AXIS, a gigantic coiling plant, stretches high above the clouds... At its center is a village whose people are in mortal danger because Axis is withering... it's sap is drying up. The people beg their gods for help... but to no avail. Compelled by a mysterious force, Kaena, a rebellious, high-spirited teenage girl will defy the High Priest and her people's ancestral beliefs to take the perilous journey through the Axis and discover what dark secrets lie beyond the clouds... A dying world, an evil force, a terrible secret...
Directed by: Chris Delaporte
, Pascal Pinon
. Starring: Cécile De France
, Michael Lonsdale
, Victoria Abril
, François Siener
, Jean-Michel Farcy
, Raymond Aquaviva
, Jean Piat
, Kirsten Dunst
, Richard Harris
, Anjelica Huston
, Keith David
, Michael McShane
, Greg Proops
. Music by: Leo J. Russlan
Have you ever played a game on the PS2, PC or XBOX and just drooled over the cut-scenes, those small cinematic snippets shown between levels? This entire movie, scene after scene, is just like that. And I'll tell you why: when it was originally conceived by the director and writer, that is precisely what they had intended to do... they wanted to create a game.
Looking at the "Special Features" and the Making-Of featurette on the DVD before watching the movie, I learned quite a lot about why and how it was made. The majority of the CG artists who worked on this film were, at first, all novices, most of whom had some minor experience in doing CG game work. When they first started on "Kaena", the 3D software darling of Hollywood, Maya, hadn't even come out on the market. These CGI animators were all using, basically, a freeware 3D modelinganimation suite. They worked on a shoestring budget, I might add, which is one of the reasons why all of their animators were so inexperienced and were learning as they went along.
Their animationCG crew began as a five-man team and eventually grew to 50 persons at any given time. At a few key points they had up to 100 people working on the entire project, but most of the time they had a fairly core group of people all working in the same office building. Looking at the scenes individually, I can definitely see where they gave certain scenes to certain teams- as a 3D artist myself, I've gotten quite adept at picking out different styles and techniques used. MOST of the biggest differences between the scenes can be found in the lighting setups, which in some spots are breath-takingly exquisite and at other times amateurish at best.
Due to the original intention for this project to be a video game rather than a feature-length film, I can totally understand why the storyline would have some plot holes here and there- I expect that those gaps would have been filled in during gameplay. So taking that into account, I can honestly say that this film has a pretty solid storyline and some fairly well fleshed-out characters, all things considered. It is also good to keep in mind that this story wasn't written by "professional" sci-fi writers- it was written, in part, by the director who hadn't done anything like this before in his life.
Looking at the entire project with the trained eye of someone who's been involved with the business for a couple years now, I think that "Kaena" is not only a superb film, but it is a testament to what is possible when enough people throw themselves into a project like this. No major studio backing, no major software endorsement, no real experience in this field whatsoever... it's amazing that it even got rendered, let alone having been edited, scored, printed and distributed worldwide.
This movie is similar to "Final Fantasy" only in the sense that it was done completely with CGI. In every other way, however, this one stands alone and it SHOULD be given the proper credit that is due.
Review by seals_jay from the Internet Movie Database.