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Teana: 10000 Years Later
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by Jay Seaver

"Much more one to look at than think about."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Director Yi Li and his crew worked for seven years on "Teana: 10000 Years Later", and its looking kind of rough in spots goes to show how crazy the resources Hollywood has at its disposal are and how developed its tools are. The character animation and motion is a very clear step down from American digitally-animated features, and the story seems all over the place, although that might be less familiarity with Chinese legends on my part and a disappointing dub.

It takes place, as you might figure, ten thousand years after the fall of the old world (presumably ours), with its future Tibet populated by various human tribes and animal people. We meet several groups through Arion, a wandering member of the Ballad Tribe who, along with his granddaughter Joma, keeps the history and legends of the last millennia current. One of the main ones is that of Devil Wu, who sought to harness the power of the old world but was imprisoned in another dimension by the goddess Kelseng - although unbeknownst to Arion and everyone else, Wu is on the brink of escape and has the capability to decimate any tribes that oppose him and enslave the rest.

The version screened was dubbed into English and not particularly well, and that sort of thing tends to emphasize how the facial "acting" of the animation is not exactly state of the art. Digital animation is more like puppetry than making a flipbook, with Teana being decent marionettes compared to Pixar's highly-articulated animatronic robots with sophisticated AI to control crowds: They look pretty good most of the time, and when the final action scenes come, it's pretty clear that the production sprung for some motion capture and the guy performing the zebra warrior knows his martial arts.

It is, however, 3D as all get-out; if Yi Li's goal was to create a 3D spectacle that would drop jaws in Chinese theaters, especially compared to American productions that are emphasizing the third dimension less, he's certainly succeeded on that count. Teana both leaps off the screen and sinks deep within it, and fills its cube with eye-catching sights from monsters and animal men to strange lands. Even when it's not making a lot of sense, it can still impress on a sheer "just look at this thing!" level.

It is kind of all over the place, though, especially in tone. It's got a mentor character in Arion who spends a lot of time patiently explaining things to granddaughter (and eventual Chosen One) Joma, and the audience through her, but is much more violent than you'd expect for a kid's movie: The action is nicely co-ordinated but bloody, and after a vicious fight scene, the film will spend a little while going through a landscape of fruits and vegetables. It bounces back and forth like that, drops characters for almost the entire length of the movie, and a lot of the time they spend with the rest is just reminding the audience that they are around.

It's also more than a bit weird that the villain's plan - aside from declaring himself a god, as one does - involves restoring a technological world and railing against how mankind has been kept in a primitive state for millennia. I sympathize, and it's not like Yi Li and co-writer Ocean Tree offer much of a counter despite that coming out of the mouth of the villain. It's always weird when someone uses this much computing power to teach audiences that they're better off without all that high-tech stuff.

Of course, as much as the filmmakers are likely sincere with the message and trying to tell a good story, there's little doubt that eye-popping is the main goal, and that's certainly achieved. If that's not enough for you, pass "Teana" on by, but if you get a chance to catch it large and three-dimensional, it does a pretty good job of earning its ticket price.

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originally posted: 08/15/15 12:47:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Li Yi

Written by
  Li Yi
  Ocean Tree

  Bryn Apprill
  Brad Venable
  Mark Stoddard
  Jeremy Schwartz
  Chris Rager

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