29th Apr2019

‘Missing Link’ Review – Second Opinion

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, David Walliams, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, Timothy Olyphant, Amrita Acharia, Ching Valdes-Aran, Emma Thompson | Written and Directed by Chris Butler

missing-link-poster

Missing Link, directed by Chris Butler, is the latest creation from the critically acclaimed and abstract minds of Laika Studios, after their Academy Award-nominated animated feature Kubo and the Two Strings released in 2016. Missing Link is yet another sublime animation that is jaw-dropping in both beauty and design, with a wonderfully abstract iconography that rivals the styles of Tim Burton and early Walt Disney features but fails to inhabit any depth with poorly written characters.

The narrative itself is a tad too trope induced for its own good but ever so endearing and entertaining with such a remarkably witty fashion. It’s a lot less captivating and resonating than Laika’s predecessor Kubo, however, it still manages to be remarkably agile in its themes, even if they’re unfortunately never explored all that much in terms of layers or depth compared to their contemporary studios, such as Pixar that go in for the kill in regards to emotionally captivating thematic promise. It’s a less nuanced picture and prefers to delve into safer more shallow water and appease to a wider range of audience, of which is completely fine, but the ramifications of such don’t particularly offer longevity in shelf life and live long in the memory. It’s just surface level in terms of profundity. It does have it’s moments in which these characters discuss elements of weighted poignancy. Your basic discussion of self-acceptance, acceptance of others etc, however, the film doesn’t ever delve to a point of either interest or clarity on the subject matter at hand.

The voice cast, however, is nothing short of fabulous. Going into this, one would worry about having to endure Hugh Jackman’s ecstatic schtick of The Greatest Showman level of induced pungent cheesiness. Thankfully, you’re offered a rather elegant voice role in Sir Lionel Frost that starts – admittedly – rather rough and sheepish but before long, with the inclusion of a double act of Zach Galifianakis’s Susan, you’re welcomed to a warm and entertaining character. But as stated in the previous paragraph, the lack of depth on offer severely dampens the character because writer/director Chris Butler crafts a conflicted personality in Frost and his evolution goes from A to B in a sudden flash. The character makes some horrible decisions and is never quite reprimanded for his actions, and the climatic full circle of foe to friendship feels incredibly forced and slightly condescending.

Zach Galifianakis offers a decent turn as Mr Link AKA Susan with witty comic relief, but he doesn’t have much if anything to work with in terms of character. Susan is rather one note in terms of arc and layers. Made more the underwhelming is that such a character is prime for exploration in terms of their arc, and sadly the film – putting it lightly – complete and utterly falls flat and fails in that regard of honouring said character. Zoe Saldana brings a fantastic charismatic element to proceedings in the character of Adelina Fortnight, and the film to its credit, does highlight a certain level of history and gravity of the character, but once again much like Susan and Frost, fails to convey or successfully implement sufficient weightiness, and actually forgets to give the character anything to do.

WhileMissing Link may come across rather underwhelming and disappointing, there are positives to be found. The animation and composition of the image is utterly magical with aesthetic and animation nothing short of stupendous. It looks stunning with such elegance captured with astonishingly striking beauty in the composition and framing. The colour is breath-taking and the iconography of its characters both human and monster is remarkably abstract and undeniably charming.

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