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Review: A Warrior’s Tail

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In A Warrior’s Tail (Russian: Savva. Serdtse voin), the new fantasy adventure from Russian animation studio Gluk’oza Animation, the buffoonish comic-relief character looks into a vision of the future and remarks, “Well, the visuals were great but there was not much of a plot.” This joke, which foresees the inevitable critical response that the film will receive from publications such as this, is about as clever and funny as the film gets. Except, I wish I could agree with that précis; alongside the absence of plot, A Warrior’s Tail is also lacking in great visuals. The C.G animation is of a matinee T.V serial standard that evokes an early 2000’s P.C video game cut-scene. Famed American, British and Japanese animation studios have little to fear from the Russian competition.

I, for one, hold the viewpoint that cinema’s future potential and most exciting current works can be found in the documentary and animation genres. This is tied directly to a democratization of the necessary technologies. The recent news that Studio Ghibli’s animation software is now available as a free open source to download and implement as you see fit is symptomatic of the exciting democratic potential of the genre. However, that means there will always be a greater influx of lesser-quality, fanboy-contaminated films, lesser versions of greater achievements. A Warrior’s Tail, unfortunately, is one such example. In order to compete with the established studios – Walt Disney, Pixar, Aardman and Ghibli – A Warrior’s Tail just takes what it can, intercontinentally, from classics. Is it possible not to recall masterpiece, Princess Mononoke, when the plot concerns young warrior partnering up with a talking white wolf protector? Or The Lion King, when the films chief villains are maniacally-laughing, tyrannical English hyena’s? There is even a wise monkey shaman character. The film’s marketing puts great emphasis on the fact that Gregory Porier co-worked on the script, a writer who, according to IMDb, did ‘Additional written material’ on Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. So when the poster says ‘From the Makers of Lion King II: Simba’s Pride’, it means this guy. This is clearly a shabby attempt to connect Disney Animation (even if it is lesser Disney work) to this new feature. It even steals the title of the Disney feature, Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale (in some regions the film is called Saava: A Warrior’s Tail). Essentially, while Walt Disney Animation tales are often quintessentially American and Ghibli films quintessentially Japanese, this bears no markers of Russian cultural specificity to differentiate itself, apart from the fact the the villainous hyena’s have conspicuous yellow and blue fur – the colours of Ukraine.

So far, so banal. But what might get your blood boiling is borderline racist stereotypes; black and Mexican actors voice monkeys (Whoopi Goldberg does the voice of a three headed Monkey King called Jo’Zee); male Caucasian voices are used for noble warriors; a sniffy, arrogant, aristocratic character is French; and a tribal monkey culture worships anything new as a God. Obviously this feeds of and re-enforces destructive stereotypes. Not only is the film conservative and regressive in its visuals and ideology, but also in its belief that animation functions as children’s entertainment only – fart jokes and all – rather than as a film that appeals to all ages (surely Pixar’s greatest achievement). Such a belief is not conducive to the respect that animation deserves. Overly-mawkish sentiments, lack of narrative nuance or maturity, and extensive cliché, means that an adult audience is sure to get bored pretty quickly. Even with an impressive voice cast for the English language release – Sharon Stone, Milla Jovovich, Whoopi Goldberg and Joe Pesci (!) – the talent is wasted with poorly written dialogue not even Pesci could make interesting. The Russian’s have got some catching up to do.

 

1.5-out-of-5

A Warrior’s Tail is in cinemas April 1st and on DVD April 11th.

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