Film Review: Lava

lava review indexAn Argentinian animation from director Ayar Blasco that is only just over an hour long, this apocalyptic slice of sci-fi comedy is a curious creation, one which throws an awful lot of fun ideas at the screen and is playful and even vaguely anarchic, but it fails to work as a cohesive hole due to a couple of major reasons and so is a film which I’d only cautiously recommend to fans of the genre.

One night tattoo artist Deborah (voiced in the English version by Janeane Garafalo) is hanging out with her friends Lazaro and Nadia and trying to avoid the attentions of their friend Samuel when a mysterious image appears on the tv screen, and the next thing they know their are giant cats sitting on top of buildings across the world. Naturally the army tries to blow them up but they’re not initially a threat, until of course they are, and Deborah and her friends are all in danger and have to try and survive the end of the world, one curiously predicted in a comic by one of Deborah’s customers.

What follows is a mixture of slightly heavy handed satire of the military, mockery of a generation who are obsessed with various screens and social media, some fourth wall breaking, random violence, discussion of gender fluidity and bisexuality, parodies of popular tv shows and quite funny exchanges of dialogue as they chat away as the world goes crazy around them. Some of which works effectively, Deborah’s a fun character to spend apocalyptic times with, and it moves at a decent pace and impressively manages to stay unpredictable right to the end.

The fourth wall breaking is a little problematic unfortunately, as at one point all of the characters die only to suddenly be alive in the next scene with one commenting “Thank god we are animated”, which completely removes any sense of peril from the rest of the movie, and doesn’t make sense when certain characters do die later on. Towards the end of the movie Samuel congratulates them all for talking about bisexuality as it’s a subject rarely discussed in animation, but it’s a little too smug, especially as it comes from a character who comes across as quite creepy in the way he reacts to Deborah’s dismay at being hit on by him.

The biggest issue is the finale though, I’d never normally discuss a film’s ending in a review and it’s considered by many to be poor form for doing so. But I’m breaking this rule for once for one very simple reason – it doesn’t really have one, coming to an end in an extremely abrupt and unsatisfying manner, before giving us some brief sketches which are unrelated to the film and featuring characters we’ve not yet met before. It’s a deliberate decision of course in a film which has contained an unusual narrative, but it left me frustrated and annoyed and just doesn’t work.

Visually there’s a mix of animation styles but most of the time it’s a fairly basic look that is okay but nothing more than that, and while Garofalo’s performance is strong some of the rest of the voice acting is fairly average. Yet despite my complaints above for a good half of the film I was enjoying it a great deal, even despite the odd flaw or unlikeable character, but the lack of an ending and its rather self-congratulatory tone means it’s a film which is only for those who don’t care if a film has any kind of a satisfying narrative.


Alex Finch.
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