pretty much the point. The film certainly succeeds in terms of its pessimistic atmosphere and its style. The film boasts a crisp look and sound, and benefits from skilful editing and tastefully professional shooting. Another highlight would be the film’s musical score, which comes courtesy of Tangerine Dream.

On the whole it was certainly an ambitious film, and quite a good one. In fact, William Friedkin wanted this film to be his legacy, but in a way he sort of had it, given that the film now enjoys cult film status. Ultimately the film’s chances of success were hindered mainly by the fact that it was 1977. If you didn’t go to see Star Wars, you went to see Smokey and the Bandit. Both were huge films that effectively murdered Friedkin’s Sorcerer in the box office, and there’s something symbolic about that. Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit symbolised the newly emerging blockbuster era, while Sorcerer was emblematic of the New Hollywood style of film-making. After 1977, the New Hollywood era would decline until its eventual demise in 1980, and the art of cinema would be the poorer for it. In a way, Sorcerer was the sacrifice on the altar of blockbuster cinema. Or perhaps I read into this sort of thing too much.

  • Score: 74%
  • Grade: C

The Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982)

golden cobraSteven Spielberg’s classic Raiders of the Lost Ark has seen its fair share of imitators and blatant knock-offs, certainly during the early 80’s when it was fresh. In this case, we have an Italian-made knock-off that plays out like a made-for-TV film. It’s essentially a low-budget knock-off of Indiana Jones, but with only tiny fraction of the charm. It’s pretty silly on the whole, and to be completely honest, it’s not that great of a matinee film, considering how much it looks like a cheaply made carbon copy.

The film’s story, which is set in 1944, involves two textbook action heroes, an typically rugged American solider named Bob Jackson, and a stereotypically British intelligence agent David Franks. Together they’re on a mission in the Philippines to track down an ancient relic called the Golden Cobra, teaming up with a woman searching for her missing sister.

Honestly, there’s not much to say about the story, but it’s a bit jumbled and gets off to a frenetic and silly start. It’s mildly entertaining for a while, but then get into a lot of weird nonsense that seems like it was jammed into the film in order to distinguish it from Indiana Jones, which ultimately fails because the film is so much like Indiana Jones and so cliché-ridden that it’s downright comical. Even the climactic final showdown is rendered impotent by poor choreography.

The characters are pretty much plain stock characters, but they have their quirky moments. Indeed, the British character was so ridiculous that he’s actually moderately funny. However the film is ruined by some terribly bad acting. A lot of the characters come across as remarkably hammy, like they got people who don’t do much acting, and only did one take. It also sounds like they dubbed the voices over the movie. I assume this to be the case, given that the film was originally released in Italy and eventually got an English language release a few years later. I also noticed that there are a number of background characters that look like they don’t really belong in the film, like a sailor who looks a bit like John Candy.

I have to assume the film must have had a low budget, because the film looks cheaply made. I’m not sure, but I think there might have been a few cardboard props. Unique to this film, however, is that sometimes you’ll see a few scenes that are kind of like spaghetti Western scenes (specifically, these are gunplay scenes), just a lot cheesier. Everything in the film is the cheesier version of Indiana Jones, like taking a loving tribute to old school B-movie and turning it into an actual C-movie.

I’m not entirely sure if this film could have been much better, considering it’s basically a knock-off. In other words, this film was clearly pointless. I sometimes wonder why I subject my eyes and ears to films like these, perhaps so you don’t have to. Either way, if only I were paid to this.

  • Score: 48%
  • Grade: D

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Oh Tim Burton, I grew up with your movies when they used to be good, and now I find you languishing in typical Hollywood fantasy fare. Not that this was a particularly bad film. In truth it was quite decent, and the premise was certainly original, but in practice it ended up as a sort of paint-by-numbers affair, showing once again that Hollywood always tends to squander any squint of potential.

The film revolves around a young boy named Jake Portman, who after witnessing his grandfather’s death at the hands of a monster that only he can see, is given permission by his psychiatrist to go to the Welsh island of Cairnholm in order to find an old home for children with certain magical abilities. He finds that they live in a time loop, and winds up upending their fragile equilibrium in order to help save them from the crazy scheme of a mad scientist wanting to gave himself eternal life.

I have probably oversimplified this to a vast degree, but that’s essentially what happens. Anyway, the story itself isn’t bad, but from the beginning I find that the producers put in a bunch of often cringeworthy scenes that seem to have been written in just to pad length in a film that already straddles a somewhat convoluted plot. Honestly, it seemed to me that this could have been much better as an anime film, not that the Hollywood elite would ever entertain such an idea. Also, full disclosure, I know this is based on a book, probably another one that you won’t have read prior to watching the film, and I don’t care, the reason being that a film should be able to stand on its own (this is why I was so critical of the Harry Potter films, which tended to ride on the coattails of J.K. Rowling’s novels), and this film just barely does that.

