Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Movie Review: Fantastic Planet (1973)

Plot: Imagine a world, surreal and terrifying, with a vast number a species, plants, and animals. One species in particular, which are the “civilized” and governing race of “Fantastic Planet”, are the Draags, a humanoid race with fish-like characteristics. The Draags live luxurious, meditative lives that resemble a religious and peaceful state of mind. The Draags are also the giants of the planet who stand somewhere around 100 meters.

Among the Draags lives another, very small race of creatures, known as Oms that resemble humans on Earth, but much more “savage” in appearance. The Oms are kept as pets and are at the mercy and torment of the Draags. The Oms decide they no longer wish to be slaves and pets and plan an uprising to put an end to Om enslavement. The Draags decide to exterminate the Oms like insects, in which case war between the two species begins.

My Thoughts: As much as I enjoy the unending possibilities of the human imagination, I find the random and chaotic nature of 1970’s sci-fi films a bit overwhelming. With its numerous use of color schemes and eerie synthesized sound effects, Fantastic Planet inflicts sore eyeballs and many headaches throughout the 60 minute animated feature.

Going along with the 1970’s chaotic, over-the-top feel, we as audience members find ourselves immersed in a world of hundreds of animal species that seem to be there more for the sake of being strange and weird rather than to serve the plot of the film. The chaos continues more so when the Draags begin to shape shift into numerous shapes and deformities, which also seem very random and unnecessary.

To a certain extent, I appreciate the films attempt at commenting on the evils of abusive slavery and the necessity of peace among sentient life. The terrifying look of Fantastic Planet does help to amplify the films argument about the evils of slavery. However, this concept weakens as the film progresses towards the end. The attempt at using absurdity (to the degree that this film takes it at least) to illustrate a point poorly demonstrates the evils of slavery. We find this within much of the media during the 70’s. The 1970’s TV show Wonder Woman showed Nazi Germany as the most evil force in the world, in which case Wonder Woman came and saved the innocent from the oppression of Nazi rule. This is an absurdity and is unable to maintain itself as a TV show. Fantastic Planet, in the same degree, is unable to maintain its story in an effective way and dwindles off into a plethora of absurdities that become more confusing than moralizing.

The ending of the film came rather abruptly. The Draags decided they could not defeat that Oms and made peace with them. The Oms obtained rights and privileges, and at a drop of a hat, the narrator made this statement of peace between the two races, and the credits rolled on. This may have been due to budget constraints, time limitations, or both. In any case, the ending was exceptionally unsatisfying and lacked taste.

The animation was intriguing, but eventually became dull and boring. The creepy aspect and feel of the film was effectively done, but the animation reminded me of the quality that Hana-Barbera brought to television audiences worldwide.

Overall: A very poorly made film. The story had a lot of potential, but it was lost in the chaotic and over done world of RenĂ© Laloux. I found it boring and to a certain degree, taxing. I would only recommend this film to people who enjoy 1970’s sci-fi, over-the-top, chaotic films.

1 out of 5 stars

Here is the film trailor

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