Tuesday, September 15, 2015

No-A






Today I have an animated short film called NO-A. It was Directed by Liam Murphy, who--according to IMDB--has only worked on this project here. I'm sure that's probably not quite true, and I'm not trying to insinuate that a lack of credits is a bad sign or anything, because it's not. I'm just saying, it is what it is. That's all the information I have.

Of course, I didn't make a lot of effort...

Anyway, here's the synopsis: The world is a desolate, unforgiving place in this action sci-fi with a surprising amount of heart. We follow NO-A (Noah), as he attempts to rescue Aixa, the young woman that created him. In his attempt to save her, he must face an unknown enemy and fight to keep them both alive.

Now, before we get started, let me be clear about one thing: I am definitely interested in this short film. I posted it because I'm interested, so I'm definitely gonna watch the thing. It's right up my alley, all of the stuff it mentions, the images I've seen, it all piques my interest, but... that is one poorly put together synopsis, right? I mean, shit, that's the best summation you can muster about your film? "A surprising amount of heart"? You can't include that in your own synopsis, man, that's for the audience to decide. That's something critics say. How can you create something with a surprising amount of heart? Aren't you the one directly responsible for the total amount of heart included? How does it surprise you? Also, I love how they point out how to pronounce the name NO-A, but not Aixa (Ache-sa? Eye-ja? Beats me...) Now, normally you can tell when the synopsis was written by someone for whom English is second language, but it doesn't seem that way to me. At least, I don't think so. I wouldn't make fun of them if I thought that was the case. And if that is the case, my apologies, but it honestly doesn't read that way to me, it just reads as... terrible.

Let's hope that's not a sign of things to come...


Hmmm... okay.

That was light, that's for sure. Nebulous. It certainly looked good, I enjoyed he action, and I thought it was paced well, but in the end it runs into many of the same problems these short films all seem to share: The almost non-existent narrative. I realize it's only 5-ish minutes, but the film basically moves through a small action set-piece (a much smaller one than I expected, honestly) and then it's all done. And that's it. There's a very video game feel to the whole thing. It's a Level, not a Story. There's a Start Point and an End Goal, but no explanation for why it starts where it does, or why it ends where it does. Almost nothing in the film tells you who these characters are, why they're doing what they're doing, or how they got to this point. In fact, what little back-story there is, any hints to our robot hero, and who exactly the girl is to him, are all merely hinted at in the end credits.

How does that enhance the story?

And was there really a "surprising amount of heart" like the synopsis claimed?

Honestly, what's the point of short films like this? To show off the animation? Is that all these things are, a small studio's Show Reel? And if it is, was it all that effective? Also, is there a rule somewhere that says these things must preclude a full story?

The sense of the geography I got for the setting in this film was that of a bowl. No-A starts high up on one side, then leaps down into the center, where they run across the floor, and it ends when he sends the girl up the other side? What is this place? A Colosseum? It has a dirt floor, but no seats. Some kind of mining facility? Maybe, but I didn't see any equipment. It's hard to tell, because it was just an empty space. There's no context. It makes little sense as a structure, and provides even less insight as to why the girl was down there, getting captured for who knows what reason, while her obviously very protective robot friend was not. I mean, the last wave of bad guys show up, and No-A does his doomed last stand/frozen leap into action thing--which looked cool and was well-done, but was also an overly familiar moment--and the only thing I can think is: Those bad guys showed up in a jet, so why send her up in an elevator? Where is she going, and how can it be safe? Can't they just fly up there after her? Lots of questions, and no answers, so there's very little satisfaction in the end.

NO-A looks great, but it's cotton candy, pretty and delicious, but with no substance to speak of.

A surprising amount of disappointment,
Jon

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