The funny thing about my own Fantastic Fest journey this year is that of all the films that we’re reviewing on this site, I seem to be taking all of those that are animated. Which is great, because as you know, I love me some animated goodness. I also love me some animated weirdness, which leads me to the oddball space opera Journey to Saturn, from Denmark. I mention the film’s Danish roots specifically because it wears that fact like a badge of honor. In fact, most of the humor in this often gross, mostly inappropriate adult cartoon seems to be directed at the Danish people, the Danish government and the drunken way of the Danes. It was all very interesting, I assure you.
The story follows a misfit group of astronauts hired by a prominent businessman to travel to Saturn and mine it of it’s usable natural resources. The plan is to claim Saturn in the name of Denmark and make the country’s welfare state rich by selling away the resources to the rest of the world. The only problem is that when they finally arrive on Saturn, they meet resistance from the advanced alien race that already lives there. Oh, and their financier is a crazy person with a hidden agenda.
For such a simple story, this film certainly does have a lot of wild layers. This includes a lot of beer-drinking, Danish porn watching (who knew you could do that with a sausage roll) and even a trip to an afterlife in which all of the angels and demons are nude, and unfortunately anatomically correct. It is a twisted, juvenile and at times batshit crazy vision — and that’s what makes it fun. From the overtly racist stereotypes in the American astronauts the Danes meet along the way, to the political humor about Denmark’s welfare state that most of us just won’t get, this movie’s tale is a wildly woven journey into the mind of a few seriously mal-adjusted adults — or completely sane people who’ve taken a lot of drugs.
The only holdback here is the novice nature of the animation. This is only second CG-animated film from this Danish firm, the second attempt from directorial trio Craig Frank, Kresten Vestbjerg Anderson, and Thorbjørn Christoffersen (their first film being Terkel in Trouble), but that doesn’t exactly earn them a pass. The animation is akin to something you might have seen in a video game cut scene, circa 1999. Unlike the glossier, less polygonal animation we see here in the ‘States, the characters of Journey to Saturn are designed in a goofy manner, a little too far removed from reality to feel likable, but not quite cartoony enough to demand a serious suspension of disbelief. It is clear that the careers of these animated filmmakers are works in progress, and its possible that they will continue to learn and grow with their craftsmanship, but they’re clearly behind the curve from the start.
That said, they have delivered an adult-themed animated movie that is a lot of fun when you give yourself over to it. It is completely absurd, often times confusing and it might leave you feeling a little violated, but I think that’s the point. It serves as a fascinating view of the world (politically, religiously and in the realm of humor) from the minds of the Danes — something I never thought I would really want to see. But given the chance, I could probably be convinced to get drunk (or inebriated in an advanced manner) and see it again.
The Upside: The story is just insane enough to be fascinating, delivering weirdness that calls the likes of Futurama to mind, except with more nudity and drunk-assery.
The Downside: The animation is choppy, polygonal and without any attempt at innovation.
On the Side: According to this film, people from Denmark are a little… off.