The characters aren’t bad, but they’re hindered by the typical Hollywood practice of having them overact nearly every line, and even Samuel L. Jackson, arguably the best actor in the whole film, couldn’t escape this trend. The film presents itself decently, but I can’t be the only one who’s tired of every Hollywood film having such an overly polished look, to the point that it’s barely real anymore. However, the film’s special effects make for decent fireworks, and the film’s saving grace can be found in the climactic showdown, although the ending showed that the writers were content with some good old-fashioned schmaltzy closer.

Again, this wasn’t a bad film, but it’s fairly indistinguishable from an average 2010’s-era dark fantasy film (never mind that most if not all films made in the genre are pretty much the same now anyway), and it could have done much better if Tim Burton were at least more willing to think outside the box. With this film, he looks more like a lazy hack than the artist of his prime, having undergone a similarly ghastly transformation as several other Hollywood directors from his era.

  • Score: 60%
  • Grade: C

A Wind Named Amnesia (1990)

Kaze_no_Na_Wa_Amnesia_(pamphlet)Another day, another obscure anime film that piques my interest, this one being a post-apocalyptic film from the supposed golden age of anime and manga. Nonetheless, this film is interesting own way, perhaps mainly because of its premise, though not quite in the same way as the last film I picked.

In the film, which is set in 1999 (but made in 1990), a mysterious wind blew all over the planet, and then suddenly most of humanity lost all of their memory, forgetting their names, how to speak, or even how to use the tools of modern civilisation, and thus mankind has been reduced to a primitive state. Two years later, a re-educated American man who now goes by the name Wataru travels across the country with a mysterious woman named Sophia, hoping to help people rediscover the knowledge their ancestors left behind.

Before I saw the film, I thought the title was pointlessly highbrow, but when I actually watched the film, the premise, though it made for an interesting story, made even less sense. I know it’s a sci-fi film and so I should be inclined to engage in the suspension of disbelief, but there’s a lot that isn’t very well explained, including how this wind is supposed to affect people’s memory. Usually sci-fi films at least try to explain what happens, but then when the film finally does drop the explanation (Sophia being a representative of a race of “higher beings”), it only makes even less sense. The main thing I took from the story is that, in this film at least, higher beings are retarded, and have no idea how to help humanity.

The characters leave quite a bit to be desired, and to be fair, the film’s length doesn’t help matters much. At 81 minutes, the film is much too short and it doesn’t do a whole lot with its characters. Right at the beginning, the main character sounds like a jibbering idiot (which makes sense given the context, though compared to most of the denizens of his world he might as well be a genius). In fact, a lot of times, the film comes across as an accidental comedy due to how silly the characters often seem, and it’s mostly because of the bit parts. It doesn’t help that the English dub for the film is rather cheesy, which, unfortunately, I kind of expected.

Of course it’s not a totally bad film. In fact, I was thoroughly entertained by the film’s accidental humour. And of course, like many other anime films of the time, the art style was very good, with detailed, hand-drawn characters and objects. I also like the musical score they composed for the film, at least film producers had some taste back in the day. To be fair, it does make a for a fairly good adventure film, and it could have been amazing overall, but in my mind, I think they should have worked on the plot a bit more, because I think the film itself is a bit too silly, and is often more of an accidental comedy than it ought to have been.

  • Score: 69%
  • Grade: C

Escaflowne (2000)

escaflowneNot a day goes by when I don’t think that I haven’t watched enough anime, and so I thought of a number of anime films and series’ I may have wanted to try out, and amongst them was Escaflowne (sometimes billed as Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaia), an anime film I found and became interested in last year. Apparently based on a TV series called Visions of Escaflowne (which I must check out before I croak), I’ve heard that it differs from it in various ways, making it a fairly loose adaptation, but on its own, I’d say it was pretty good, with its engaging story in a well-crafted fantasy world.

The film revolves around Hitomi Kanzaki, a depressed high school girl plagued by unusual dreams that cause her such sorrow that she wants to disappear from the world, and her wish is heard in the alternate world of Gaea by a man named Lord Folken, the leader of the Black Dragon Clan who wishes to conquer Gaea and bring about its destruction. In Gaea, she is the prophesied “Wing Goddess” who will revive the Escaflowne, a doomsday weapon that can either destroy or save Gaea. As she develops a close friendship with the rebel leader Van, she becomes more hopeful, and in overcoming her sorrow, she wishes to save Gaea from being destroyed by the man who brought her there.

The story goes in a somewhat familiar direction, and I don’t like that it meanders a bit during the beginning, but it’s not without its character or charm. It has elements of both traditional fantasy and mecha-oriented sci-fi, with hints of romantic drama throughout. It’s quite an eclectic mix of genres, blended together into a neatly paced 98-minute film. Even if it has its flaws, I definitely enjoyed the story from beginning to end, and chiefly because it was simply an entertaining watch.

