Spark: A Space Tail is a 2016 animation film directed by Aaron Woodley, starring Jessica Biel, Susan Sarandon and Patrick Stewart. The film’s South Korean- Canadian production makes it look like the promising love child of Pixar and Studio Ghibli. The visuals are colourful, the animation is great and it appears to be a good film to look at. However, that impression only lasts for the first five minutes; namely, the 5 minutes when Spark, the eponymous hero of the film, is told the story of how his planet was destroyed and taken by an evil king and his parents were absorbed into a black hole. After that the film turns from a promising Asian-Canadian cinematic partnership, into an hour and a half of shody animation, a weak plotline and, all in all, perfect disappointment.
The film follows Spark, a 13 year old monkey living on a deserted fragment of what used to be his planet, Bana. Get it? As in banana, ‘cos they’re monkeys? Thirteen years previously, Bana had been a happy planet ruled by a gentle king. But then, in pure Hamlet style, the king’s jealous brother found a space kraken. A creature that creates black holes and…well it absorbs things like blackholes do. Surely that’s what Shakespeare would have written if he had known what black holes were. Spark and his friends Vix and Chunk are saved by the lovable robot Bananny. Get it? As in banana? But also nanny? Cause they’re monkeys? Oh that wordplay…
They are hidden away until instructed differently and, long story short, some shit goes down. Spark does what every teenager can do best: be a pain in the ass, with the admittedly atypical teenage twist that he also has to save his planet. The film surely has potential, combining some Guardians of the Galaxy orphan story with a bit of Lion King daddy issues and the familiar quirky, relatable main character with a sidekick. However, it also takes some good elements out of other films and turns them into a half-assed effort: the bug sidekick resembles the Minions, but somehow more irritating and…well, in bug form. Bananny, the robotic nanny is adorable for the first 5 minutes and then turns into some weird version of a Transformer. The jokes fall flat 75 % of the time, the fight scenes have some unnecessary, deeply anti-climactic slow motion and the plot has so many holes I could drain my pasta with it. Everything happens very fast (unlike the damned slow- motion fight scenes), the plans they come up with stand up on their own as well as a drunken Irish man on Paddy’s Day and sometimes even the irritating voice over makes you want to stop the film at all cost. The giant gorilla named Coco sounds as irritating as chalk on a blackboard, or the soundtrack to the film for that matter. It is difficult to engage with the characters or the story because they are simply weak. The film gives the impression that someone had a good idea but got lazy on the way and decided to still use the resources, who knows, maybe the producers were students?
I am aware, of course, of all the hard work and investment going into making an animated movie. So for the sake of the cast and crew, who I am sure were well intended, I’m not going to moan about the film any further. If you’re in town and you’re looking for a way to kill a couple of hours, sure! Go watch it! If you have siblings under 7, take them with you, they’ll probably love it. However, if you expect to find a lovable superhero with a funny sidekick, stay at home and watch Big Hero 6 instead.
Spark is released in cinemas nationwide on May 29.