Space Detective (2017)

“The following transmission has been translated into local Terran dialect.  Some visual distortion may occur”

I have no idea what in the world Antonio Llapur and Matt Sjafiroeddin were smoking when they created Space Detective.  I just hope someone buys them more of it – and soon.

I find myself at a loss what in the world to say about this film.  Which is natural because there isn’t anything else like it.

It almost comes as a contrast between what we expect and the far stranger reality.  If you talk about a SF film featuring rotoscoped animation, what comes to mind is A Scanner Darkly, or the very similar Mars (2010) — and definitely not a brutal assault of intense color, constant motion and endless detail.  I’ll admit, when I first saw the trailer, I wondered whether the novelty of it would wear out quickly and become routine – or even tiresome.  Instead, Space Detective delights in new locations, different animation styles, and a constant stream of Easter Egg references. And these — like Boba Fett walking past in a crowd, or the Tardis circling a space station, or bits of film borrowed from The Night of the Living Dead, or a rap song with the refrain “Klaatu Barada Nikto” — come so fast and furious in the crowd scenes, and even sneak into the background of some of the quieter shots, that it is probably impossible to get a halfway start on listing them.

Again, just looking at a bare plot description —  that familiar, Film Noir storyline about the private eye trying to help his alluring female client get free of her husband — it sounds like a classic Noir film, and in fact remarkably like another recent SF Private Eye movie (in which, now that I think of it, the hero also has an AI as his partner), Black Road.  But, again, this is a Noir that not only is set in space, but brings in alien invasion, the destruction of Earth and super soldier nanotech.   Only the doomsday weapon that blows holes in galaxies seems familiar – but only as an extreme version of our old friend, the MacGuffin.

But even the familiar things get done well.  Matt Sjafiroeddin nails the cynicism and existential weariness we expect from a movie PI, and the driving, jazzy blare of the main theme sounds like it came from some Sixties PI movie (perhaps by way of Peter Gunn).

Mind you, the rest of the soundtrack is excellent, even if it strays into rock, techno and rap.  It is one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in an independent film — even if there aren’t many movies out there that are extreme enough to handle it.

But then, everything about this film is extreme.

They even sneak in a tiny snatch of real live action — and with human characters.  After all, why not?  They’ve got everything else in there.

This is an incredible film.  It dares to be different in an age where no one wants to take any risks; throws in everything its creators love, whether the rest of us would say it “fits” or not; and refuses to pull any robot punches.

And we need that these days.  In fact, we need a lot more of it.

I just hope that they can find a distributor for this inspired bit of divine madness.  And soon.  This is one that deserves a wider audience.

But whether they can get it or not in the age of “Meh” is another question.

(For more information, visit the official website)

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