Fantastic Planet

Fantastic Planet ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.


I often think that the movies are inherently meant to offer a different, more fantastical perspective on the world we inhabit; another side to the story that is Life, in order to teach us more about Earth and its inhabitants. Enter Fantastic Planet, an exemplary rendition of that notion.

By exaggerating the mindless carnage of the wild, and pitting humans as a species inferior to a dominant blue-skinned race of gargantuan, metaphysical intellectuals, René Laloux's sci-fi spectacle ponders our social privileges and frivolous customs in a narrative precursor to videogame storytelling. This elaborately animated landscape unfolds as a lone tamed Om escapes into threatening territory outside secure Draag civilization. Our vision, obscured by the magical surrealism of Laloux's artistic stylings, matches that of this young, boyish Om.

The Draags' revulsion towards the Oms illustrates nationalistic prejudice, recalling Nazi philosophy whenever they refer to Oms as dirty, vicious animals. They gas the Oms in a genocidal exhibition, like they were invading insects to be cleaned out of a household -- thoughtless butchery, a learned necessity.

The machines the Draags invent to kill the Oms are frightening creations. Trap containers snatch single Oms and bury them alive in the ground. Homing crafts scan areas for hiding Oms with robotic menace. Discs are pumped out by the handful into Om areas and emit a deadly noxious gas. Beacons massacre Oms the second their light touchs them. The blue giants even sick leashed Oms to sniff out the wild ones on a hunt-- an extermination.

This extermination brilliantly implicates the prejudicial mindset that establishes genocidal incentive. In Schindler's List, Commander Goeth considers the Jews as nothing more than vermin, insects, animals (his words). The Draags speak similarly of the Oms in Fantastic Planet. It's telling that the Draags worry the Oms are learning their academic teachings; if this inferior race were to become knowledgeable, their powerless retreat could turn to resistance. Which, of course, it does.

Fantastic Planet is eerily beautiful, a colorful smorgasbord of absurdities matched with frightfully applicable human frailties, indicating the worldly consequences of widespread carnage. The Draags are so dependent on their rejuvenating power, it leads to their downfall at the hands of a species they deem unworthy of existence. Massive ego represented by mystical science fiction, undercut by a collective natural inclination to adapt and survive. Humanity prevails, while inimical inhumanity fails.

The Draags eventually capitulate at the fear of mutually assured destruction (more real world connotations). The haunting final shot sees a young Draag learning of the harmony the two species now share, demonstrated by matching satellites orbiting their planet. The new generations are acclimating to peace where the passing ones learned discrimination. Everything is our upbringing; hatred and intolerance are taught, ingrained into developing minds. To build unity, we have to teach it. Laloux's film is a beguiling warning, a portrait of the intrinsic absurdity of living, and the grand, inhuman farce of prejudice.

PS: Didn't get to mention anywhere but this is such a perfectly timed filmic feat for the psychedelic canon. Released around the same time as Master of Reality and Tago Mago, two musical masterpieces that similarly reckoned with worldly destruction and drug-addled escapism as a means of coping and releasing spiritual tension. It's the layers I love.

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