It has long been established that English dubs of old anime films tended to be mostly cheesy (that was certainly true in the dub of Vampire Hunter D), but I don’t think that’s a problem in Escaflowne. Judging by the Ocean Studios dub, the acting wasn’t that bad, and I liked the characters quite a bit. The main character didn’t appeal to me much, but the film’s deuteragonist, the rebel leader Van, was a much more striking protagonist, mainly because he shows great power, and like many familiar fantasy heroes, is unafraid to unleash it if he thought he was doing good by it. There are a number of interesting side characters, some of them are part animal (including Merle, a likably eccentric catgirl). However, I felt that Lord Folken was a particularly strong character. In fact, he reminds me of a character I wrote and drew for one of my one fantasy stories.

Though I personally think Escaflowne’s art style is as well-drawn as other anime films and series’ (I’ve seen images of the Escaflowne TV series, and they look quite good compared to this), I still think the film looked good, and it definitely had the mark of an imaginative fantasy film, with fantastical characters, costumes, and locations that appeal to my blatant sensibilities as a fantasy fan, complete with the showdown between two mechas (one of them obviously being Escaflowne, which at some point turns into a dragon). I’ve always held the belief that animation as a medium is an enabler of greater creative freedom, and this film certainly proves that.

Even with its flaws, I can’t really critique Escaflowne that much. After all, I genuinely enjoyed that film, and would certainly be interested in other films like it. I can’t help but think that one day, I may be a connoisseur of films like Escaflowne, as I seem to find them innately appealing, with this film being a good example of why.

  • Score: 75%
  • Grade: B

The Black Hood (1981)

the_black_hoodThe Black Hood is another one of those foreign action films that’s painfully obscure. Seriously, IMDb knows absolutely nothing about this film, and in the discography of its lead actor, it doesn’t seem to be listed (at least not on IMDb or Wikipedia). For me, this is literally a film I had to dive into without any knowledge whatsoever, and to be honest, it was quite a fun ride.

The film is set in Japan during the closing years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which effectively makes this a work of historical fiction. In the background you have a conflict between the ruling shogunate and the Satsuma-Choshu alliance. From what I can tell, the story is about the endeavours of a masked man who works to fight injustice and protect the people of Edo. He works with supporters of the shogunate in order to retrieve a map from the Satsuma-Choshu alliance, hoping to avoid a bloodbath.

The main character is basically a ninja acting as a vigilante, sort of like a jidaigeki Batman, and that’s honestly an awesome concept. The story itself is very straightforward, and at 90 minutes, the film moves at quite a fast pace. There isn’t a lot of depth, but that isn’t wholly necessary for this kind of film. Also, if you’re looking for subtitles, my advice is to either find the film on YouTube with subtitles enabled, or hope and pray that you find a DVD that works in your region and has English subtitles available.

The acting is alright, though in my case it’s kind of hard to tell. The main character is by far the most interesting character in the whole film, which perhaps should be obvious. He’s the only character you expect to care about in the whole movie, which is understandable because he’s the one meting out vigilante justice, and that’s pretty much all that matters here. Little did I know that the main character, Kaiketsu Kurozukin, was actually an enduringly popular character in Japan, originating in the silent era and being rebooted throughout the 20th century, though this appears to be the last film I’ve found where he appears, and it’s apparently a made-for-TV production.

For a made-for-TV film, the production values aren’t totally bad. One thing I like about this film is that it opens with the main character striking down a group of bad guys, followed by a short guitar riff. The way the film looks almost reminds me of NBC’s Shogun, just that it’s somewhat cheaper. The fight choreography is definitely better, with some scenes resembling Western gunplay. But of course, swordplay is the main course here, and this film has it in spades.

If you can get a hold of this film, watch it as soon as you can. You might not get another chance to watch this rare and obscure film. It’s not the best film of its kind, but I certainly thought it was fun. It was a refreshingly straightforward action film that didn’t disappoint, and it’s comforting to know that there are plenty of films like it, if you’re interested that is.

  • Score: 70%
  • Grade: C

UPDATE (4/9/2017): It has come to my attention that there is now a page for this film on IMDb.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)

achmedSeveral months ago I had heard of a unique curiosity from the early days of animation. Made exactly nine decades ago, it has the honour of being one of the oldest films I could find (the oldest being Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror), and in all honesty, I found it to be a very enjoyable, if rather cryptic piece of animation history.

Given that it’s one of those silent films from the 20’s, there’s pretty much no speaking, and so the film’s primary method of conveying the story is the art of visual communication, and through intertitles. Of course, the intertitles are all in German, so unless you can read German, you pretty much have to watch the events unfold on their own.

