This is what Delgo does to you. Be prepared.
You're opening a can of worms here, dear reader.
You opened it. Look, the worms. They are crawling out of the can.
Oh shit, now they're all over the carpet.
You just opened the can of worms.
First off, let me preface this post by saying what a tragedy Delgo is. No, not like, "this movie was so bad it made me cry". It was only bad enough to make me laugh hysterically.
The sad part relates to a guy called Marc Adler.
Now, Adler's heart was in the right place. His intentions were pure, his beliefs noble, his determination admirable. But Delgo is the reason - the single reason - companies like Dreamworks are afraid to touch inexperienced directors or try something new.
Adler started his own company, Fathom Studios, with an intention I can seriously get down with.
"I'm going to make a film on my own. Gonna find funding, round up some friends, and we're gonna make a movie. And the best part is, we are gonna do it independently, far away from the controlling, muddling hands of creative-impaired executive producers".
Brilliant reasoning. Bad execution.
The problem with Delgo is actually something many of my lecturors at university used to warn me about personally, which is biting off more than you can chew. Some background on me: I stun people with how fast I work. But the quality of my work suffers when I work this fast.
Marc Adler didn't have a deadline so I don't know what the fuck his excuse was.
Delgo is an attempt to be something different and fantastic, and unfortunately all that came of it was a mediocre ripoff that suffers the same old problems I keep trudging through. Seriously.
How can you start up a studio and avoid producers and executives from the "Hollywood Studio" system and still produce something this fucking lame?
Why am I singling out this independent, valiant effort and ripping it to shreds? Well, as mean as that sounds, I guess I’m just trying to explain why it flopped so bad. Budget? Forty million. How many cinemas was it screened at? Two thousand. How much did it make back? Half a mil.
And here’s Marc Adler shaking his head and saying, “I don’t understand – we did everything right!!” Well, no, you didn’t. Which is what I’m here for.
The story is in equal parts boring, derivative and incredibly confusing.
They hired a composer and yet the score sounds as though it were lifted from a soundbank CD.
Speaking of sound design, Delgo is shown at the beginning of the film as a child of about eight - a big kid - walking, and playing ball with his dad - and he makes human newborn baby noises.
"GOO GOO GA GA"
Every character is irritating, though if you combined all of their worst qualities you would get Filo, a "sidekick" Delgo cannot seem to shake.
They did something that impressed me - they made an entire cast of characters that did not contain a single human. I haven't seen this done since The Dark Crystal. The problem is that they did it wrong.
There are two major races in this film, the Lokni and the Nohrin (I don't care if they're spelt wrong, I've humoured this DVD enough). One of them are supposed to be fairies, the others are meant to be lizardmen. Both look like apes. As in, from Planet Of The Apes.
The Dark Crystal did this right.
Jen and Kira. Nice designs, wouldn't you agree? Look at Kira. Man. I'm typing with one hand right now.
JESUS CHRIST WHAT IS THAT THING
The love interest, apparently! -Shiver-
One thing I hate about this film in particular is that it starts out with a very hooking, beautiful opening shot. It's once you see Shot Two, with Kid Delgo and his dad, when the "holy shit what am I watching" begins to kick in.
It teases you with a few more of these absolutely stunning backdrops in the opening (and very boring) narrative monologue, explaining politics and how for some reason "tensions" rose between the two races. And how this evil bitch Sadessa was, like, exiled for being a real bitch, but then she became friends with all these ugly ogres and she's like the boss of them now, or something. The backgrounds are amazingly lavish but my compliments end here.
This treatment with the backgrounds (and its steady decline into a pretty much universally unsatisfying film) is kind of like... well, okay let me put it like this.
Okay, there's Avatar, right. Now Avatar is a buxom, sensual, loving woman with a mind like a razorblade. She says she wants to go out with you, and fuck you, and be with you forever. You date and you can't believe you're even allowed to tag along with this wonderful babe let alone get inside her. Then halfway through the relationship she becomes a real bore. Never wants to go out and do something fun or stimulating, just sit there on the couch and watch
Oh, and she's no longer interested in sex. And she eats a lot of potato chips and gets kind of fat.
Well, maybe you still love her. That's up to you.
Delgo. Delgo is something else ENTIRELY. Delgo is a cheap-looking whore you pick up off the street and invite up to your hotel room. She's actually surprisingly cute. Then she locks the door and pulls down her pants and she's actually a man. But he was wearing a latex mask the whole time and he's like, this really UGLY man. And he's walleyed. And he's like, "fooled you!!" and starts raping you in the face and the ass without any warning or lubrication. He's much stronger than you. He pulls a knife on you and says he wants you to be his wife. Crying, you comply. He then moves into your house and starts using your toothbrush and insists he meet your parents (by now he's grown a moustache, by the way). So your parents come over but he's wearing a tinfoil hat and does a huge shit on the table right in front of your parents. Then he eats his own shit and throws it at the dog.
