Kaena: The Prophecy review by Mike Long

Given the success of the computer generated animated films from Pixar and the (inexplicable) following of Shrek, one must wonder why we aren't seeing a more diverse usage of this new medium, especially in the realm of films for more mature audiences. The only feature-length theatrical release of this nature that we've seen in the U.S. (to the best of my knowledge) was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a movie which featured incredible animation and a story which only gets more confusing with repeat viewings. (Phantom animals...do what now?) We now have the French-made feature-length CG animated film Kaena: The Prophecy, which, like Final Fantasy proves that before you turn on that computer to begin animating, you'd better have a good script.

Kaena: The Prophecy is set on an alien planet, and takes place in a world called Axis, which is basically a giant tree made up a inter-connecting branches. In the midst of Axis is a small village, which is filled with simple and humble humanoid creatures. They worship the "gods" which live at the base (?) of Axis and appease the gods with offerings of tree sap. (Oh wait, there's more.) In the village lives a young woman named Kaena (voiced by Kirsten Dunst), who, although raised by the village high priest (after her parents died), is a rebel and questions the authority of the gods. Kaena loves to explore the outer reaches of Axis and often dreams of a blue sun. It's during one of these explorations that Kaena meets the aliens who live at the top of Axis and learns that her world is in danger of being destroyed.

The worldwide success of The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogies shows that general audiences will accept science-fiction and fantasy when it is well-done. However, no matter how out-there those films got, they were always rooted in the familiar, either through human characters, or familiar storylines. This is where Kaena: The Prophecy will lose many audience members. This is hardcore fantasy with a sci-fi touch that offers many characters that the average viewer will not be able to connect with. This is further confounded by the confusing storyline. I never did quite understand who or what the gods were and the finale didn't make much sense. The film features too many characters, especially characters that we know nothing about. As the story unfolds, it tries to fill in the gaps from the past, but this only serves to make things more confusing. Character development is basically non-existent, and all that we know about Kaena is that she's a head-strong girl whose parents are dead and that she has two big circles on her forehead that look like the one on Gwyneth Paltrow's back. The presence of known actors like Dunst, Richard Harris, Anjelica Huston, and Keith David doesn't really help with the characters.

The botched story makes Kaena: The Prophecy very hard to watch (but easy to fast-forward through!), and that's truly a shame, because the film contains some gorgeous animation. The opening shot, which takes us through an alien spaceship as it explodes, is truly great eye-candy (and the fantastic sound doesn't hurt either). It's clear that the animators put a great deal of work into creating Kaena's world and the details in the setting and the character's faces is impressive. Yet, it's too bad that they chose to make Axis so drab and brown, as it takes away from the overall beauty of the image. Fans of hardcore sci-fi/fantasy may enjoy Kaena: The Prophecy, but everyone else should just wait for The Incredibles (which looks awesome!).

Kaena: The Prophecy jumps onto DVD courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks perfect, as it shows no grain, distortion, or any sort of defects from the source material. (I don't know if this was a direct digital transfer.) The picture is very sharp and clear, and the colors (once they arrive) look great. The picture has a great sense of depth and this lends itself to the 3-D nature of the animation. The DVD carries an equally good Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Once again, that opening shot could easily be a new home theater demo scene, as the subwoofer action and surround sound effects really pull you into the scene. The dialogue and music are clear and there's no hissing or distortion.

The Kaena: The Prophecy contains a few extras. There is a "Virtual Interview" (3 1/2 minutes) with the computer animated Kaena where she answers questions as if she were the actress who played Kaena. The 14-minute "Making of Kaena has comments from the filmmakers and shows a bunch of guys hunched over computers. The trailer for Kaena: The Prophecy is included here, and it's been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is 16 x 9 enhanced.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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