Moe Sucks

Redline: Beyond human limits

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I’ll revisit this one day.

A moment early in “Redline” encapsulates my misgivings with the film as a whole. Our hero JP is in a dead heat with Senoshee, a rival racer. Senoshee punches a button and her vehicle rockets off into the distance, leaving behind only a wall of broken water. Undeterred, JP kicks his own vehicle into the next gear and he soon catches up to his opponent. As both characters careen toward the finish line, the world around them blends into incomprehensible blotches of colors — brown and blue — and the needles on their odometers transcend the devices’ own limits.

From the looks of it, the odometer above appears nonsensical anyway. It has markings, numbers, a needle — I mean, it sure does look like an odometer, but can anyone rely on it to measure anything? The odometer retains a ghost of its original symbolic meaning, but its practical meaning has long disappeared. The odometer is incapable of measuring anything I can comprehend. Likewise, “Redline” and its characters move through an eclectic world at such an electric pace that I can hardly connect with the film on any subjective level beyond “whoa.”

Writing about a movie like “Redline” is always tricky. There’s always the temptation to temper one’s own words — oh, the animation is top-notch, the action is simply “exhilarating,” the movie oozes sublime energy, etc. — that one loses sight of how the film truly makes him or her feel: cold and detached. There’s a simple story here; in fact, the premise couldn’t be any simpler: a young man sets out on a journey to win glory and the love of his life in a no holds barred competition known simply as Redline. With a start and finish, a beginning and end, a race is much like a journey. The devil, therefore, is in the details.

Unfortunately, there is too much detail being hurried through almost every single scene despite the film’s generous 142 minute running length. The simple story that I’ve outlined above has lost all form and structure; it is like a ghost of what we expect to see. Like the odometer that has gone beyond its limits, so has “Redline.” What I see before me appears to be a hero’s journey to win glory and his love, but it is gone before I can form any emotional attachment to the characters onscreen. In his review, Tim Maughan argues that the film is “animation for animation’s sake,” and his point is understandable on a conceptual level, but his words nevertheless leave me cold.

At its core, the original “Star Wars” trilogy is nothing more than a hero’s monomythic journey. The story might include a giant, planet-destroy space station, swords made impossibly out of light, more alien species than one can shake a stick at (much like “Redline”), and yet the story’s basic human appeal shines through. We can recognize something earnest at the heart of the “Star Wars” trilogy. “Redline” doesn’t have a complicated plot either, a fact that most reviewers will readily admit, but there’s something inorganic about the film. It feels too much like an exercise — a clinic on how to push the medium’s flair to the conceptual limit — that the monomyth at the heart of the film has been bastardized to the point that I can no longer relate to it.

It’s like when someone deconstructs a shepherd’s pie into pomme fondant and a sous vide rack of lamb. I guess the right ingredients and flavors are there, but the spirit isn’t. Similarly with “Redline,” my synapses can connect enough of the dots to see a downtrodden underdog fight for the win of his life, but the movie nevertheless fails to resonate with my heart. After the dust settles and the awe-inspiring visuals subside, I can’t say I’ll remember “Redline” at all.

TL;DR: 142 minutes is just too long for “animation for animation’s sake.” I am left wanting for something beyond the top-notch art direction to keep me interested in the long film, but the narrative falls short.

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