The story makes absolutely no fucking sense. The characters grate to the point where I nearly considered starting a Hiccup fanclub from How To Train Your Dragon. The dialogue isn't just forced, it's BRUTE FORCED. The message is so clear it's like it's a diamond that you can see all the way through, and then the director grips it hard and stabs you in the eye with it. And now you're going to have this shitty, poorly executed anti-racism message embedded in your eyesocket forever.
There's this gross Romeo and Juliet thing happening with Princess Kyla (who looks like a limited-run barbie with its head ripped off and replaced with its owner's brother's nearest GI Joe head) and Delgo. They go on a date and Delgo puts Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker from Attack of the Clones to shame by saying all the wrong things at all the wrong times. He is pretty much a redneck and tells Kyla that "YOUR PEOPLE killed MY PEOPLE so I HATE YOUR PEOPLE". And it's like, whoah dude, you are seriously losing pussy points.
The film follows in the footsteps of Avatar in this department in what is slowly becoming a serious pet peeve of mine.
In racial acceptance films, why is it that the dickish, racially intolerant protagonist doesn't start giving a damn about the other culture until he gets a raging boner for one of its women? It's demeaning.
There are all these subplots that go nowhere. Like the Nohrin general who keeps losing money gambling. I don't think his gambling addiction was ever really resolved. It's like, 'wait why do I care about this'
After much mind-numbing banter and several spectacularly failed attempts at "comedy", we are treated to a... a... lord of the rings-style battle sequence.
Oh, Jesus Christ. Is this, like, a convention now?
I remember asking Arch, who was every bit as stunned and bewildered at this film as I was, "how far into this ARE we?" He turned and said, "an hour and three minutes". Well, by then it felt more like three hours and one minute.
Have you ever watched a comedy act that was so bad you actually felt sympathy-shame for the guy bombing? Well I was doing that for pretty much the whole runtime of this movie.
So the princess has been kidnapped out of jealousy or something. I'm not really sure, it was very hard to follow, particularly over our laughter and cringing. There's a particular point in the film where Sadessa's pet, who we have NEVER SEEN BEFORE, flies off and a spying Delgo asks, "what is that thing?"
The General says, "I have no idea. But odds are, it will lead us to Kyla. Let's go."
And that's it. I was like, 'wait, how exactly did you come to that conclusion? You don't want to run that by Delgo or Filo, or think about it for five seconds?' But it's too late; we've already cut to a shot of Delgo and the General flying through green clouds. Turns out they were conveniently right, thanks to an unfounded whim.
Well, I guess he is a gambling man, after all.
Sadessa. Sadessa, Sadessa... where have I heard that before. Ohhh, of course. Sedusa. Wow, that's like, almost clever!
There are several shots with overdone and shoved-in slow motion. I hate it when they do that in GOOD movies. It’s so cheap. Here it seems like a distraction, like hand waving. “Look, slow motion! Don’t look down! Don’t look at the animation! D:”
Probably the shittiest part of the movie is how they attempted to deal with this Racial Message they are so fucking proud of.
There's a third, race, right, these big, dumb ugly ogre creatures? And Sadessa's in control of them and basically the Nohrin and Lokni put their differences aside so they can kick these things' asses. Great message for the kids. "What are you making fun of that black kid for? Don't you realise you are both being oppressed by that Hispanic kid over there? Together, you both have the power to kick the shit out of him!!"
I swear to god I have never been this relieved to finally see the credits for a movie roll.
I like to think I'm made of stronger stuff - I never walk out of a movie, I never switch off a DVD, until it ends. But bloody hell, Delgo pushed me close.
Here's another sad part, the concept art looks substantially better than the models in the film. Not surprising - that happens a lot with zero budget student films by animators who are still getting their heads around Maya. Shoulda gone 2D, guys.
Actually, if you're as dumbfounded as Arch and I were and are too mind-blasted to take your eyes away from the credits, the audience is treated to a "WACKY" assortment of special titles in the credits. I seriously have no fucking idea what this is about. Come on, click it.
So that's Delgo! Phew, thank god it's over, right?
Oh but wow, guys, the best is yet to come. We haven't even gotten to the special features. This is where you'll find the REAL gold.
First thing's first. The 'Behind the Scenes' featurette begins with a barrage of fast cuts between all of the washed up hasbeens who lent their now forgotten names to this eighty-six minute trainwreck. The only thing greater than their scripted pretension is their caught-on-camera insincerity.
