Sunday 18 October 2015

Review: 'Mune, le Gardien de la Lune' is an Imagination Jewel but Lacks in Story

Mune, le Gardien de la Lune (which translates as Mune, The Guardian of the Moon) is a French CG animated film (with some sequences in traditional animation) directed by Alexandre Heboyan and Benoît Philippon. Though the film has been finished for about a year, and has already been released in Italy this February, it just came out in France.
The film caught our eye when this trailer was released, as the worldbuilding seemed interesting. Does it deliver? On the worldbuilding, the answer is yes, absolutely. On other aspects, not so much. Our review below.

Mune takes place in a fantasy world where both the Sun and the Moon are guided with the help of Guardians. After 350 years of service, the two active Guardians are retiring and are introducing their replacements. Sohone, a proud and self-assured being made of amber is chosen as the new Sun Guardian, while, against all odds, a young faun named Mune is selected as the new Moon Guardian.
As you would expect, Mune is not exactly up to the task and his clumsiness will endanger the world. He will have to team up with Sohone and Cire (a girl made of wax) to save it.

As I said, the worldbuilding in Mune, le Gardien de la Lune works. Not only does it work, it's the strongest point of the movie. You believe in this world populated by these strange creatures and you believe in the weird (yet poetic) rules the film is setting at the beginning. The universe of Mune is rich, diverse and colourful. Everything seems to be there for a reason, and the visual ideas are a consistently nice touch.
One other reason this fantasy world is believable is that you sense there's some history, a deep culture to it. You feel this has been here for a long time, especially in the scene where our heroes visit the temples of the Sun and Moon.

The design of the main characters is pretty cool, as each one has a specific look that is a direct refection of who that character is and what it represents. 
Now, I was talking of the main characters here, because some of the secondary ones are not as aesthetically pleasing. They feel rushed, incomplete or just plain weird. It's as if they do not belong in the same universe as the main protagonists. The most obvious example of this are the big villain's henchmen, two lava creatures named Mox and Spleen (pictured below). 
These characters aren't exactly terrible-looking, but the basic rules that apply to Mune, Sohone and Cire don't apply to them.

Mox and Spleen are also a good example of one problem the movie suffers from: the story's lack of originality. Mune, le Gardien de la Lune is inventive, creative, full of imagination, yes. But the story itself isn't that original. It takes from a lot of other animated films. In the case of Mox and Spleen, I couldn't help but think of Pain and Panic from Disney's Hercules: they live underground, work for (and fear) a powerful and dark figure, and they are a comic relief.
This is just one example, but sadly the film is riddled with dozens of those. As a result, many of the twists are predictable. You've seen something similar somewhere else, so it's not difficult to guess in advance what will happen.
One other problem I had was the way the plot evolves: it's often messy, and the key story points don't have as much impact as I would have hoped.

That being said, the story of Mune and his friends is still fun and the action is well directed. Some jokes work, some don't, but the scenes are usually pretty entertaining.

One thing that's original though, is the way Mune, le Gardien de la Lune is using traditional animation: it brings a poetic feel to the whole film. There should also be noted that some of the backgrounds are matte paintings, which are probably there because of the limited budget, but they help the movie get its own vibe.

In conclusion, I'd say that Mune, le Gardien de la Lune is still a pretty fun ride. The world established by the filmmakers is incredibly rich and imaginative, and the story - while being messy and pretty unoriginal - is good enough to keep you invested. 
The animation is nice, Bruno Coulais delivers an adventurous score, and the French voice actors are well chosen.

Rating: 6,5/10

Side note: as this is a French film, it could've appeared in the French Animation column; but this column is only for the top-of-the-barrel animated films from France, and Mune, le Gardien de la Lune sadly doesn't fit in this category.

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