This feature-length CGI-animated 3-D film, a first for France, is startling
in its design of a vine and root enveloped world whose spaces and shapes are
the stuff of ghoulish visions and eerie nightmares. The visual sensibility
behind it is truly impressive but a mucked up narrative makes for a universe
Rebellious Kaena (voiced by Kirsten Dunst), a human teen with a body that's
as attention-getting as her acrobatic skill, defies the Grand Priest who
raised her when she observes that his promises to save Axis, her village, by
obtaining life-sustaining sap are lies and deceptions. Imploring the gods
is, simply, not working. The shortage of the vital liquid is caused by The
Queen (Anjelica Huston), a telepathic menace whose voice is a weapon of
destruction. The Queen's been hoarding the life-sustaining sap in order to
use it as a sacrifice to her gods and get them on her evil side.
Kaena runs off on a bold mission to find another way to save her enslaved
village, And, once out in the interspatial territory that's entwined
dangerously with wild shoots and columns like so many roots and arteries, she
meets the 600-year old, violet-eyed Opaz (voiced by Richard Harris) and his
team of flying worms. She also comes under attack from the vicious
over-scale Marauder, a ferocious predator standing over 6 meters high. The
purpose of this semi-blind beast appears to be to prevent the villagers from
going beyond the cloud boundaries of their tree city.
The calm, super intelligent Opaz senses Kaena's critical destiny in the
salvation of the Selenites and the Vecarians and to rescue his computer
Vecanoi that The Queen's been trying to finish off. One of his worm
attendants, however, is convinced that Kaena is an intruder or, worse, an
enemy. He whines and whines about her being a threat but, fortunately for
Kaena, the powers of a worm are limited in the area of judgement and
pestering. Yes, one finds some simple whimsy in these nether regions.
But, unfortunately for the audience, the story narrative doesn't do much of a
job explaining the back story and how the characters and divergent interests
fit into it. You are held on the journey in hope for clarification.
Intriguing concepts are being unspooled. But it remains persistently vague
and merely suggested. Tarik Hamdine is credited as a co-screeplay writer
with Chris Delaporte and Pascal Pinon, co-directors. They had a solid fix on
the history and complexities of their allegorical commentary on the evil
quest for power--they just don't seem to know how to relate it very well.
As to the ideal demographic for this film, my prophecy is that it's the
territory of arcade denizens whose taste and receptivity to Doom and Mortal
Combat style scenarios will make them feel closer to home with the rapidly
evolving mysteries and sudden shifts of Kaena's epic struggles. In other
words, send your seventeen year old and then get him or her to prepare you
for it. If you are a seventeen year old, then NP, no problem.
~~ Jules Brenner