Moments ago, I watched Mango for the first time on the web-site. I deliberately did not follow the movie during production, so that I could encounter it “clean.”
(As an aside, I did notice what seemed to be a black dropped-frame fairly early on.)
Clearly, this is the most ambitious Blender film to-date and the first to involve live-action. Which makes the story most important … and … is it just me? … I “lost” the story just after the (very creative and interesting idea!) now-older man walks into the simulation and re-confronts his girlfriend.
In short, there was suddenly a lot of blasting and shooting-up going on, and I had no idea why. I no longer knew why the man with the Mango drink was up there in that tower. When the people stuck their hands into a machine that wrapped their hands with fancy shooters, I had no way to anticipate that action and once again I had utterly no idea who they were shooting-at or why. “The action,” the only action, was taking place inside that simulation. The man with the broken glasses (a too-obvious takeoff of Vinkman in Ghostbusters) was finding it impossible to stop the simulation and once again I didn’t know why. (And it does no good now to “explain it,” because the film like all films has to explain itself while it is being viewed by a completely uninitiated audience.)
I came away with an awkward mixed-feeling about it all. “Shoot 'em ups” are fun displays of technical virtuosity, especially for those most accustomed to shooter-games (which I, BTW, am not …) but if they are to be part of the central story (which, once again, I find to be extremely creative), I as the uninitiated viewer need to be very clearly shown why.
The man with the eyepatch concludes “there’s a lesson to be learned in this,” and then the film ends, but without a denouement to the central story that has been set up. They’re standing there, hugging each other, but we don’t see how this act is changing or will change the surrounding, shoot-em-up reality. The story simply ends, with them simply standing there. The post-teaser scene reinforces the mango-juice joke, but we have no idea why that pile of robotic garbage is there. (What is the lesson? “Don’t piss-off your girlfriend if she’s into robotics, 'cuz she can turn into a real beech?” These vital final thirty seconds of screen-time are what everything else was leading up to, and … and … and … “end credits?!” )
I candidly think that we needed to devote that screen-time to that story, no matter how much or how little(!) “exciting CG action” may have resulted in the finished movie. You’ve created a classic “go back in time to remedy the mistakes of the past” scenario, but there seems to have literally been no more production-time available to bring closure to that story. That’s what I was waiting for; that’s what I didn’t get. “All that blasting” is now irrelevant to the point that is happening right-now inside that simulation, where the now-older actor is marvelously ad-libbing his way to saving the world. So, what’s “all that blasting” doing in the film? If it has the possibility of smashing the simulator, and thereby destroying both the hero and the chance to actually save the world … which would be a legitimate justification for having it … then we need to know that, so that we can feel the anticipation. And, when the happy-ending happens, we need to be shown, however briefly, that it is happy.
In short, and pardon me if it is “just me,” this film is simultaneously both breathtaking and disappointing. It is a fine story-idea, marvelously executed, and a tour-de-force for what Blender has become as a CG tool. The music is excellent. The acting, by all players, is spot-on. The production values are “simply, professional-grade.” But it comes across to me as a not-quite finalized, not-quite what it should have been, screenplay. And in a movie such as this one, “the screenplay” becomes vital above all else; even above the CG magic used in its execution. Hence, my “Siskel and Eibert” thumbs point both up and down.
“I know that I’m sticking my neck out here, even in offering a review. If anyone takes offense, please accept my apologies and know that none whatsoever is intended.” He said, quickly strapping on his asbestos bunny-suit.