Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack and Jonathan Pryce? That’s quite a cast and it’s just for starters. And for a French anime-style sci-fi too, the “French” bit being the clue that the names are actually here to revoice Gallic product for Anglophone consumption. What they’re lending their voices to looks interesting though, a futuristic story about a kidnapped geneticist (Garai) who turns out to have the key to immortality. The USP of Renaissance is its look – the actors have all been motion-captured, then converted to the harshest black and white renditions of themselves.
This is unusual though hardly revolutionary: as a technique it can be traced back to Walt Disney’s Snow White, at least, and that was the 1930s. But whereas Disney used motion capture to render colour, nuance, shadow, movement, director Christian Volckman’s decision to go chiaroscuro robs his film of visual subtlety, background detail and even deprives the film of the expression on the actors’ faces – which is about 90 per cent of the reason for booking them in the first place, surely (this is not the place to discuss the hiring of “names” as voice talent in modern Disney productions, apart from to say it’s dubious).
I’m not denying the initial power of this visual look – for its opening sequences, up on the big screen, it is breathtaking to look at, to gaze upon, as Sin City was. But, as with Sin City, the look soon starts to feel like a gimmick. As for the screenplay – it is as flat as Tuesday in February, a collection of tough-guy clichés wrapped around a handful of scenes of gunplay, carplay, even foreplay (don’t get too excited). The idea is a graphic novel treatment of a film noir idea, Volckman and crew having made the mistake of thinking that noir – visually, morally – is all about the black and white whereas the good ones at least are really much more interested in what lies between.
© Steve Morrissey 2006