This was one of my greatest frustrations back in the Nothings. And not because of any part of the film itself. After all, I hadn’t seen it.
But I had seen a wonderfully insane trailer, full of spaceships, creatures, strange worlds and what looked like a vast fleet of sailing vessels flying into battle.
At the same time, a lush website appeared, with wonderful full color illustrations of many of the worlds in the film, and even better, it revealed that it was all the work of the French comics legend, Jean “Moebius” Giraud. He had designed everything in the film and wrote the story, as well!
And so I waited for it. Impatiently.
And I waited.
And I waited.
Eventually the websites disappeared, and the film slid into obscurity, with an occasional hopeful bit of news. It debuted in China (where, despite being an “American” production, it was actually filmed) – but failed to make enough to break even.
Unfortunately, it came at the wrong time. What had been cutting edge digital animation when it started was already looking old by the time they tried to get it released. The process developed so rapidly that many other films suffered similar problems – Kaena: The Prophecy comes to mind. And we’ve come to expect so much from digital animation that the early efforts all look poor now.
Supposedly, it made a limited run in the US in 2011, but even now there is no official US DVD. My copy is a gorgeous Dutch edition in a screenprinted metal case.
So how does it stand up after all the waiting and expectations?
It is a beautiful film even if, as expected, showing its age after more than a decade. There have been so few animated SF films made (and even fewer outside of Japan!) and few of them have put this much imagination and creativity into their fictional worlds. Which, of course, makes it a very welcome film.
The story is somewhat familiar, about a young man who tries to find his father by journeying through a device that opens into another dimension. However, as one would expect from Moebius, it isn’t your average SF world, but one where magic is real and the inhabitants are Statue of Liberty sized.
On the whole, it remains consistently interesting and the voice performances by a cast of familiar US actors are quite good. Despite a lot of negative reviews, it proved a reasonably entertaining family-friendly film.
But it would still have been better back in 2005.
(film available here.)