Reviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 11/03/06 00:16:09

"In The Animation Maybe, But Not The Storytelling"
3 stars (Just Average)

Comic book faithfuls usually take umbrance when they feel someone has taken their beloved works of 20-page chapter plays and bastardize it for the masses who couldn’t possibly understand the connection it has already made in written form. Likewise if they feel justice has been done they can be the first to accuse the naysayer of all sorts of blasphemy and misinterpretation when all they may have been doing is coming in with a sense of clarity that the biased had long since lost. Last year with Sin City, Robert Rodriguez found a way to appease both sects by staying true to the vision of Frank Miller’s graphics while also having the source material that was good enough to digest without the visual aid. Filmmaker Christian Volckman has taken a page out of Sin City, as close to literally as possible, with a potent illustration of animated sci-fi that borrows a little too much to fully test our other senses.

It’s 2054 and Paris has taken its legendary beauty to the next level as the only commercial that ever seems to play over the city-wide billboards is for the cosmetic company, Avalon. (“We’re on your side for life.”) In the night accentuated by the stark black-and-white images, a young scientist for the company named Ilona (voiced by Romola Garai) is kidnapped. The police force’s best tracker, Karas (Daniel Craig), is brought onto the case and begins plunging himself into the secrets of Avalon, aided by information from Ilona’s mentor, geneticist Jonas Muller (Ian Holm) and her older sister, Bislane (Catherine McCormack) aware of Ilona’s backroom dealings to expose some vital information. So then why is the business’ Vice President (Jonathan Pryce) so desperate to get Ilona back?

Karas’ investigation leads to the quest for the ultimate beauty, defined by a condition famously held by the heroes of Highlander. “Without death, life is meaningless,” says one character. That’s a tagline waiting to pop and the necessary one to thicken the soup after a bogged-down second act that never takes off even after some fairly exciting chases and shootouts. Just not exciting enough to get action fans enthused about the endless gravity and frameworks that animators can explode their pixels around. This brand of animation where every face comes with a pre-installed shadow and many of the ancillary characters may take a second glance to identify, like most CGI-FX become just another gimmick unless you can exploit its magnitude to earn the title of groundbreaking.

Which brings us back to the plot which is a greatest hits mish-mash of many of the sci-fi noirs that have already earned their stripes. The immortality concept of Blade Runner can be taken into areas left untouched by that masterpiece; thereby granting Renaissance status as a companion piece instead of just a knock-off. “Bad…bad…nightmare” cries the anti-anti-aging prophets, but don’t let us rely on the memories of Conor McLeod and Roy Batty to exasperate its side effects. Just how potent is the new treatment? Enough to maintain your good looks for ever and ever. Not bad if you have the means to swing with the glitterati. Where is the real objection to Ilona’s discovery then? Overpopulation? Won’t the less fortunate be unable to afford it? Finally, Vogue’s dream world of rich and beautiful people come true. Mere grief over the loss of those not on the ultimate beauty cream? It’ll fade faster than your looks in this world. “Why put off until tomorrow what you can today,” admittedly becomes a moot point, which is still a higher one than the film ultimately makes.

The animation alone is just about enough to recommend a look at Renaissance, even if the film’s trailer may be all one needs to satisfy their daily dose of “wow”. Ironic how a film preaching the evils of immortal looks would be so skin deep with little pumping underneath. The real question is asking if someone rips a page out of Sin City, Blade Runner, V for Vendetta and every other futuristic degradation of politics and corporations and no one is around to hear it, what is there to listen to?

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