Friday, February 05, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: The Secret of Kells

Number of Nominations: 1 (Best Animated Feature)
Availability in the US: None (Late March theatrical release planned)

The Secret of Kells is one of the most unique, beautiful, and eye-popping animated films I have ever seen. Before watching this film, I was convinced that nothing could give Up a run for its money and that it was a shoo-in to win in this category, but I found in Kells a serious contender.

The Secret of Kells tell the story of a young orphan named Brendan, who lives with his uncle, the Abbot of Kell. The Abbot is a loving guardian, but perhaps a bit too strict and much more concerned with fortifying the wall around the town from a coming attack by vikings than he is at nurturing the boy's imagination. When the legendary Brother Aidan (who looks surprisingly like Willie Nelson) shows up and takes the boy under his wing, Brendan goes on a journey into the woods and meets a lovely forest nymph named Aisling who takes a liking to him (and saves his life more than once). With Aisling's help, he attempts to save the town and help Brother Aidan complete the mystical book which—legend has it—can turn dark into light.

Kells is full of rich color and visual splendor. The animation style is mostly a stylistic 2-D, but with some of the fantasy elements taking on other visual styles. Throughout the film, I was reminded of the fanciful stylism of the excellent The Triplets of Belleville. The viking Norsemen and the aged Abbot reminded me of that film's box-like mafiosos and round aunts. The first fantasy sequence, in which shadowy figures close in on a village, reminded me most of the flashback sequences in Waltz With Bashir, while Aisling's movements and appearance reminded me of an anime-type style.

Overall, I'd say the film was visually stunning, and the plot was interesting and fairly engaging. The hauntingly beautiful song at the end makes me wonder why we didn't see this film in the Best Song category as well. I highly recommend this film (when it's finally available in the US) and am not yet willing to count it out as a dark-horse candidate for Best Animated Feature.

Grade: A


  1. "The plot was interesting and fairly engaging."

    Fairly engaging? Doesn't an A rated film need to better than fairly engaging??

  2. An A+ film does. In this case I feel that the film excels more on it's visual merits. Certainly an argument can be made that the plot is the most important aspect of a film, however I would argue that for an *animated film* that is not necessarily the case. The aesthetic qualities of the film are what made the film most enjoyable to watch; the plot kept me interested and was both easy to follow and interesting, but was not the most important aspect of the film as far as I was concerned.

  3. By that same argument Avatar should have been an A.

  4. The grades are based on my overall impression and feelings on the film. They are not based on any quantitative scoring system (hence why I went with letter grades instead of stars or numerical grades). I liked The Secret of Kells, I didn't really like Avatar. But if you want a direct comparison, here it is: The visual beauty of Secret of Kells and Avatar is about on par. The Avatar plot would have put me to sleep (let's call it "not interesting or engaging") while Secret of Kells was—how did I put before?—interesting and fairly engaging.