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Cinema Signal:

A Reader in Animation Studies

. "Kaena: The Prophecy" (aka, Kaena, La Prophetie)

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 of confusion.

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.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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