Kaena: The Prophecy

on June 25, 2004 by Wade Major
Conceived initially as a video game, "Kaena: The Prophecy" is a technically impressive if narratively muddled CGI science-fiction opus in the vein of "Final Fantasy," noteworthy for being the first fully computer-animated film from France. Fans of this type of material, however, will care less about the movie's country of origin than its resolute faithfulness to the staples of its genre, a fidelity that unfortunately may risk alienating just about everyone else.

Set in, on and around a strange alien world named Astria, the Canadian-French coproduction focuses on the interrelationships of three different races--a small tribe of primitive humans who live suspended above the planetary surface in a giant, jungle-like web of vegetation called Axis; the highly-evolved, liquid-like Selenites, who pass themselves off as Gods to the humans, forcing them to work as slaves mining large quantities of sap which the Selenites need to survive; and the Vecarians, a peaceful alien race whose disastrous crash-landing on Astria some 600 years earlier somehow precipitated the creation of Axis and the creatures that inhabit it. But all these centuries later, the sap is drying up... and with it the very life force of Axis.

In true Joseph Campbellian fashion, this situation gives rise to a unlikely Messianic figure in Kaena, a strong-willed young woman with oracular gifts who resists the superstitious impulses of the other humans, following her own adventurous impulses to unravel the mystery of their existence and the secret to their survival.

Like "Final Fantasy," "Kaena: The Prophecy" has been conceived and created by artisans more attuned to the demands of video gaming than cinema. Consequently, "Kaena" ends up being conceptually dense at the expense of story, at times almost calling for some kind of alien almanac to make sense of it all. Its eventual success or failure is likely to be determined entirely by the degree to which audiences embrace or reject the wisdom of this imbalance.

Originally filmed with French voice actors, this version of "Kaena" features seamless revoicing by name English-language actors: Kirsten Dunst as Kaena, the late Richard Harris as the wizened old Vicarian Opaz and Anjelica Huston as the imperious Selenite Queen. All three are well-cast and play their parts with a keen appreciation for their respective dilemmas. If only they could have communicated it to everyone else. Voiced by Kirsten Dunst, Richard Harris and Anjelica Huston. Directed by Chris Delaporte. Written by Chris Delaporte, Benjamin Legrand and Tarik Hamdine. Produced by Aziza Ghalila. A Goldwyn release. Sci-Fi/Animation. Rated PG-13 for sensuality and some frightening images. Running time: 91 min

Tags: Voiced by Kirsten Dunst, Richard Harris, Anjelica Huston, Directed by Chris Delaporte. Written by Chris Delaporte, Benjamin Legrand, Tarik Hamdine, Produced by Aziza Ghalila, Goldwyn, Sci-Fi, Animation

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