I had so much hope for this film. I remember seeing the previews and thinking that this was going to be an amazing film filled with beautiful visuals and a groundbreaking and imaginative story. Well, I can honestly say that I was only half-right. This was a classic example of a movie that had the potential to stand out and become a force in the computer animated film genre, but instead fell short because it lacked in story and strong characters. With both of these lacking considerably, it was impossible to fully enjoy the perfect surroundings and surreal imagination (which was not missing from this film at all). Instead, what this film boiled down to was a fairly well endowed girl fighting to save her people from these sap creatures that wanted nothing more than to destroy a blue orb that they felt destroyed their people and planet. With all of this destroying and cross-referencing happening, it became obvious on how the directors lost track of their original target and instead found themselves all over the cinematic CGI-created map.
So, let's begin with the characters. Our heroine, Kaena, was horribly voiced by Kirsten Dunst giving us this modernized voice for a very primitive character. I kept waiting to hear her say 'whatever' and get on her cell phone. The voice behind Kaena gave no depth to the characters or the surroundings. Every time she opened her mouth I kept cringing in my seat wondering why so much was spent on this mismatched voice. The only one that was worth listening to was Richard Harris who did a superb job behind Opaz, giving the right amount of age and wisdom to make us feel sympathy and delight for this strange creature. The rest were pure rubbish. They were all underdeveloped and uncared for which just pushed the overall tone for this film into disgust. I cared nothing for the villagers or even the villains. The reason, I knew nothing about them. How did these villagers evolve and why? Within a time of 600 years, the tree had inhabitants like humans, did anyone else find this odd. Also, who were the sap monsters? The lighting gave no accurate description and they gave us nothing to build on. Were they evil just to be evil? Somebody help me here! This apparent lack of development forced the ending to be nothing but dribble filled with sap and forced emotions.
It became apparent about the middle of this film that the directors had jumped in way over their heads. They had built a world too big for them to handle or fully develop. With so much happening in this film and so many 'new' characters, I couldn't devote my attention to any specific one. Every scene gave us a new visual, and that may work in some films, but for Kaena it just gave us something new to see without any form of explanation. Who were the other inhabitants of the tree and why did they just show up randomly? How could the sap monsters control some and yet not others? What was the connection between all of these characters? My answer to this last question was that there wasn't any. The directors forced too much onto this film causing the pure basics of film-making to be lost. You will find when watching this film that scenes come uneven, fades between them are chaotic, and you never quite know where you will end up next. This creates a sense of uncertainty with the film that should not have been evident. This was no Final Fantasy, but instead an uneven wanna-be that had the potential, but never explored it. Kaena felt like that project that you had two weeks to work on, but somehow find yourself working on it the night before. The whole film seemed like a visual procrastination.
I will give credit to one aspect of this film that I thought was enjoyable and that was the CGI graphics. I don't know who they had working on their team, but there were some beautiful moments to this film. Not all of it was above par, but there were just scenes that would linger in your mind for days. There also seemed like there were moments when the CGI would transform into regular animation for a brief second or so, I don't know if it was intentional or part of the story, but for me it worked. If the film would have combined these two styles, I think they would have had a stronger story. The dream sequences were some of the most creative I have seen in film lately. I was impressed of the visuals, but as I said before, the poor characters and story overshadowed them.
Overall, this film could have been great. The imagination behind the story is there, almost on the tip of its tongue, but gets lost somewhere when too much food is forced into the mouth of the story and characters. I really wanted to enjoy this film, but I just couldn't get past this. The voices were mismatched and the story was just too overwhelming. I needed better voice actors and a better-knitted story. Also, perhaps if Kaena's breasts were just a bit less I could have appreciated her character a bit more. Whew, those were unnecessary unless the directors of his film were targeting young boys. They were, like the story, a bit too overwhelming.
Grade: ** out of *****
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