There has been no shortage of epic animation feature films in the last decade, with the medium becoming increasingly advanced and impressive, attracting audiences all over the world. Sam Koji Hale’s new film, Yamasong: March of the Hollows, embarks upon a road far less travelled in the mainstream; the puppet feature film. Aside from the hugely successful Muppets franchise, there hasn’t been a big feature film starring puppets since Team America in 2004, so the novelty is not lost, and it still feels fresh and impressive when something on this scale is released.
Hale first began the Yamasong adventure in 2010, when he released a dialogue-less 9 minute short film in which a patchwork girl embarks upon an adventure through a surreal and mystical world, uncovering dark secrets and combating threats posed to her people. He has, 9 years later, expanded on this universe, and created an epic feature-length adventure film with it’s star, Nami, attempting to save her entire people from mechanisation.
This film starts with Nani (Abigail Breslin), back in the prison complex that houses her people, The Hollows. Led by their Queen (Whoopi Goldberg), they have been imprisoned in a spaceship-like penitentiary that orbits their planet, since their plan to turn all living things on Yamasong into machines failed. Nani’s new patchwork, quilted heart starts beating so fast, thus interfering with the engine that keeps the Hollow’s prison afloat.
It crashes down to land, and frees all the prisoners, allowing them to continue on their evil mission. Nani wants to put a stop to their plan, and joins forces with Shojun (Nathan Fillion) and Geta (Freida Pinto) in their brave attempt to defeat the Hollows.
The film is, most certainly, a visual feast. The puppets are so intricately made, so detailed, that it is enough just to look at them and marvel at the craftwork. This beauty, coupled with Alex Griffin’s cinematography, creates a mystical world that the viewer can fully immerse themselves within. The sets are characters of their own; mythical, beautiful and threatening.
The screenplay by Hale and Ekaterina Sedia is clear and moving, maybe sometimes verging on too self-explanatory, but that doesn’t take away from the experience of the story. All this is accompanied by a dramatic and effective score by Shoji Kameda, which accompanies the tension and the visuals perfectly.
The entire film comes together beautifully; the visuals are breathtaking, the characters rounded and unexpectedly relatable, and the music and the writing all serve to enhance the original and exciting experience. Even if the plot and the dramatics don’t do it for you, it would be difficult not to recognise the beauty in the craftsmanship of the puppets, and the work that it has taken to bring these characters and sets to life.
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