A French/American animated production that recently got a minor theatrical release, "Kaena: The Prophecy" certainly boasts a good cast and great looks(the film is apparently France's first completely computer-generated animated feature.) The story doesn't hold up terribly well (apparently originally concieved as a video game, the picture seems to have transitioned from game to movie without smoothing out and developing the story, which seems muddled at times), but the film's visuals are interesting and film is reasonably well-paced. Although quite as slick and detailed as "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", the animation is along the same lines.
The film opens with a giant spaceship mysteriously exploding; the camera remarkably follows the events, racing through the corridors and nooks of the ship as it breaks apart. When it crashes onto a planet, giant roots and branches rise up. Years later, humans have populated this world, although they are forced to mine sap from the roots to give to evil forces that present themselves as Gods.
While the village elders try and push the people to believe in the creatures that desire the sap, Kaena (voiced by Kirsten Dunst) has visions, leading her to believe that a better world is out there somewhere for her people, eventually finding herself in the middle of a battle between two races: one of the last living Vicarians, Opaz (Richard Harris) and the liquidy Selentines, lead by their queen (Angelica Houston).
While the animation is always involving to watch, the story just never quite gels - younger children may be confused by it and some issues (Kaena's skimpy outfits and some intense action) lead to a PG-13 rating, so parents be warned that this is more for young teens than children. I also felt as if elements of the story had been done before, such as in "Titan A.E." and "Final Fantasy". The voice performances are inconsistent, as well; Dunst isn't terribly convincing, but manages to hold up her role. Houston and the late Harris are better.
Overall, this is a decent idea that never quite comes together - the animation isn't quite as detailed as some other films, but the style and look of the film is compelling. The story is where the picture sinks, as it's often either somewhat confusing or cliched. Worth a rental.
VIDEO: The film is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality does encounter a couple of brief problems, but is otherwise terrific. Sharpness and detail are exceptional throughout; the picture maintains excellent definition throughout, with many scenes showing solid depth and fine detail to the image.
Some noticable specks and wear do appear on the print during the credits sequence, but the movie appeared clean and free of such issues during the remainder of the movie. Otherwise, some slight artifacts appear here-and-there during the picture. No edge enhancement was noticed. Colors, including the sepia tone that covers much of the movie, appear rich and accurately rendered.
SOUND: The film is presented by Columbia/Tristar in English Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's audio is often remarkable, with moments of surround use - such as the opening explosion - that are extremely aggressive. Even fairly subdued moments almost always have some sound effects in the surrounds, with flying creatures, creepy or electronic sounds and other elements coming from the rears. Score is presented clearly, with some reinforcement by the surrounds, and sounds dynamic. Dialogue remained clear and easily understood, and bass was occasionally strong.
EXTRAS: A "virtual interview" with the star, a 15-minute "making of" and previews for other Columbia/Tristar titles.
Final Thoughts: "Kaena" presents very pleasing and imaginative visuals, but the story is something of a mess at times, which made my interest fade in the middle. Columbia/Tristar's DVD edition provides excellent audio/video, along with a few minor supplements. Rent it.