With Stan Lee's name practically being synonymous with half of the major comic book titles, one only has to add his name to the title in order to sell a new product to certain audiences. Myself, I was more interested in one of the members of the voice cast. I could literally listen to Anna Paquin read out both volumes of the Sydney phone book. However, a name in the cast will only take one so far, and there has to be something behind the facade to keep the audience interested. Mosaic is a pilot in every sense of the word, clearly intended as a demo tape for studio executives rather than something to hook the audience with. Given that this pilot is being sold on DVD in Australia before a series is contemplated, I would suspect that Mosaic has ended up where so many pilots end up. Discarded and forgotten about by executives who are overloaded with this kind of material already. Thanks to the wonders of DVD-Video and the collector's market, however, we can enjoy this effort at creating a new franchise, as well as the reasons it did not take off, at our leisure.
The problem that probably killed Mosaic at the marketplace is that it is clearly intended for the Saturday morning cartoon circuit, a market that appears to be very much on its last legs. This sets limits upon the creativity of the screenwriters that do not sit well with the subject material at hand. In the seventy-two minute running time, such subjects as a hidden alien race, an international conspiracy involving the robbery of museums, and a parent unknowingly swearing to wipe out a subrace that apparently includes his own child are all touched upon. But the need to pander to that all-important preteen market severely limits the depths to which these subjects can be explored. The irony here is that in the mere two minutes that Mosaic touches upon the last subject in the list I have just outlined, it does so in a far more intelligent and insightful manner than the entire hundred minutes of the third X-Men film, which fans around the world have disowned in droves. Perhaps a series was not picked up because Fox could not stand to invite the comparison.
As I previously mentioned, Anna Paquin could read the phone book for a couple of hours and have me mesmerised. Her smooth, soft voice could be poured onto pancakes and eaten. It also helps that the character she is voicing, Maggie, is clearly modelled after her. Her character gets the vast majority of the screen time, and it is a credit to her that she sounds so sincere when delivering dialogue that occasionally devolves into the childish. Kirby Morrow and Nicole Oliver deliver most of the rest of the dialogue, and provide an adequate framework for Anna to bounce her lines off. However, for all intents and purposes, this is really Anna's show, and I submit that you have not lived until you hear her voice coming out of the mouth of a blonde cartoon woman. Granted, it is no substitute for seeing Anna in front of the camera, pulling the most wicked face while delivering the sort of lines that just stick in the memory forever. But when you have bought or stolen every DVD you can find in which she appears...
The imagery is also quite a nice throwback to the days when animation was done with cels and ink rather than a computer. Looking somewhat like the Japanese animation that flooded the market in the mid-1980s, Mosaic is very pleasant to look at. All of the usual 1980s cartoon staples are present and accounted for. Invisibility is represented by a white outline of a transparent character while characters punch, kick, and throw each other about for what seems like hours on end with nary a drop of blood spilled. Mosaic is unafraid to let the audience's imagination fill in some of the gaps. Unfortunately, it also relies on the audience's imagination a little too much when it comes to critical questions. The ability of the chameleon race to evade detection by mainstream society for so long is very high among them. Also begging the question is how the chameleon race can live for the centuries they claim in an environment that is ostensibly identical to ours. But the story is fortunately enough to distract viewers from such questions.
The character of Maggie is at once the strength and the weakness of this pilot. Being a Stan Lee character, as much as possible is made of her attempts to understand and come to terms with her newfound powers. It does sound a lot like a stripped-down version of X-Men, but Mosaic is one of the few entrants in the market that actually benefits from this approach. Cast overcrowding in a two-hour feature is a very difficult thing to avoid, but Mosaic gets the balance right by allocating almost all of its seventy-two minutes to a single character. We spend so much time learning of Maggie's world, both inside and out, that at the end when the plot takes on a threatening new direction (presumably for future episodes), it has that much more impact. Unlike the third X-Men film, which left the most rabid fans of its predecessors wanting to erase it from existence, Mosaic leaves the viewer wanting more. About the only problem, as previously hinted, is that it allows too little time to delve deeper into its subject material. A continuation of this particular episode is not just wanted, it is practically necessary.
I gave Mosaic a seven out of ten. I would have liked a deeper, more inventive plot, but what was delivered certainly kept my attention all the way through. It is definitely a keeper.
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