Kirsten DunstRichard HarrisAnjelica HustonKeith David
Kaena: The Prophecy
Medium: film
Year: 2003
Director: Chris Delaporte, Pascal Pinon
Writer: Patrick Daher, Chris Delaporte, Tarik Hamdine, Benjamin Legrand, Kenneth Oppel
Keywords: animation, SF
Country: France, Canada
Language: French
Actor: Cecile De France, Michael Lonsdale, Victoria Abril, Francois Siener, Jean-Michel Farcy, Raymond Aquaviva, Jean Piat, Kirsten Dunst [English], Richard Harris [English], Anjelica Huston [English], Keith David [English], Michael McShane [English], Greg Proops [English], Tom Kenny [English], Tara Strong [English], Dwight Schultz [English], Gary Martin [English], John Di Maggio [English], Ciara Janson [English], Will Attenborough [English], Jennifer Darling [English], Cornell John [English]
Format: 85 minutes
Website category: Foreign language
Review date: 7 February 2013
It's a French/Canadian CGI animated SF film. It looks gorgeous.
As for the story, that's... okay. It's perfectly workable, but I wouldn't have minded a bit more clarity about where I was and what was going on. I'll give you a run-down, if only because I'd have been grateful for one. Firstly, an alien ship blows up. 600 years later (eh?), we meet a girl who lives in a tree-world and wears a bikini that's too small for her and doesn't hide the underside of her breasts. Her name's Kaena, she uses underpants as headwear and she has birthmarks on her forehead as if she used to have horns. The birthmarks are never explained and her fashion sense doesn't need explanation.
This tree-world has flying shark-rays that are 50% mouth and have prehensible tongues that can shoot out ten metres. It also has worms with lugubrious human faces that the people use for food.
Next I'll explain the physics of the local solar system, although I've probably got this wrong. There are two planets and a tree-world that grew from the core of the spaceship that blew up 600 years ago. The tree-world (called Axis) is caught between the two planets' gravitational fields, unless I got confused and in fact it's one of them. Anyway, the Vecarians almost all got killed by the Selenites, while the ship's core is called Vecanoi and has superpowers, e.g. the ability to grow world-trees. The Selenites are posing as gods and are still banging on with their vendetta against this 600-year-old whatchamacallit, whereas Vecanoi sort of could be argued to be an actual god. It depends on your definitions.
I hope that's clear.
There's both a Chosen One and a Prophecy, which you'll be astonished to learn involve Kaena. (It can't be a big spoiler if it's in the title.) There's a Grand Priest who rules the humans, doesn't like Kaena and is incapable of saying two consecutive sentences without throwing "the gods" in there somewhere. No great surprises in all this. Kaena is a dangerous rebel, obviously. However there are also some non-stupid characters, of which the most entertaining is a talking worm who thinks he's everyone's intellectual superior, called Gommy.
All that more or less serves its purpose. You watch happily enough. The important things (plot and characters) are all clear, even if the worldbuilding is way more dense than the exposition that's been allocated to it. Be warned though that people fall off high places a lot without ever getting killed and we're not supposed to worry about this. (It's sort of a plot point.)
However it's the visuals that make this worth watching. It's France's first CGI film and it's beautiful to look at. It's prettier than Avatar, I think, to which it's in many ways similar. Both are set on a jungle world whose inhabitants aren't equipped to handle high-tech aliens. The difference is that this film isn't so worried about realism or storytelling and instead is just going to town on looking cool. Cameron's film is meticulous about the nuts and bolts. It's keeping its fantasy grounded, whereas this is going apeshit. The opening shot is delirious, for example, as we hurtle all the way through this colossal spaceship that's about to go boom. The SF vistas are dizzying. It's eyeball candy, like a showreel of the animators' most brilliant highlights that lasts throughout the 85 minutes.
Kaena wears a number of body-hugging outfits, including a spray-on mini-dress, before briefly getting naked. However on the downside the film's often dark and glossy, both of which help the CGI but not necessarily the audience's comprehension.
I listened to the English dub, by the way, which is surprisingly decent. It has Kirsten Dunst, Anjelica Huston, Keith David and Richard Harris in his last ever role.
I enjoyed it. I like SF and if nothing else this is spectacular, with the kind of big worldbuilding I associate with hard SF authors. You can't say it lacks ambition. Everyone who says "the plot has holes" really means "I didn't understand it", I think, which is a flaw of the movie but not the one they mean. Oddly this had originally been going to be a video game, but then the production company went bankrupt and it became a movie instead. Thus it's animated with the software they use in the computer industry to make cut scenes, while the animators were massively inexperienced and making up for it with enthusiasm and working their tails off. Nonetheless despite this it looks great and even manages to avoid the Uncanny Valley by having mildly cartoonish character designs. It doesn't feel like Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds. There's a ton of energy, faces have plenty of motion, the voice acting is lively and you readily accept that these characters are indeed alive.
Overall, not too bad. There's not much wrong with it that a rewatch wouldn't help sort out for you. Mind you, it feels weird to be recommending this over Avatar as jungle planet CGI-heavy SF eye candy (and less than 10000000 hours long), while at the same time conceding that Avatar has the edge in its script.