Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fantastic Planet

   This animation classic does in 70 minutes what most big budget Hollywood sci-fi adventure movies can't in over 2 hours.  Like Gulliver's Travels by way of H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury, Fantastic Planet is full of stunning sights, immense scope, haunting creatures, and a sharply self-critical view of human nature. I found myself swept up in it's epic narrative, engrossed in the struggle between the gigantic Draags and the human-like Oms. You'd be hard pressed to find another movie like this, but conversely, there's a little bit of Fantastic Planet in most big sci-fi adventure movies anyways.

   If there's any critical flaw in Fantastic Planet, it's that the modern viewer is far more accustomed to having fully fleshed out characters to get to know in movies. Terr, the Om protagonist of Fantastic Planet, is dull and uninteresting. We root for the Oms by default because they are, for all intents and purposes, human. I do believe that cinematic law dictates that audiences always root for the underdog, but if the Draags had been the tiny ant-sized species, and the Oms were the giants, it'd be a horror movie instead. That really says something about us, as a species, doesn't it?

   It's comparisons like that which make Fantastic Planet such a thought provoking movie. Humans in real life still wage wars, mistreat animals, and waste natural resources. Is it only under the boot of collective oppression that we would come together like the Oms? Who knows. Either way, the animation style of this flick is stunning. It's extremely detailed and lends itself nicely to the surreal setting of the wholly alien worlds the movie takes place on. It's really unlike any other animated movie I've seen, but it's also easily up there with the best of them.

   For a while I couldn't fathom why the movie was rated R, besides the innocently rendered animated nudity, but then the Draags decided to De-Om the wilds and what followed was horrifying. The Oms being exterminated like insects. Stepped on, crushed, gassed to death, all while the Draags nonchalantly stroll through the area. It's disturbing visuals like these that really stuck with me long after the movie was over, but Fantastic Planet isn't entirely as droll or as downbeat as it's darker moments are. The movie is still a huge epic adventure, like Dune.

   Terr finds himself having to unite the Oms against the Draags, using the knowledge he gained as one of their house pets to launch a resistance movement that would reshape the future of both species. As I understand it, the movie is based on a book, and I'd love to read it. I'd love to see if it goes into deeper detail about the characters. As a movie however, Fantastic Planet was a real treat. Complete brain food. Eye popping visuals, stunning design, and a timeless story. I loved it.

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