Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Secret of Kells Movie Review

It seems that a lot of people think that animated movies are targeted exclusively towards small children, and consider all animated movies to be “Disney Movies.” Disney doesn’t have a monopoly on animated movies, nor are animated movies exclusively intended for small children. It’s so nice to come across a good animated movie that is not made by Disney, Warner Brothers, or Dream Works. Such movies are hard to come by, but are worth searching for more often than not. The Irish-French-Belgian foreign film The Secret of Kells (2009) was a great find!
The story is set in the eighth century and gives a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels in Latin. Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson) is obsessed with building a protective wall around the early-Christian Abbey of Kells to protect it from marauding Viking raiders. When master illuminator (an old term for illustrator) Aidan of Iona (Mick Lally) arrives at the monastery, Abbot’s young nephew Brendan (Evan McGuire) is fascinated by Aidan and the unfinished book he brings with him. Aidan allows Brendan to help work on the book by sending Brendan beyond the walls of the Abbey and into the forest beyond to collect a specific kind of berries to make brilliant green ink. Having never set foot outside the Abbey walls, Brendan becomes lost. He is rescued by a fairy girl named Aisling (Christen Mooney) who helps him along the way. With barbarian Vikings closing in, can Brendan’s determination and artistic vision illuminate the darkness, and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil?
This really is a neat story. It’s brimming with Irish legend and mythology. Several characters and places were real people and location. Look up Abby of Kells and the Book of Kells; they really do exist. Aidan of Iona was also a real person. Even Aidan’s pet cat, Pangur Bán, is based on an old Irish poem written by a monk about his cat. Stick around during the closing credits, a verse from this poem is read. Brendan has to face Crom Cruach, deity of Irish mythology whose worship is said to have been ended by St. Partick. Aisling is a forest spirit with abilities drawn from Irish fairy tales. There’s so much culture and history imbued within the story, and it makes the movie fascinating! It reminds me of an Irish version of Disney’s Mulan (1998) which was heavily based on Chinese legend and mythology.
Since The Book of Kells is essentially the first four Gospels of the New Testament, the movie had ample opportunity to become religious and preachy. I could see that not settling well with some viewers. Really, the only religious elements in the movie are some crosses seen around the monastery. The content of Aidan’s book isn’t even specifically discussed, but is established to be important for enlightenment though not the Christian religious creed specifically. The movie focused on the history and mythology, not religiosity.
I cannot speak highly enough about the animation in this film. It has stylized 2-D animation overflowing with fascinating little detail. The real Book of Kells is teeming with decorations in the margins, and I think the animators tried to capture that style in The Secret of Kells. The colors are brilliant and the details were astonishing. Many scenes had patterned borders that are magnificent to look at. There are some scenes that are so captivating that I became annoyed when the scene changed because I wasn’t done looking at the pretty images! The animation is art that is meant to be admired, not merely to express a story through visuals.
The Secret of Kells was so good. It was graphically stunning and so captivating to watch. The story is highly interesting and heralds back to old mythologies, legends, and real world histories. I’d love to get a copy of this on Blu-Ray. Young children as well as mature adults will enjoy this film, I’m sure. The humor and action coupled with the stunning animation will surely captivate audiences of all ages.

Watch the trailer and see how stunning this animation is in action.

What are some legends or mythologies that you would love to see used in a movie? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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