"This movie's about action." "Vengeance." "Courage." "Honesty." "Romance!~" "COMEDY!" (Spat out by the annoying cockbiter who plays Filo) "Friendship!" "Family." "Unity." "What more could you possibly want?" And then a shot of Michael Clarke Duncan, the black guy from The Green Mile and Daredevil snarling "you better not miss dis movie" while pointing threateningly at the camera. So we're off to a good start.
We learn that they based a number of the characters' faces off the actors who played them. Which is kind of hilarious when you think about it. It makes sense in Shark Tale. I hate that tactic; "oh, kids won't find these designs appealing unless they look like Will Smith or J-Lo". But when you apply that ethos (in 2009, no less) to such household name megastars as Freddie Prinze Jr., Val Kilmer, Burt Reynolds and Anne Bancroft, it's like, "wait, what?"
"Hey check it out, that ugly monkey-faced lizardman looks just like Freddie Prinze Jr.!"
"Hey, that old, wizened sage looks a bit like that guy who was in that movie! You know, the big scary black man who eats babies?"
"That sounds like Jennifer Love-Hewitt! ...you know, Jennifer Love-Hewitt. The one with the nice tits from the nineties?"
When Dreamworks do it, it's a foul, shady business tactic to get bums on seats. When these guys do it, it's a pathetic, desperate plea to get the reels in the theatres through an independent distributor.
Actually, I have a funny feeling that the bit about them trying to make the characters look like their actors is sheer spin. An attempt to compare themselves (unsuccessfully) to the likes of Dreamworks. And when I'm using Dreamworks and Shark Tale as a positive comparison, you know something is very, VERY wrong.
For a start I don't remember Jennifer Love-Hewitt ever looking that ugly. I mean, I'm not a FAN. But Jesus Christ.
They specifically point out Eric Idle's character, Spig, as being based off of Idle. ...wait what
Eric, I think you're supposed to be insulted by that, mate. They just made a dig at you. Well, the good news is no one's going to buy this shitty DVD anyway.
I'll admit that Spig is probably one of only two designs in the entire movie that were palatable, him and the evil engineer.
Why do they have such uncharacteristic appeal to their designs? Well, I could answer that pretty deftly.
There's these guys, right, called Jim Henson and Brian Froud.
And there's, like, this other guy called George Lucas, right.
But that's enough of that.
They pat themselves on the back for their admittedly rather good backgrounds, in my opinion, the only thing I actually liked about this film. But then they have to ruin it by lying and saying "the world of Delgo is completely unique". It's distinctly NOT unique. I would call it a hodgepodge of just about every other fantasy film out there plus The Lion King.
Cut to Malcolm McDowell saying "I dunno how they do all that stuff. It's great," juxtaposed with footage of some dragonfly guys in wireframe (wow check out the polycount, is this a PS2 game?), which is kind of what I thought all the actors who sign up to a Dreamworks or Blue Sky movie must think.
I almost feel sorry for them.
Their profession is Actor, not Voice Actor. So clearly they have more love for live action than they do for animation. To them, Animation is this sleight-of-hand magic trick that they could never possibly hope to understand. It's like listening to an old person talk about computers. Kind of like Malcolm McDowell saying "I dunno how they do all that stuff. It's great, it's just amazing" while being juxtaposed with Team Wireframe.
I was concentrating so heavily on that part that I nearly missed out on Lou Gosset, Jr. (seen a few seconds ago wearing a clever "ERACISM" shirt as some kind of WITTY MISE-ÉN-SCENE technique) lecturing us on the clumsily obvious anti-racism message of the film. This begins a mudslide of intercut actor pretension as they fap over how great it was to work on the single most gigantic financial flop in movie history. Most of them don't even seem to know what they're talking about. Did I mention this was supposed to be the first part of a trilogy? They hint at it here and I actually feel a vague pang of sympathy.
Wow, that was painful. Okay, let's move onto the Sound Design featurette. This ought to be more bearable.
We're treated to the company of a Mr. Tom Ozanich, the sound designer of Delgo, and a Mr. Geoff Zanelli, who composed the score.
Zanelli has charisma, he seems like an okay, down-to-earth kind of guy. But Tom Ozanich has a bit of a snide drawl about him, as though he thinks he's simply far too talented to be interviewed. This isn't helped by the fact that he has a droning, monotonous voice and generally sarcastic demeanour.
He is describing the process of creating the soundscape of Delgo, "but it's not like, Sci Fi? Which is what you usually get, with, a totally unique world?"
This sentence is muttered with a definite note of "I'm better than that shit" as it cuts to him looking incredulously at Geoff as they facially share a private injoke about how much science fiction sucks balls.
