Coming to theatres and VOD Mar 10, 2023
Played at the Victoria Film Festival Feb 9th
Anyone enamoured with the colourful visual teases from the trailers for Unicorn Wars by Alberto Vázquez will get more than an anti-fable presented to them. That’s how this filmmaker describes his work. Here, his animated work looks at the conflict for power at the Magic Forest, where the teddy bears here are taught a myth where if one can kill and drink the blood of the last unicorn, they will be king. The idea is a nastier spin on what Lord Voldemort believed in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the cost looks worse!
The rivalry between these two species is age-old, and as for who is truly pure, we’re not meant to really know for certain. I don’t want to side with either given how horrible the depths of hatred runs deep.
This movie is hardly about Care Bears versus My Little Pony. Those carefree works are charming and are easy to laugh at. In Unicorn Wars, we see a cinematic presentation that’s more about the horrors of war, and how not to push an agenda. This story is more about two brothers, Bluey and Tubby, twin bears who just want their mother’s love and become rivals over it. One is aggressive to the point of being evil and the other passive and is a saint. It’s sad to witness, and as for what caused them to become such is at least something to pick up on and learn from, than to allow it to fester.
Other topics it examines include religion, the origin of evil, and power as a tool of control. This work is quite biblical, especially when Vázquez revealed in the press release that was his intent. To reinforce the point, he names a few unicorns Mary, Ruth and Judith, whereas the bears are Cuddle or Smile–who are supporting characters.
The fact there are moments from this film which are taken from Apocalypse Now shows where this filmmaker wants to take the work. It’s dark and disturbing. The allegories feel like they’re from Renaissance literature, and I can’t help but wonder if Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene and Milton’s Paradise Lost were also additional inspirations. The gory imagery feels ripped out of the latter, and as for whether that’s a good thing, that depends on what Alberto was truly after.
He uses animation so that the colour palette matches the emotions of the varied creatures featured here. Even the backgrounds revel an outwordliness to suggest even all is not well in this world. And depending on how well you know this filmmaker, what I understood from Unicorn Wars is that not all battles are meant to be won. As for what rises which I won’t fully spoil but instead tease at, it’s a type of reveal that those who have seen Igmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal would only understand. It’s also similar to what Ashitaka’s curse represents for those who know Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke Hime.
As for others who haven’t seen either, that grander context won’t be as well understood. This movie has moments that will leave viewers feeling uneasy, and my advice is to watch something comical afterwards. That way, you can sleep well, knowing that the bedside stuffed doll is indeed a sugar plum fairy and nothing else.
3½ Stars out of 5