Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Mune: Guardian of the Moon—A One-Day GKIDS Event

The astronomy of it is terrible, but the world-building of this French fantastical fable is quite a wonder. According to this world’s creation myth, the original Guardian of the Sun reeled in the celestial body with a harpoon, while the Guardian of the Moon brought back the nocturnal satellite from the land of dreams. Ever since then, their apostolic predecessors have used fantastical pack animals to drag the sun and moon through their world, maintaining the balance between night and day. Nobody would choose a confidence-challenged forest faun like Mune to be a guardian, but the decision is made for him in Alexandre Heboyan & Benoît Philippon’s Mune: Guardian of the Moon (trailer here), which screens this Saturday as a special GKIDS Fathom Events presentation.

In a special ceremony incorporating dwellers of both day and night, the apprentices of the Guardians of the Sun and Moon will succeed their masters. It is supposed to be a mere formality, but the lunar ewe (a lamb, how archetypal) selects Mune instead. That looks like a bad call when Mune crashes the giant ostrich-bound temple, losing the moon when its gossamer bonds are severed.

Matters get even worse when Sohone, the preening new Guardian of the Sun leaves his post to give Mune a good chewing out. Minions of Necross, the Miltonian former Guardian of the Sun-turned evil, take advantage of his absence to steal the sun. Obviously, Mune and Sohone will have to put aside their differences to reacquire the sun and moon. Fortunately, Glim, the dusk-living wax creature serves as a peacemaker and motivational coach for them both. However, they must take care to look after her. She stiffly coagulates in cold temperatures and would fatally melt in excessive heat.

Mune is one of the most visually arresting works of feature-length computer animation ever produced. It is a richly detailed world, filled with exotic creatures, constructed atop a compellingly original mythos-foundation. This film looks great, but the characterization is rather pat and predictable (the reluctant quest-hero who rises to the occasion, the spurned apprentice who gets played by the super villain, and the arrogant young guardian who learns a lesson in humility). Several of the shtickier characters, such as Necross’s bumbling minions and Glim’s hand-wringing father also quickly wear out their welcome.

Still, this is a lovely film that rewards virtue and inspires forgiveness. It shares some of weaknesses of big budget studio animation, but the craftsmanship is far superior. Frankly, Takeshi Yashiro’s utterly charming stop-motion-animated short Moon of a Sleepless Night tells a somewhat thematically-similar story, but it is even more captivating. Mune is nice too, but not as magical. Recommended for family viewing, Mune: Guardian of the Moon screens this Saturday afternoon (8/12) at participating theaters nationwide, including the AMC Empire in New York.