The funniest thing about this Ozanich guy is that he keeps putting quotation marks around everything with his hands. No, not like Dr. Evil. More like, that sardonic fuck you knew at high school who made fun of everything you would say.
Zanelli tells us that Sadessa is a dancer, and so her music will be a dance.
Ozanich pipes in with, "She's also... the "BAD GUY"..."
He rambles about how he used... like, big, deep sounds around her castle to give, like... this ‘undertone’...
Wow, you are really just getting paid to talk about this, aren't you.
Holy shit!! I just heard Zanelli TELL US that the music is manipulating us. The composer of a film told me that he is manipulating me, the audience through music. Okay I just lost respect for you too.
Back to Ozanich in full ramble, "and other CREATURES that are... "INTELLIGENT"..."
Oh my god the look on both of their faces here is priceless
The only way this could possibly be funnier is if he said "QUOTE, END QUOTE" in a Krusty the Clown voice.
Eventually they speak (untruthfully) about how they worked so well together that what is music and what is sound design is virtually indistinguishable. It's all part of the 'Sound Scape', apparently.
After both men ramble for quite some time about how they had to make the sound design as convincing and believable as possible (including eight year olds that sound like newborn babies I suppose, or magic flying rocks that sound like the windchimes at the beginning of an RnB song), they kind of admit out of the side of their mouths that they never actually interacted (met?) for the entire production of the film.
Meet the characters and See the creatures are pages of the characters that suddenly name every side character who didn't need a name and we learn that one guy voiced pretty much all the ogres. Makes sense, they all sounded equally terrible. The creature designs are lifted more or less entirely from The Dark Crystal and for some reason Delgo and Baby Delgo have separate character profiles. I guess they wanted to really milk that model.
Next we have the deleted scenes.
Conspicuously absent are a few scenes they strangely included in the featurettes that didn't make their way here either. Were they promo shots??
The strangest and most worrying thing about the deleted scenes of this movie is that every single one (and there is a lot of cut material) was modelled, animated and RENDERED in its entirety. I can understand that for live action or even 2D, but 3D? No, really, 3D?!? How the fuck did THAT happen!!
What, they made this entire fucking film and didn't realise that FIVE MOTHERFUCKING UNHOLY MINUTES of Filo chirping away on autopilot didn't deserve to be in the final cut?!
Arch suggested a very real possibility which was that they were smart enough to run some kind of test screening before the film was released in over two thousand cinemas and asked the audience for their opinions.
All of the scenes were cut for a good reason (i.e. they were mind-numbingly long and boring, as well as totally unessential to the plot), but the Filo barrage was the worst.
Let me tell you, if I were in that test audience, I also would have said, "Jesus Christ, cut out at least ten minutes of Filo's bullshit".
It's actually stunning how much Filo there was in this movie before it was cut. I thought there was too much of him AFTERWARD.
Chris Kattan. Chris Kattan's character, Filo. Holy shit.
Take Jar Jar Binks. Give him Shake's voice from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a porky-pig stutter, Alec Baldwin's smug self confidence, Richard Simmons' enthusiasm, Carrot Top's frantic idiocy, and a blank cheque for Robin Williams-style improvisation. And if you like any of the people listed previously, remove all of their endearing qualities.
That's Filo in a nutshell.
Chris Kattan deserves an award for his performance. In fact I'm going to design it for him right now.
Congratulations, Kattan, that's for Delgo. Put it next to your gleaming collection of oscars. Oh, wait.
Finally is the short film, also made by Fathom Studios, Chroma Chameleon.
Now I admit that this one is cute. The story's dumb, but we only have to endure five minutes of it, as opposed to over eighty five.
The character models of the chameleons are charming and well done, and their animation is head and shoulders above what I just watched in Delgo. Simpler characters, less ambitious, just straightforward designs and flowing animation. A bit snappy? Rubbery? Perhaps, but it always looks better in a short film. In fact this actually looks a lot like a good student film. Bad studio film, maybe, but good student film.
Now here's the strange part. A lot of people worked on it. But not many animators or modellers. More along the lines of, choreographers and lighters. Also, for such a simple (lame?) story, it has two writers. Two of them.
There were two producers.
OH. Marc Adler was both a writer and a producer for this film. Well, okay. But apparently he needed help with both jobs. For a five minute short film. Now what does THAT say.
See, there's a reason Pixar started out with Toy Story and moved on to A Bug's Life. It's because they acknowledged they didn't have the technology or experience to comfortably animate realistic humans. They stuck to simple, easy-to-model, easy-to-animate rigs. Which is what they did with Chroma Chameleon, but spectacularly failed to do with Delgo. They seriously were not ready for this.
Good intentions, guys. But don’t bite off more than you can chew.