Archon Defender (2009)

In the digital age, it should come as no real surprise that a number of animators have created one-man films.  One thinks of such efforts as Machines Don’t Cry (2006), Flatland and The Chosen One (2007), and of course, the hand-animated Nova Seed (2016).  I have a lot of respect for those willing to take on the incredible burden involved, and some of them have been remarkably good.

David T. Krupicz has made three such films so far: this was the first.  It is an SF fantasy which reminds me more than a little of a lot of similar Anime films, with their densely imagined worlds, layers of secrets, and coming of age themes.

And this is quite an interesting world, one which David liked so much that he revisited it in his second film.  Their technology — including flying machines and weapons — is powered by those who can control “the shard”, which is more or less a sort of Jedi like power.

Or magic.

I love the look of the cities and the hardware, which are all well realized, with a strong common aesthetic.  It is deliberately simplified, with heavy lines, but as good as much of the Anime out there — and the frightening effects for the “black shard” are  shocking when we first see them, and they are strong enough to survive being repeated over an over throughout the film.

Perhaps the best scene involves the construction of a giant statue by mental powers, and the sudden disaster which overtakes it.

Unfortunately, where the film falls down is in the characters.

Mostly I’m thinking the design and animation here:  while the backgrounds are near perfect, the best you can say about the character animation is that it is a nice try. It isn’t detailed enough to create truly distinctive characters, their movements are quite awkward and, from many angles, not convincing human all the time.

Nor does the voicework help much:  two of the female characters sounded so much like each other that I had a hard time telling them apart in the flashback sequences, particularly because, despite the differences in the color of their robes and hairstyle, their design just wasn’t distinctive enough to identify the younger version.  The acting isn’t anywhere near as good as it needs to be, either, and tends toward being a bit flat.

Another major flaw is this same extended series of flashbacks giving us the backstory of a major character.  It doesn’t help that nothing has been done to make these flashbacks stand out from the rest of the story, either stylistically or structurally.  As we end up following the stories of three women, only one of whom is really all that distinctive, it makes it difficult to follow the early parts of the film.

Still, it is an interesting film.  If you can overlook the technical failings and focus on the more successful elements, it definitely has its moments.

Enough that, yes, I am curious to see how his more recent films have turned out.

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