ATX Festivals

Fantastic Fest 2016: “Nova Seed” Review

Fantastic Fest is back, Austinites! As the largest genre film festival in the U.S., Fantastic Fest specializes in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and action movies from all around the world. This year’s festival runs from Sept. 22-29 at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

Photo credit: Gorgon Pictures, Inc.

I don’t think I can properly discuss the merits of this film without first gushing over the animation. Holy cow is the animation superb! And here’s the kicker: this was all done by one man over four years. A hand-drawn, 2D, 60-minute feature. A reported 60,000 sheets of paper brought creator Nick DiLiberto’s vision to life.

Review by Clint Watson


Painstakingly hand-drawn by a single animator over four years, this saturated slice of lo-fi sci-fi pulp recalls both Moebius and Miyazaki as it ambitiously realizes an eclectic post-apocalyptic future populated by lion-men, brain-leeching slugs and Saturday Morning Cartoon villainy…

Photo credit: Gorgon Pictures, Inc.

The film does a good job of framing the characters and the world, but the animation to me was more reminiscent of “Heavy Metal.” In that vein, I think there will be high-praise for the fight sequences–specifically the opening brawl and the aerial dog fight–but there’s a sequence with a buzz-saw that is first subverted to cut some restraints then is sent slicing through some machinery that had me in awe of the technical execution. And if you want to hear more about that, then I can already tell you that you should see this film.

The only place where I feel this film suffers from being a singular vision is in the storytelling. I found myself piecing together the “factions” or “alliances” at work and what the true motivations of the characters were. I’m from the school of thought that if you want an audience to follow you somewhere fantastic, you need to hold their hand. Otherwise, we get lost. For instance why did J.T. Hunter (a name I pulled from an image caption on the studio’s website — otherwise I just would have called him ‘Sniper Guy’) do any of the things he did? I’m assuming, similar to U.S. Border Patrol, that he’s an independent N.A.C. hunter (Neo Animal Combatant — again, something I pulled from the Internet after the fact; not something clearly explained in the film).

Photo credit: Gorgon Pictures, Inc.

And yet…even as I complain about having to puzzle out different aspects of the film after the fact, I wonder if that isn’t a draw in and of itself. The story won’t surprise you. That’s not a slam; this story follows an all-too-familiar arc and if it relied on that to propel the story I would condemn it for doing so. No, I think it follows that track to allow you to observe and question this bizarre world and its combatants. Questions like “Why is this Lion N.A.C. running away in the first place?” are answered if I sit and think about it: “Oh yeah, in the opening sequence he didn’t even want to fight — he was forced out.”

I believe the real enjoyment in this film (besides the stunning animation) is in dissecting the story. I would recommend it to any fans of Moebius or “Heavy Metal” as it’s very similar to the types of worlds you would expect from said sources. I don’t recommend it for people who hate having questions about a film when it’s over.

Check out the trailer!

If you have a Fantastic Fest badge, you can catch the next screening of “Nova Seed” on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at the Alamo South Lamar location. For more information on tickets, visit the Fantastic Fest website here.

About Clint

Clint Watson graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Screenwriting. He has broken 5 different bones on 4 different occasions. If he’s not reading or writing, then he’s drawing. And he’s definitely not skiing, skateboarding, or on an ATV somewhere.

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