No. of Recommendations: 5
It is now my considered position that this movie is a science fiction masterpiece hidden inside a children's film: probably the best science fiction movie of this decade.

The business in the last third of the movie, where Mumble goes far far beyond anything his people know, beyond anything that is knowable, and winds up under glass at the mercy of powers far far beyond his understanding: that could be an animated version of 2001. And then how the quality that makes him an outcast among his own people, is the thing that enables him to communicate with the aliens, and ultimately save his own race – that is a tried-and-true sf trope, familiar from literary science fiction (see for example the novels for young adults of Andre Norton), and still powerful. The scenes of Mumble's imprisonment late in the movie are shattering. Probably too strong for kids: when I saw the movie in the theater, the audience was dead silent during that section.

Really the movie is a first-contact story, which is a well-established genre of sf: and it might be the best first-contact story ever. A better story than Close Encounters; more "realistic", in terms of internal story logic. Actually in some ways I think Close Encounters might be the most apt comparison for this movie: and in many ways this movie blows it away.

I'm dead serious about this.

This movie was somewhat controversial for its leftist slant: the environmentalist propaganda and the way the UN fixes everything at the end. Those criticisms are sorta valid, but to my mind they miss the point. To take the two issues separately:

The environmentalist viewpoint is certainly there, but the important factor is not whether it is "true", whatever that means, but whether it is plausible and whether it works for purposes of story. And the fact is it's plausible as hell, and it works brilliantly for the purposes of the story. That's what makes it "propaganda": non-conservationists would not be so outraged by this movie, if the story didn't work so well. To me, the "environmentalist propaganda" aspect of the story is in some ways its strongest part: the writers pushed the logic of their story-situation as far as it could possibly go, and sent their lead character to the ends of the world. It's where the story gets its power.

(I should also point out that the environmentalist view makes it fall in very well with the classic "if this goes on" starting point of many science fiction premises.)

The way the UN fixes everything – well hello, it is a kids movie. Something has to fix everything perfectly at the end. Thank god something did, too: I don't know if I could have taken much more. The last third of this movie is truly harrowing.

Of course the first two thirds of the movie are fun and bouncy and exciting. It's a very entertaining animated feature, with those sly little touches that grownups enjoy and that kids mostly miss.

I love the music. There are delightful surprises for grownups in the music. I've seen the movie three times (once theater, twice on DVD), and the way Gloria's slow song-in-progress, that seems almost sorta familiar, suddenly explodes into "DANCE!" and then a well-known song, still surprises and gets a laugh out of me. There's a great fun touch at the end when Memphis tells Mumble that he better do something: a reference to a music video from the 80s, that will mean nothing to moviegoers under a certain age, but which has made me laugh out loud three times now.

The music is the most obvious part of the soundscape, but I should point out that everything in the sound is well-thought-out. The dialogue is extremely witty, and the crowd scenes have a lot of stray comments etc. It's well-worth listening to, even when there's no music.

The movie is visually stunning. It may be the best looking movie I've ever seen. The visuals are amazing. This is a movie that deserves Imax. The antarctic scapes give amazing vistas, and the moviemakers take full advantage. But even the closeups are amazing to look at.

Really, this is a tremendous movie, very very well-crafted across the board.

It's long as hell. It's over 2:40, maybe closer to 3 hours, just unbelievably long. That's going to be construed as a weakness, especially as act 3 is so tough and disturbing. But the fact is I admire a long film, when it's a true epic: and WOW is this movie a true epic. I wouldn't want to cut anything from it. It builds layer upon layer and creates a great experience.

Greatest science fiction movie of the decade, and one of the greatest of all time.
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