The first animated feature from Martinique is an engrossing sci-fi adventure.
Alain Bidard's Battledream Chronicle is the first animated feature to come from the beautiful Carribean island of Martinique, which has its own chequered history.
Essentially a project of love for its director (Bidard undertakes to animate, edit, write the musical score and even voice some of the main characters), Battledream Chronicle endured 5 years in the making with a tiny budget of 400.00 euros.
While the budget shows in the finished 3D computer animated film (flattened out with toon rendering), this does not make Battledream Chronicle a lame viewing experience.
For one thing, the sci-fi adventure is not based on dazzling visuals (there are some, but they do not take precedence over characters) and continuously changing backgrounds.
For a film which relies on the premise of a computer game of virtual life, death and dominion, Battledream Chronicle is anything but a Matrix in disguise.
Its backdrop story, which unfolds before the opening credits, has the powerful virus and battle arbiter ISFET set the rules of a game in 2100, which will divide all nations into conquering lords and dominated subjects.
After a long battle, the empire of Mortemonde colonize almost all the nations of the Earth and reduce their populations to slavery. The slaves are constrained to collect 1000XP every month in Battledream, a video game where we can die for real. Only those who succeed receive the right to live until the next month.
Firewalls ensure lack of tele-transportation, and heroes the breaking of codes. The fearless but also caring Syanna Meridian, a young slave,decides to fight against this system, along with her devoted friend Alytha Mercuri and despite her mother's warnings.
The only free nation in the world remains Sablereve (Sand Dream) of Martinique, whose governors though prefer to flee rather than fight. It is the job of Syanna to persuade them fight the last game against the more skilled Mortemonde members, Isaac Ravengorn and Alexander Torquemada.
Cultural references from Greek tragedy to Spanish Inquisition abound in Battledream Chronicle, as if this were a war between all history and the moribund state of Mortemond. Kids in school learn their lesson from existentialism to digital slavery, but at the same time their own world is nothing but computerized.
Apartment flats with books, even bars where friends meet make the world outside Battledream more humane than a version of a computerized game would permit. Character design is nothing but excessive, with clear lines and fine look reserved for even the evil men and women of Mortemonde.
Not at all an intellectual journey (and the memory being wiped out does not work at all in this film), Battledream Chronicle is best in its proclaiming freedom, justice, duty and rectitude. Old time values have a field day in the film, spread evenly toward its many characters, who need to enter into moral dilemmas and sacrifice, in order to become winners.
The narrative economy of the film proceeds unhindered between theearly realization of the powers that Syanna may acquire, and her setting up of the game (gathering friends and enemies), before facing the final confrontation.
Syannna's game is not just personal heroism; an array of strong female characters represent here the history of a nation which needs to say no to slavery of any kind, digital or otherwise.
More conventionally made that its subject-matter would suggest, nevertheless Battledream Chronicle roots for moral values instead of intellectual problems of the mind.
It has the feel of an old tale being told once again; we know how the story and character development will go, we suspect the ending, and yet we find ourselves immersed in the tale -once more.