Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is well worth the wait because production for this sequel wasn’t rushed and we have a tale that truly expands past what we know from past films
Mild Spoiler Alert
What can a cat do when he runs out of his nine lives? In Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) latest adventure, The Last Wish, he has to seek a force beyond nature to grant him a new set of regenerations, like Doctor Who, to continue adventuring. Instead, his goal is to find a wishing star in true fairy tale fashion to regain those he lost in years prior. This simple premise keeps the story going forward because, throughout Puss’ adventure, he has to be careful in everything he does. Thus, any wrong step he makes might be his last. And along the way, there’s enough danger so he’ll have to consider taking that road more travelled. He never realised how reckless he’s become and all he ever wanted was to be remembered.
What makes this second outing better is that it delivers a fantasy not completely driven by concepts from Lewis Carrol and Aesop’s fables. As a result, this movie feels more like a good ol’ fashioned Pirates of the Caribbean style adventure, complete with some crazy encounters along the way. And what I enjoyed more is that I love the bad guys featured in this film! Here, we get a narrative that understands why Goldilocks stayed with the three bears. To see them become her henchmen makes sense even though we don’t know their whole story about turning into a crime family.
In Fantasia’s 2022 list of animated shorts, not only did José Luis Saturno’s poster for La Melodía Torrencial catch my attention for its artistic design but also the trailer looked fabulous! The art design had a touch of Tim Burton’s design aesthetic which I adored, and I had to know more. I mentioned this film in my top animated picks list, and got a chance to see this short film ahead of its premiere.
This story about a rainmaker going by the name of Fluvio has a lot of layers tucked into its narrative. When a township sought him out to bring them rain to their arid community, what they get–some may say–was their just desserts. But there’s a lot more going on in Saturno’s latest work than meets the eye.
This filmmaker studied Film Animation at Concordia University in Montreal and started producing even before finishing his degree. He didn’t submit for film festivals until his third year in school, and instead of working for the big studios, he decided going independent was the way to go.
Thus, Enjambre Hexagonal was born. A few of their works can be found on YouTube, but to see them as they’re intended, on the big screen, is a must so the detail can be appreciated. He hires freelance artists as part of the staff to do this work, and the people on call include Yann Ben Alluch who does the storyboards and helps animate (“El mimo y la mariposa negra”). Robin Servant handles all the music and is the talent behind the sounds in La Melodía Torrencial.
He said, “I never felt compelled to work in the industry from the bottom in the hopes of one day being hired as a director. I simply wanted to make films as quickly as possible.”
Princesse Dragon is a wonderful European fairy tale brought to life by Jean-Jacques Denis, and it’s playing at Fantasia 2022!
Playing at Fantasia 2022, July 17 11:45 AM
Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU (Théâtre Hall)
Bristle (Kaycie Chase) is the little spitfire. When considering she is the Princesse Dragon, also this film’s title, her personality should be of no surprise to anyone, including her father, named Dragon (Jérémie Covillault). She is a human dragon hybrid and fears she will become like the foes pops hates. Humanity hasn’t been kind to them for a long time, and he has every reason to despise them.
However, he can’t stop this little girl from exploring. She’s a wonderful Studio Ghibli type character and I’d compare her to Mei from My Neighbour Totoro. But unlike that human, her desire to broaden her horizons differs. And the magical adventure that unfolds is one about how differing civilizations can peacefully co-exist.
Soon, while wandering the woods, she meets Princess (Lila Lacombe) from a nearby kingdom. After a romp in the woods, she is taken to the castle and what she sees is that not everyone is evil. Also, this dragon girl learns through observation that not everyone is faring well. If you ask them what their most precious treasures are, I’m sure not everyone will give the same answer. The answer is obvious for some, but if you ask the King and Dragon that, they would lose a round in Jeopardy.