From what I know, the story is loosely based on elements of One Thousand and One Nights (and another story “The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou”), and from what I can tell, it sees the main character, Prince Achmed, on a quest to save his sister from a devious sorcerer, and meets a beautiful queen named Pari Banu, who also abducted by the sorcerer, and rescued by Prince Achmed, with the aid of Aladdin and the witch of a flaming mountain.

It’s all a very imaginative story that, strangely enough, manages to express itself without the need of words, but this has more to do with the technique of animation (which I’ll discuss later), rather than the actual plot. I also notice that the story is divided into five acts, and though they share the same aesthetic style and all follow a linear plot, somehow they all have their own charm that I can’t exactly explain. The film itself is around 65 minutes long, but somehow, that’s just fine.

Let’s talk about the style of animation the film employs. The film was written, directed and animated by Lotte Reiniger, a film director who pioneered the technique of silhouette animation, which is a kind of stop-motion animation that involves manipulating cutout characters and objects made out of cardboard and sheets of lead under a camera. It’s a bit like shadow puppetry, only the figures are moved frame by frame. It is one of the earliest examples of stop motion animation, and it also has the distinction of being the oldest surviving animated film in history (others were made but are apparently lost).

This kind of technique, though the film itself looks visibly dated in some parts, really brings the story and characters to life, and the film’s Arabesque art style matches it in quite an incredible way, and it’s made all the more striking by the fact that the film only uses two colours at a time. Sometimes the background colour changes, but the figures are always silhouettes, and thus remain black. The film is also backed by a whimsical orchestral score. I should point out that, when originally released, it had a different musical score, but the DVD release uses a new score, conducted I believe by a man known as K. Leikenbroecker. I felt the score accompanied the film quite well, and it especially worked with the animation style.

Overall, while it might not seem very substantive compared to modern films, it’s worth watching to see a work of animation unlike any other before or since, and it has certain qualities that make it very entertaining on its own.

  • Score: 77%
  • Grade: B

Titan A.E. (2000)

Titan_AE_One_SheetDon Bluth used to be one of the most respected animators in the film industry (and probably still is), where he became famous for his work on many popular Disney films such as The RescuersThe Fox and the Hound and Robin Hood. He then went on to form his own company and direct his own films. This led to one his greatest films, The Secret of NIMH, but unfortunately, it also led to this lazy abomination of a film called Titan A.E., which disappoints in every possible area. Though I doubt you could expect much from a film like this, but believe me, it somehow manages to be even more boring sci-fi fare than it looks.

The premise revolves around an invading race of energy-based aliens called the Drej, who at the start of the film destroy Earth, leaving the surviving humans drifting throughout space and being ridiculed by other races. The rest of the film sees its protagonist Cale Tucker guiding a crew of humans and aliens towards the Titan space station, which was built with the purpose of creating a new planet in the event that Earth was destroyed.

The film’s plot is very standard sci-fi riding on all manner of story clichés, including the obligatory betrayal by a supporting character. It’s the kind of film that tries for space opera territory but runs of fuel right before it could get there. The writers and producers tried whatever they could to keep it afloat, but failed miserably. In this regard, a lot of is to do with the fact that the writers did very little to explain the things that needed to explain it. For example, why do the Drej not want the Titan space station to be found, and why would any human sell out the future of his own kind?

Speaking of that, the characters are so flat and lazily written that not even an star-studded cast could save them. They simply come across to me as cookie-cutter Stargate characters in a movie that’s somehow out of even their league. The acting isn’t even that great to be wholly honest, as if the Hollywood stars they got to work on this film were only in it for the money. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. The dialogue is also really lazily written, with the Drej suffering from the laziest writing the film has to offer.

As for the visuals, the film’s animation style is a mixture of traditional hand-drawn animation and extensive CGI. The end result definitely looks polished, but a polished turd is still a turd. The film looks like a bigger, shinier version of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 1990’s. At the very least it accomplishes the easy feat of presenting itself better than Heavy Metal 2000 (another animated atrocity from the year 2000), but could somebody tell me why the producers thought that a Don Bluth film needed music from contemporary rock bands? The music is awful, and it reflects badly on the mindset of whoever decided to put it in the film.

To be honest, I think the film might have had some potential, but the producers just squandered it without a care in the world, and the consequences are rather apparent given mixed critical reception and disappointing box office returns (the film made $36.8 million against a $75-90 million budget). It’s also rather telling that after this film was released, Don Bluth never directed another movie, which is such a shame because of what he made before. If the plethora of cheap direct-to-video sequels (made without his involvement) didn’t tarnish his name, then this film surely did. Even if it’s not terribly bad, it’s a creative low point for someone who was clearly a talented visionary in the field of animation.

  • Score: 50%
  • Grade: D