First-watch review/reaction to Mango ... is it just me?

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.

They can’t really do a full 2-hour movie in 6 months. (Try it BF, I dare you) Here is the story (I never looked at the production of the blender projects myself). This dude (20~ish) is talking (cornily) to his girlfriend. The female is a robotics engineer, who has advanced robotics greatly and lost her arm. The guy is a future astronaut who is a bit creeped by the female’s robo-arm. The guy goes into space and the female advances robotics. Her hatred for the guy blossoms into hatred for all mankind and she releases robo-dogs to kill everyone. A crack-team acquires her brain (eww) and uses it to overwrite a robo-dog’s memory with the female’s memory. The guy from the beginning is old now and he has to reenact the opening events in the form of a hologram. He mad libs to stop the war, but the robots overrun the complex. Afterward, I was getting lost.

The movie is good, but the storyline is rushed, so you have to “watch between the scenes”.

Not getting dragged into this one again.
However, it was a well-written review, Sundial. I’d love it if you’d join The Ghostwriters’ Corner group. This is what we do there. Well, this and also we try to apply what we learn in criticism to writing new scripts for future Blender movies.
Hope you’ll come be a part, and everyone else.

sundial, i said basically the same things… about the movie

they should have let a few people pre-screen an early unfinished version… (they could have fixed it)
the few minutes they needed to add to the film wouldn’t have really added any extra costs…
it could have even been done in the beginning with the actor voice over(the boy “spaceman”)
setting up the movie. (telling us who he is, what he’s going to do, where he’s going, what for etc… )
you need to set up some kind of plot(or do A Morgan Freeman like in Shawshank Redemption)

(All while he’s talking he could just be walking down a road with with a camera following him above him looking down from behind as we walks up to meet his girlfriend)

Clearly, this is the most ambitious Blender film to-date

Just wrong, it is your personal expectation. It is another regiular basis Mango short film, that must be done mostly in Blender and Free Software tools, maybe with some very controlled limited exception. Yes, there was addition of camera/object tracking, and it is first used in this film. THAT IS ALL. Nobody claimed it “most ambitious Blender film to-date”.

Oh, I will without hesitation stick to exactly what I said, intending it to be a mighty compliment. :yes: I watched the movie and felt that, with very few minor glitches, it was “a commercial-grade short film, period.” And that, to me, is a huge step forward for Blender. Even if you are thinking in terms of using it as an educational tool or a small-shop tool (Hollywood is set in its workflow ways, and for painfully obvious good reasons …), Blender demonstrates again and again that Blender has arrived. If you for whatever reason want to do CG film-work to a genuinely professional level of quality, or to thoroughly learn the techniques of the trade, then you now have in Blender a solid tool that is in every way worthy of your attention.

It is precisely because of this high standard having been set, and met, by the film, that I found myself absorbed not in the technology but in the storytelling … and critiquing, not the technology or the effort, but the storytelling. Literally the screenplay itself.

When that man walked into that simulation, met that girl, and pushed aside the teleprompter and spoke from his heart, and my eyes were glued to their faces to see the reactions that were there, I was lost in the human action of the moment … as I would have been in any other really good and really creative science-fiction film I have ever watched … and didn’t give a tinker’s dam about the explosions unless I had been told that there was an imminent danger that the simulation, and hence the world, would be destroyed by them. Because in the end film is all about people, about characters, no matter how fantastic the situation they are in. That is what makes it the most-ambitious film done yet, and it makes my criticisms constructive and small.

P.S. To the actors and actresses … :yes: you nailed it. :yes:

Well, yes, there’s always another way to tell a story, and as for me I really don’t care for voice-overs because generally I want the story to be told without resorting to other story-telling conventions. I didn’t have difficulty understanding what was going on in the initial bridge-scene. I didn’t initially understand the older man’s comment as he prepared to slide down the rope, but I knew it was a cliffhanger line. Pleasantly, it set me up for the big surprise of what the simulation actually was and did, and who this character was. (That transition looked technically perfect … hell, everything did. “Wow.”) That’s the kind of pure-graphic storytelling that I think great screenplays must aspire to. What was difficult for me was integrating the “chitty chitty bang-bang” :wink: with the look on the actors’ and actress’s faces when they locked eyes and the prime story reached its climactic moment. The explosions were never part of the prime story.