by Joshua T. Dies
“Renaissance” opened Friday, Nov. 17, at the historic Belcourt Theater in Hillsboro Village for a limited engagement. The film is an animated feature set in a black and white Paris circa 2054. It’s the story of a tough-as-nails cop out to locate the damsel in distress. Barthelemy Karas, voiced by Daniel Craig, is a by-his-own-rules cop with a tragic past (don’t they all?). When young genetic scientist Ilona (Romala Garai) goes missing, Karas and Ilona’s mysterious older sister (Catherine McCormack) must work together to find how the mega-corporation Avalon is involved. At the heart of the paper thin conspiracy is a megalomaniac company head (Jonathan Pryce), a twisted genetic scientist (Ian Holm), a haunting industrial secret, and the search for immortality.
“Renaissance” is a visually stunning motion picture. The intricate detailing in 2054 Paris is incredible. It would take me days of staring at the screen to see every piece of the backdrop. Director Christian Volckman’s interpretation of futuristic Paris is elaborate and realistic. The most visually recognizable sites of the city poke through the glossy and modern advances of the next imagined forty years. The ‘motion capture’ filming method has been hit-and-miss for me, but is very effective here. The slick black and white shots give new dimension to ‘film noir.’ The film has been in production for several years, dating back before the immensely successful “Sin City,” which uses a similar effect to achieve comparable results.
The film has the look and feel of classic film noir and the attitude of a comic book adaptation. The production design is immaculate, with snow and rain juxtaposing the sharp angles and shadows of a perpetually dark and seedy cityscape. The screen is put to good use, using wide panoramic shots and grand sweeps across the city. The expansive and unending view is echoed several times in the film. For example, the different levels of the Metro station are bulletproof glass and the office of Paul Dellenbach is glass capsule in the center arch of the huge Avalon headquarters. The film score by Nicholas Dodd is haunting, nostalgic, and gorgeous, reminiscent of Danny Elfman and John Debny.
Unfortunately the movie has to be more than a slick trailer. And this is where the major problems arise. After the initial eye-popping opening of the film, we have to sit through about an hour of useless filler. The plot is rather generic and almost identical to twenty nameless action flicks on any given day. It seemed like there was a great idea on how to tell a story, but no story to tell. The script is weak and full of gaping holes. The entire story almost seems injected into the film. The characters are flat and unappealing. They dismally brood their way through the story, but there’s very little explorative back-story into why they’re so miserable in the first place. The use of flashbacks merely confuses the character development by adding vague and unexplained events that only have marginal bearing on the story. As the films edges toward its conclusion, the twists come again and for about ten minutes it’s quite interesting. Then the credits roll.
I was disappointed in the movie, after being very excited at the previews. I freely admit I’m an animation whore. From Japanese anime to Saturday morning cartoons, I love the wide-open possibilities that animation has to offer. Unfortunately this movie presents itself as a new level in the art form but turns out to be another crapfest action movie with a pretty cover. If they had spent some of that six years developing characters and a story, maybe we could have seen the film the look and production deserved.