Note: This article was originally written on December 7th 2009, following
the actual release date of the movie. The full article was supposed to be sent in to a contest at a movie website, but the
contest ended because of technical errors. Also...Planet 51 made seven times more money in theatres than the Astro
Boy movie, was in theatres three times as long, and is getting a DVD release a week before Astro Boy. which makes the second
time a division of Sony has screwed over the Tezuka estate.
This past Saturday, my family and I had decided to go see
Planet 51. My mother had declared that she thought it would be funny, given that all we’d seen up to that point
was two different trailers and an interview on Ellen. I continued to doubt the movie, but earlier that year, I’d
also doubted Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, and that movie had come out of nowhere and been the most entertaining
independent CGI film I’d seen that year. The characters were original-looking and had personalities and types I’d
never seen in any other film, the humour was at a level that catered equally to parents and adults, and the film’s quick
but evened pace kept me watching.
Such, however, was not the case here.
Every single person I’d talked to before seeing the
movie assumed it would be good. ‘Good’ is the most polite word I’d use to describe the film. I could call
it ‘something wishing it was Pixar’, but I won’t here.
I'm drawn to creative character designs, but if not, am
won over with cool personalities.
None of these characters did either one.
The film opened well enough, establishing the city and its
science fiction obsession, along with the overall 1950’s setting. However, five minutes into the movie, I begun to feel
lethargic. At the time, I thought that it was lacking something every movie I’d seen that year had. This was the spark
of life, which would either be brought in by original visuals, characters or action. For example, Ponyo kept me watching
because of its intricate animation and honest humour, the character Fujimoto, and the plot that balanced all themes equally.
Planet 51, however, lingered too much on the main character’s romantic problems, something its supposed target
demographic wouldn’t care about at all. About one third into the movie, I felt like I could walk out of the theatre
and not regret doing so. I also felt that I couldn’t get to like any of the characters – most of them being just
backdrops – some of them speaking less than two lines in the whole film. The hippie alien is the only exception to this,
and to be honest, I found him much more interesting than Lem.
The astronaut’s entry into the movie felt awkward and
badly timed. It was as if the writer was more concerned with Lem and Nira, but then realized there had to be a running plot.
I could continue on about how unhappy I was with the main character, but I’ll clarify that I felt Skiff and his brother
Eckel would be much more appealing main characters. Lem seemed thrown in randomly into the movie, and nobody in the theatre
sympathized with his character. What I did appreciate was how they did not go with a Saturday morning cartoon’s usual
path and make the main antagonist act ridiculous, or have them lose in an improbable manner. (I’ve addressed this before
in Astro Boy, where the character Skunk Kusai is first controlling a giant millipede robot, and then he’s suddenly
being thrown over a short, elderly detective’s shoulder.)
The humour bounced either between pain humour and bodily humour
(“That’s a funny place for his antennae!”), to cultural references, and finally to a variety of jokes that
would soar majestically over the children’s heads. Repeatedly, I was bothered by what the writer kept doing with Lem
and the astronaut, such as “Either you’re saying your name, or you’re trying to mate with me. (muttered)
Houston, we have a prob-lem!” and the astronaut showing Lem how to woo women, which ended with him poised to
kiss Lem, and Skiff opening the door. It’s like they took every single one of the cross-gender scenes from Looney Tunes
cartoons, altered them slightly, and mixed them together. This is borderline disturbing, and shouldn’t have been frequently
alluded to in a family movie.
I WANT EVERYONE IN THIS PICTURE TO EXPLODE.
At one point, I decided I was too old for the movie. My younger
brother, whom is eleven, told me that he felt too young. As I suspected, the heavy romantic theme and adult jokes were
not enjoyed by my brother and sister, while one loud man behind me seemed to. I doubt if the movie was aimed at his demographic,
but either way, it’s unpleasant. The directors also seemed like they had a checklist of all the things that are usually
in a family movie, and tried to insert all of them. “A wacky background character? A dance sequence? A robot sidekick?
A chase scene? A kiss scene? A huge misunderstanding? Jokes the kids won’t understand until they’re in high school?
Among other things, there was too much background music.
The scenes were coated either in thick instrumental music or sugary covers of 1950’s and 1960’s pop songs. As
you may have noticed from other things you’ve seen, background music is always okay, but only for emotional moments,
action sequences, or any time when the music doesn’t need to compete with the voices. Often, some scenes have a sharper
effect when there is no music at all, and this movie never attempted to try that out.
If you wanted to take your kids to something that had debuted
this summer and would like it to appeal to you as well, go with Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs or Up. Leaving
the theatre, the only conciliation we had was that we hadn’t remained at home and been bored throughout that time. Personally,
the movie was about 7% more fun than whatever I would’ve done at home. I may have watched a bad Korean animated movie
to pass time with my brother, or re-watched something I really liked in the past.
Was the movie worth nine dollars a head? You’d might
as well wait for the newest Disney movie, or maybe even another movie, or rent a whole DVD from somewhere, or even just go
buy groceries for the same amount of money. It had its ‘moments’, but those moments are not worth the entry price.
If you’re being drawn in by the character designs, just buy the toys. This movie seemed like something I would write
when I was 12, and that is not okay.
Verdict: Provided a few laughs, but failed to give any long-term
effect. 1.5 / 5
I went to the official website and discovered another thing. The character designs make my eyes sting. Chuck's
batshit-insane grin is everywhere, even in a whack-a-mole game. I made a note to myself...always variate faces with your characters.
Drawing Elliot/Cain with a >:D face may make him look edgy to me, but that's what the Planet 51 designers probably were
thinking of Chuck.
I found a "Which Character Are You Most Like" test. I love these sorts
of tests. It's how I discovered that I'm Kensuke Aida, The Liquidator and Sailor Mars. But this test's questions were
ridiculous, and I wound up choosing from the answers not what I really thought, but which of the four answers was the least
stupid to me.
In the end, I got Lem.
CLICK ON THIS SHORT STORY TO GO BACK TO THE
Yesterday was Sunday, and it was great weather, so I decided
to bike to London Drugs. See, they'd had Planet 51 toys on clearance for $2, and I found that hilarious because A) they weren't
selling, and B) they were the only store that ever ordered them. I decided I'd make a toy review, so I went down to buy the
toy of the hippie alien. It was only $2, but since I always liked the hippie alien, I figured it would lead to a worthwhile
and bittersweet toy review. Now, London Drugs is two kilometres away, right? I almost got mowed down twice, got splattered
with mud, and when I got to London Drugs, they didn't even have the toys there anymore. I mean, what the hell? There were
like nine packages, five days ago! So, furious, I went home and almost got run over a few more times. But then my ponytail
felt weird, and when I reached back, I found that the hair up to my chin was soaked in mud. MUD! My hair is long and glorious,
and there was mud in it! Raging and exhausted, I biked the remaining one-kilo towards home, showered, and begun to
finish this article.