Tooning out

‘Renaissance’ wastes great animation on lame script

Christian Volckman’s “Renaissance” takes great strides in animation technology, and emerges with the coolest-looking film since “Sin City.” Unfortunately, while the filmmakers were playing around on their computers, someone must have scrounged a couple of rotting old stories out of the rubbish and turned them into the film’s screenplay. It’s easily the year’s creakiest job of writing (as well as translating; the film originated in France).

“Renaissance” begins in Paris with a disgruntled police officer, Karas (voiced by Daniel Craig), so single-minded and obsessed that he can barely speak to any other human beings, much less summon the will to care about anything but his job. It’s the year 2054, and a 22 year-old scientist (voiced by Romola Garai) is kidnapped. The crime involves a massive cover-up, the details of which are either too murky or too silly to matter. The movie presents them with stone-faced seriousness and not the faintest hint of parody or tribute.

Of course, there’s a girl, the kidnapped scientist’s cynical sister, Bislane (voiced by Catherine McCormack), who frequents dodgy nightclubs. Her job is to berate the cop at every turn; his job is to make sure she stays behind “where it’s safe” every time he goes into action. They’re made for each other.

Not even Ian Holm’s voice — emanating from a revered geneticist — lends any warmth to the proceedings. Jonathan Pryce voices one of the movie’s bad guys, a snaky corporate figure, causing havoc from his high-rise office. Ironic, since Pryce played the quintessential anti-Orwellian in “Brazil” (1985).

Like “The Polar Express” (2004), the film was made with “motion capture,” a system in which a computer reads hundreds of sensors taped to a human actor and renders them as a digital actor. “The Polar Express” stopped there, and wound up with humanlike, but ultimately creepy and soulless figures, populating its supposedly cheery Christmas story.

Instead of attempting to build on this idea, the “Renaissance” filmmakers took a step backward; they drained the color and detail from their figures, and made it into a Will Eisner-like, black-and-white comic strip, flush with deep shadows and high-contrast city lights. It’s like an animated version of one of cinematographer John Alton’s classic films noir (“T-Men,” etc.)

The characters’ movements still seem vaguely human, but now they’re clearly cartoons. However, no amount of technical innovation or aesthetic coolness can make this pile of mush interesting. As it drags on through its interminable, 105 somber minutes, it begins to look less like a movie, and more like a nap-worthy Power Point presentation.

Movie review

Renaissance ?½

Starring the voices of Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Romola Garai, Ian Holm and Jonathan Pryce

Written by Alexandre de la Patelliere and Matthieu Delaporte

Directed by Christian Volckman

Rated R

Running time 1 hour, 45 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Sheriff candidate Paul Miyamoto in a meeting with the Examiner editorial board on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
New shelter-in-place order gives tenants a temporary reprieve from eviction

Sheriff’s Department resumed regular enforcement this week for the first time since March

Under stay-at-home orders effective today in San Francisco, outdoor dining is not allowed, and there are new limits regarding the number of people that can be indoors at essential businesses. <ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Bay Area counties to shut down outdoor dining, non-essential businesses

Regional stay-at-home order to take effect Sunday, sooner than statewide order announced Thursday

Former Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant received his 2017-18 Championship ring at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Oct. 16, 2018. Durant, now playing with the Brooklyn Nets, will play against his former team at Chase Center in February. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Kevin Durant to face former teammates at Chase Center in February

Schedule released Friday calls for Warriors to play Christmas and New Year’s Day games

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert’s (31) return from injury last week was key for the team’s offense. <ins>(Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
49ers fighting for final NFC wild-card spot in Monday’s game against the Bills

Bills at 49ers When: Monday, 5:15 p.m. Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale,… Continue reading

The Smashing Pumpkins’ 2020 recording is the 20-song “CYR.” (Courtesy photo)
Billy Corgan continues to confound expectations

Smashing Pumpkins release retro-sounding ‘CYR’

Most Read