In contrast, the King can’t look beyond his own greed. He even arranged his daughter’s future and the prince we meet is hardly a prince at all. He looks like a puppet willing to be strung along. All he cares for is for the future. When Princess takes the throne, his kingdom will expand to include a neighbouring area and the bounty it offers. Thankfully she is wise to his schemes. Additionally, we also find Dragon’s other two kids are berating him for abandoning Bristle. She hasn’t earned the title Princesse Dragon yet.
Thus, this animated film by Jean-Jacques Denis is all kinds of wonderful. In this work, the children are far wiser than their elders. Also, I can’t help but be reminded of the same literary and visual techniques used by Tomm Moore in Wolfwalkers. In this case, the relationship every species has with itself is deftly examined. The committed humans who are dragon-slayers do not differ from the Dragons who are determined to horde.
Conversely, Princess is nothing like dad. She is sweet and kind while papa is too greedy and determined to do something else. That is, his desire to expand his empire beyond its natural borders will eventually be his undoing. And yes, he loves his gold. The issue we later discover is that he is not willing to share his wealth. Also, when he spots somone else stealing the Dragon’s gold, he’s more than upset. He’s determined to get his reward, and that’s going to be an issue.
The Frogceress is all new character to which I’m sure was created specifically for this movie. Colette Venhard performance of this crone is the highlight and I hope there’s plans to expand her role. A significant part of Princesse Dragon wouldn’t have happened without her interference, and as for what she represents in a greater whole really needs to be examined. Without her, I would not be as invested. I should note that in French, she’s referred to as the Sorcenouille. I’ll have dive deep into studying European folklore to figure out which literary witches influenced this particular design. My best guess is Baba Yaga.
As a result of wanting to see more of her, all I can hope is for Jean-Jacques Denis to consider making more films where she’s at the centre of more disasters! Now wouldn’t that be fun?
Big Fish & Begonia (大鱼海棠) is a beautifully animated film which takes its afterlife seriously. The people living in a mystical Chinese Middle Earth type realm live harmoniously with the elements but when an individual upsets the natural order, the world will retaliate and the cosmic order will need rebalancing.
This movie debuted in 2016 and it got limited play at select film festivals. After two years, it has finally gotten notice by Shout! Factory and FUNimation. Hopefully, another work, I Am Nezha (我是哪吒) will see release. While one is traditionally animated (2D), the other is 3D. Big Fish is a dramatic product whereas Nezha has more comedy action. To catch either work on the big screen is tough; the release from last month only had a handful of theatres doing short runs.
When I first heard the Mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in a retelling of the Snow White tale because the story is now in the public domain, the first thought that came to my mind is if (the original movie and) the sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War can be told from a grandiose Viking perspective? I see it trying to go that route, but the narrative is forcing the fairy tale aspects in a bitter direction.
I skipped the first film because I’m not a big fan of Kristen Stewart. This latest version caught my eye because of Jessica Chastain‘s work in Interstellar (2014) and The Martian (2015). I enjoyed what she brought to the table in those science-fiction films. In fantasy, that world is ridden with tropes where not every “once upon a time” is all that fascinating anymore. In the details I’ve noticed, the Anglo-Saxon imagery permeates and I had to wonder why the mirror, when viewed in closeup, is decorated with runes. Could Loki be involved?
When the new villain is Freya (Emily Blunt), I can not help but wonder if her character might be based on the divinity of the same name from Nordic lore. This goddess of war and death rules the afterlife and she leads the spirits of dead soldiers into battle. She leads the fights for the thrill of the hunt instead of the cold-hearted rule of the people (like Ravenna [played by Charlize Theron] did in the first film). She’s sometimes connected with the heavenly Valkyries of lore. They find the slain to take to Valhalla. Although this movie twists the legend around by spiriting children away (from murdered parents) to become the Huntsmen, the ideology suggests a darker world. These kids have their innocence stripped so they can become ideal soldiers. Instead of a goddess, she’s a mutant with the ability to create ice from the moisture in the air.