Saturday, March 17, 2012

Short Film Review: Ruin

During a scavenger hunt in an abandoned city, a lone warrior is set upon by a flying death machine. Armed to the teeth with heavy weaponry, this mechanical bird of prey will not be deterred from its mission. The high speed chase that results has the hero using all of his skills and resources to evade capture while navigating the treacherous cityscape.

Ruin was produced by Oddball Animation and directed by Wes Ball. Like Philippe Gamer’s Chase, it’s an elaborate action set piece rendered in CG animation. Also like Chase, it’s a sequence that any live action blockbuster would count itself lucky to have in its arsenal. From the very opening, the one thing that stands out is the attention to detail. The “morning noises” chirp to life on the soundtrack. It seems like every single leaf is visible on the kudzu-like plant life that has overtaken the abandoned city. The cityscape almost looks like an immaculately crafted scale model to the casual eye.

As with so many other CG animated features, the human characters prove harder to render than the scenery. Ruin only has one, the protagonist of the piece. He’s tall and gangly, walking about with a casual gait when he is first shown. This is where the director’s eye for detail goes into overkill. The hero’s physics seem a bit off compared the inanimate objects that surround him. His movements feel labored and overly graceful. One curious touch is the liver spots on his hands, which are never explained.

The action starts when the hero is attacked by what looks like an Aerial Hunter-Killer from the Terminator films. It’s at this point that Kevin Riepl’s musical score becomes very John Williams-like. In fact, the entire film takes on certain characteristics of the Lucasfilm classics. The way the hero hops on his bike and speeds off is reminiscent of similar images from the 3rd and fourth Indiana Jones films. The Los Angeles spillway chase from T2 also comes to mind, as well as the podrace from Phantom Menace.

What really stands out about the execution of the chase is the sense of constant fluidity. Everything feels precise and smooth. In true Spielberg fashion, Wess Ball makes the action clear and discernible. Everything unfolds according to the principles of “cause and effect.” The camera keeps pace with the participants while maintaining both scope and coherence. Also of note is how the human character’s movements are kept to a bare minimum during this stretch.

Ruin is an entertaining mishmash of various sensibilities and styles. It takes the anime/manga influences of the Cameron/Wachowski era and melds them with the traditionalism of the Lucas/Spielberg era. It efficiently shows how all such influences can peacefully coexist on the same screen. Wess Ball has indeed learned for the masters, and he is now putting those teachings to good use.


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