Thursday, August 25, 2022

Last Journey of Paul W.R.: The Feature

Sometimes you wake up and just don’t feel like saving the world. That is basically what happened to Paul W.R. The problem is, he is scheduled to do exactly that. Only he has the sufficient skills to save Earth from a collision with the Red Moon in Romain Quirot’s Last Journey of Paul W.R., which releases tomorrow in theaters and on-demand.

One day, the Red Moon just appeared in the sky, big and ominous looking, but Paul W.R.’s father Henri recognized it as a source of cheap energy. Unfortunately, the celestial satellite did not take kindly to being exploited, or at least that was Paul’s theory. Regardless, the Red Moon shifted into a collision course with Earth and only Paul W.R. can navigate through its magnetic field to deliver the explosive charges. Of course, this would be a suicide mission, but the grateful world has hailed W.R. as its hero and savior.

A slight complication developed when Paul W.R. disappeared days before doomsday. Dystopian France’s jackbooted police and surveillance system are on the lookout for him, but there are a lot of options for hiding out in the wasteland. What does he want? Maybe he isn’t sure himself.

Paul W.R. won’t tell us either, because unlike the short film
Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R., the title character never breaks the fourth wall this time. He also no longer has the omniscient power to read minds, whether he wants to or not, so apparently, he really is a lot less “enigmatic.”

Indeed, Quirot made considerable changes in expanding Paul W.R.’s story to feature length. Unfortunately, most of them water-down and undermine the poetic poignancy of the original short. After screening at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, it is now available online here. It is highly recommended, but maybe viewers ought to just stop there.

One thing the feature has going for it that the short didn’t is Jean Reno, who plays Paul’s scientist-industrialist father, with his usual gravitas. This time around, Paul’s brother Eliott is the one that can read minds, but he picked up the uncanny talent after he failed to fulfill Paul’s mission. Unfortunately, he came back changed.

Paul Hamy makes a decent villain as Eliott W.R., but he radically changes the film’s tone from a science fiction fable to a dystopian fugitive thriller. Even more disappointingly, Dorcas Coppin, who brought a great deal to the short playing Paul’s great lost love, is downgraded to a model on a video billboard (much like Alexis Rhee in
Blade Runner).

The intimacy and spirit of tragic inevitability gets lost in
Last Voyage’s translation to feature length. It also makes it harder for Hugo Becker to forge the same kind of connection with the audience. The short feels special, but the feature is more or less ordinary. To be fair though, there is a cool special effects sequence involving hover-cars. Somewhat disappointing, Last Voyage of Paul W.R. opens tomorrow (8/26) at the Glendale Laemmle.