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rochefort [Celluloid 09.24.16] post apocalyptic animation

There are networks that play cartoons 24 hours a day. There's a daunting amount of animated fare available to stream, and high-profile CG animated family films are among the biggest box-office hits year after year. There is, quite honestly, an embarrassment of animated riches available to modern audiences. So it seems almost pedantic to pine for the halcyon days of Saturday morning cartoons, to get all nostalgic for an era when the wide theatrical release of a fully-animated adult film like Heavy Metal was a big, big deal.

But I do, dammit, because there was a time when us science fiction fans (at least in the West) were lucky to get one animated film or TV show a year, making the likes of Heavy Metal, Fantastic Planet, Rock & Rule, Akira, and Thundarr the Barbarian feel all the more precious. If you can relate to this on any level, then you are the primary audience for Nick DiLiberto's Nova Seed.

Nova Seed is set in a decidedly pulpy post-WWIII future where mankind has created animal/human hybrids called NAC's (Neo Animal Combatants) to fight on the battlefield, and subsequently demonized them. When a new threat arises, an evil, cowskull-headed mad scientist named Dr. Mindskull who promises to steal a life-restoring super-entity called the Nova Seed and use it to wipe clean the planet, humanity enlists the aid of a lion man (simply named NAC) to get to the Nova Seed first and end Mindskulls dastardly plan.

Problem is, NAC, like all of his kind, is considered an abomination and has been relegated to fighting in Roman-style gladiator matches, and he trusts humans as little as we trust him. Prodded and shackled, NAC is thrust into his mission knowing that even if he succeeds, hell be put down once the smoke clears. But fighting and surviving comes natural to NAC, and fight he does, in subterranean tunnels, in aerial dogfights, and ultimately against the world-consuming power of the Nova Seed itself.

I'm one of those cinephiles who gets cranky every time I see "A Film by" show up in the credits for any movie. The average film requires the efforts of a huge amount of people to get made and true auteurs are few and far between, so the idea that one person gets so much credit comes off as an insult. But Nova Seed earns that bragging right a lot more than most. Writer/Director/Animator Nick DiLiberto co-wrote the script with his brother Joe, spent four years animating the film by hand, and voices several characters and even multiple elements of the sound design, so there's no denying just how personal a film this is.  

The raw, squiggly quality of much of the design and character movement may be off-putting to those whose primary exposure to animation is the modern, computer-assisted output from PIxar and the like, but it serves as a constant reminder that the creators hand is in every frame, almost literally. Its the sort of thing we typically only see these days from fellow auteurs like Don Hertzfeldt, and it certainly charms.

But we have to judge such a technical achievement as only part of the whole, regardless of how inspiring that achievement may be, and for those who didnt spend chunks of their youth watching and re-watching the adventures of Thundarr and Taarna and Kaneda, the threadbare story may limit its appeal. Theres a lot of fighting and a lot of things blowing up, Dr. Mindskulls plot is an extremely familiar one, and the bulk of the runtime is essentially one big chase/fight. The plot isnt complex by any means, but that may be the point. As a tribute to its influences, Nova Seed is incredibly faithful, and apes the basic plot beats that made those earlier films such pulpy fun. So as a critic I have to damn the film, to a minor extent, with faint praise. But as a fan, I'll proudly admit that I cant wait to watch Nova Seed again with a big ole bowl of cereal in hand.

Recommended Release:
Heavy Metal

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Genius (4 years ago) Reply

ahh you mentioned Akria and Fantastic Planet...such memories.
Not many Scifi animated Films come out, not many if any dark Scifi animated films come out. Look forward to Nova. By the way last Great Scifi anime was RedLine.


Aladdin Sarsippious Sulemanagic Jackson III (4 years ago) Reply

Science and sorcery ookla the mok
did not get mcuh uhf in NJ now I live in SD and we pretty much run steam punk tech
threw away my telescreen 17 years ago
like this place please someone murder
akiva goldsmith/man
the derpt tower will turn out to be
another king epic fail
it was good books though


Aladdin Sarsippious Sulemanagic Jackson III (4 years ago) Reply

left out if that akiva has anything to do with it will be a giandt steaming disappointing turd

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