“Lava”: A Great Premise with Questionable Production
Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
First off, I just want to say thanks again to Jenna from Tricoast Studios and Rock Salt Releasing for allowing me to see the film early. All of the opinions here are my own. However, they did allow me to view the film for free, so feel free to take that into account while reading this review. Without further ado, here are my thoughts:
huh…That was certainly an adult animated film based on the comic book “Lava” by Salvador Sanz.
I was feel a bit of hesitation in reviewing animated indie films like this, especially ones where the original production is in another language. Because I barely watch movies to begin with, and especially do not watch comic book adaptations that often, my opinions always feel a bit out of place. There was definitely a lot of stuff that went completely over my head due to not being familiar at all with the source material. However, even with that being the case, I would say I still mostly enjoyed the movie.
For those not familiar, which will probably be most reading this, “Lava” is an animated comedy film directed by Ayar Blasco about a group of Tattoo artist friends who one day get together to watch one of their favorite shows only jointly experience the end of the world. Giant cats, a man-eating snake, and an alien group come to take over the world, but will they be able to fight back? You’ll just have to watch and see.
Its pretty obvious within the first few minutes of the movie that the English version of the movie was kind of an after thought. I mean, that’s totally fine, not everything has to be catered to an English speaking audience, but the quality of the English release definitely suffers as a result. The best performance undoubtedly came from Janeane Garofalo, who voices the main character Deborah, a woman whose life appears to be in crisis even before this end of the world scenario, as the film follows its opening scene with Deborah making it home only to be confronted about her souring romantic life by her roommate.
Another problem that arises is that, with the movie having been made primarily for the Spanish language production, the lip-syncing for the English voice-over looks pretty bad, to the point of being almost distracting in certain scenes. Again, for some reason, Deborah’s lines appear to be synced the best, while the rest of the cast just looks really off. The lackluster lip-syncing also creates a lot of friction in the delivery of the jokes. There were a lot of scenes where it was extremely apparent that the joke was very much intended to be understood in Spanish, and that the English translation was just kind of ok.
It may sound like I didn’t like anything about the movie, but that is definitely not true. For starters, I have always found end of the world premises to be really interesting. Whether it be other comedies like Seth Rogen’s “End of the World” or more serious takes like “The Walking Dead,” the idea of what do when society as we know it collapses beneath our feet is gripping because of how many different ideas there are on the subject.
There is also a kind of counter-culture narrative here which I can definitely appreciate. Deborah, being a tattoo artist, is considered a chosen one by these new alien invaders, because of the powerful art which she can supposedly bring to life. Even if it is just a comedy film, I do think a lot of the meaning of the main narrative is also lost in cultural translations, because tattoos often have very different associations depending on where one is. In the U.S., a lot of people view tattoos as a form of body modification that, in many conservative sects of western religions is considered heretical. In Japan, tattoos are still mostly associated with the Yakuza, or Japanese Mafia, and thus it is frowned upon to show them in public, to the point where many Onsen (public bath houses) ban people with tattoos.
The concept of tattoo artists being heroes of the world is really cool in that way, as they both figuratively and literally fight against people’s preconceptions of what it means to be an artist.
The animation for the film also seems to exist in that sort of weird grey zone of being purposefully rough in places but extremely expressive in others. For example, there is a scene right after she leaves her ex’s tattoo place where she is walking down the sidewalk only for her character model to get smaller as she moves away from the camera. At first I thought this was just bad, but the use of this technique to emphasize how small she feels in her inability to control the direction of her life, both due to the world ending but also because of her relationship is a really nice touch.
While I can not say “Lava” is my favorite tri-coast release I have seen so far, as that honor probably belongs to “Violence Voyager,” it definitely has a lot of good elements. However, I do think there were just too many things that did not work for me to call the film truly great. Still, if you are interesting in checking it out, the film will be releasing worldwide tomorrow, March 15th, on Amazon, InDemand, iTunes, Google Play, DirecTV, AT&T, Vimeo on Demand, FANDANGO in both English & Spanish. I would highly recommend trying it in Spanish with subtitles if you can, as I think that version might solve a lot of the problems I had with it.
If you do end up seeing the film after reading this, be sure to come back and leave a comments letting me know your thoughts.
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