A great and rare pleasure in the life of a critic comes when a film that initially irritated you slowly but surely begins to reclaim a little space in your opinion and carve out a realm where it can be seen by you almost objectively eyes and eventually wins you over to his cause. That was the experience for this reviewer while watching the animated film unicorn warswhose teeth-gnashing premise (a train of teddy bears going to war against forest-dwelling unicorns) soon gives way to a pleasantly macabre register and its smooth animation fleshes out what seemed like dogged edgelordism.
At the beginning of the film, a ragtag squad of teddy bears – including two mismatched brothers, Bluey (who is blue and angry) and Tubby (who is pink and friendly) – train to battle the teddies’ supposed mortal enemy, a herd of sleek black unicorns who live in the nearby forest. Those opening scenes take quite a bit of getting used to, not least because they are quite character driven and the characters are… little teddy bears. The voice work (in the original Spanish) is childish and elevated, and the aesthetic is simple and fairly uninteresting, focusing on those characters with the usual round bodies and big eyes in their barracks.
There’s also something a little disconcerting about this childish lust unicorn wars seems to combine cute animations with adult themes; The jokes are a bit flimsy to begin with, with military leaders calling things like “Sergeant Fluffy” and eliciting a sigh rather than a laugh. Likewise, the warring Teddies, the legion of seething young creatures squabbling among themselves, are seemingly offered as some kind of superficial adult subversion of the childhood myth that is jarring. If the audience is going to believe these teddies are soldiers, it shouldn’t really make us laugh that they’re urinating.
And yet, as unicorn wars opening up its narrative, moving a little past the various rivalries of these gangs, it begins to deepen its mythology and darken its tone in a convincing way. An early grace note comes with a little synopsis of the war story between bears and unicorns, rendered in mock medieval animation, inscribed on a document, as in early Disney. The Disney influence is also evident in the beautiful and vibrant rendering of the forest: the hand of Eyvind Earle, the artist responsible for the intricate forest labyrinths of Sleeping Beauty, is evident in these scenes, in which the sprawling forests – forbidding yet wondrous, dewy, home to many leaping and scurrying creatures – have a character of their own. Indeed, the film’s initially off-putting color palette, all Microsoft violets and greens, begins to shine as the battalion advances into the heart of the forest.
Shortly after that outing, as the bears seek their enemy and set up camp, led by a mad commander and a man (Bear) of God, things take a turn for the brutal – and this is where the film begins with what will eventually become a truly biblical body count, with a first round of bear kills that immediately set the tone for things to come and also lulled the audience into a false sense of security. The deaths signal director Alberto Vasquez means business, but the nature of the deaths might lead viewers to think they’re here to enjoy a bit of mature sport, a giddy laugh at the concept of dying these Characters (one bear was hung on the ground, another high up in a tree). In fact, Vasquez has a much more sinister project than this one, and the film’s really gnarly reign of ultra-violence serves a rather sophisticated discourse. But in the meantime, there’s a pretty juicy drug trip sequence where the teddies eerily feast on hallucinogenic fireflies in the woods at night, leading the film’s imagery to become a simultaneously swooning and free-flowing evocation of that state of mind. The journey soon takes a turn for the worse, and the teddy bears find the mutilated bodies of their comrades upon arrival the next morning: all of this is well done and a foretaste of what is to come.
With Tubby and Bluey’s Abel and Cain characters, the film unearths much family pain: the love they both have for their late mother and the seething hatred Bluey has for the helpless father figure, leading him to allying yourself with a toxic woman’s male mindset beat flesh to the bones of this parable as the two characters argue and are eventually drawn on opposite courses. In contemplating these characters, whose relationship is burdened with an incestuous relationship – looking at these childlike figures whose animation contrasts with the nature around them – the film is reminiscent of the work of Henry Darger, which imbues disturbing themes on his delightful childlike characters. This opposition is necessary for the film’s emotional arc and for its narrative, as Bluey is obsessed with hatred and completely radicalized. (On that note, if you miss it unicorn wars‘ political dimension, where the bears pathologize and hunt the black strangers nearby, you have to be congratulated on your simplicity of mind, which will undoubtedly come in handy in 2022.)
“In this sense, if you miss the political dimension of “Unicorn Wars”, in which the bears pathologize and hunt the black strangers nearby, you have to congratulate on your simplicity of mind, which will undoubtedly come in handy in 2022.”
After a failed military attack (resulting in a great many more deaths, shown in gruesome detail), Bluey becomes a figurehead of the Bear Army for his heroism, while Tubby is tricked into befriending an orphaned unicorn, which leads him to become obsessed to empathize with the enemy. The scene is set for a fight where the two clash.
It’s in the film’s deepening exploration of violence – in the way it dares to implement its project, which is gradually becoming awash in blood and gore – that unicorn wars convinced. This is where the film uses animation cleverly: its color scheme and scale shift appropriately; Battlefields are strewn with corpses bathed in rivers of blood. There’s a commendable darkness in the film’s point of view that turns startlingly bitter in a last-minute inspired carpet-pulling worth having planet of monkeysin which Vasquez blends his mythology with a more universal form of hatred and violence.
unicorn wars is likely to find a cult audience, perhaps drawn by its superficial “out there” blending of childish and adult themes, but the film has a lot more to offer than that.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/obsessed/unicorn-wars-is-an-ultraviolent-anti-war-tale-of-bears-and-unicorns?source=articles&via=rss Unicorn Wars is an ultra violent anti-war story of bears and unicorns