Missing Link (2019): Amazing Animation Can’t Save This Story

Image result for Missing Link poster

     “Missing Link” is a film that could have been so much more. One thing Laika Studios is quite good at doing is taking a novel concept and going deeper with it. We see this with “Kubo and the Two Strings” which takes your basic adventure story and makes it about working through grief and exploring familial bonds. This story is bland. The strongest part of the film are Zoe Saldaña’s performance as Adelina Fortnight and Hugh Jackman as Sir Lionel Frost. The problem is they are fully inhabiting tropes that they never grow beyond. This was sad as this story deserved so much better.

The film was directed and written by Chris Butler.

The film follows Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) who wants to join the “Society of Great Men,” who believes he finally has a chance to join the order when he receives a letter from the United States and meets Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) the Sasquatch. The leader of the “Society of Great Men” Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) sends a hunter (Timothy Olaphant) to stop him as Frost must call upon a former friend Adelina (Zoe Saldaña) to get Mr. Link back to his ancestors the Yeti, in the North.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation – Laika is a master of stop-motion animation. “Missing Link” continues that same quality. The levels of detail they put into the forest set, the Yeti Temple and the ship is just spectacular. This is Laika once again showing why they are famous for their animation.

Sir Lionel Frost – Sir Lionel is the only character with a real character arc. He goes from a sociopath who uses people for his own glory, to one who considers his friends family. We see this in how he cares for Adelina and Mr. Link/Susan and though it takes work for him to gain empathy, in the end he finally does. Hugh Jackman does a fantastic job in the role. He plays the stuffy English man stereotype but the film at least lets him grow beyond it. The same can’t be said for the rest of the cast and the boxes they are put into.

Adelina Fortnight – Zoe Saldaña’s character is good in that she grows beyond the death of her husband and becomes her own adventurer. The problem is the stereotype the film has given her. She is still one of the best characters in the film but she is the angry latina which is a problematic trope and I wish Laika had been better. I liked her character but that trope kept her from becoming more three-dimensional because she was playing a problematic trope that hurt what character had been formed.

The Yeti Elder – Emma Thompson does a great job as the leader of the Yeti’s in the Yeti Elder. They are a closed off community who imprison Lionel, Adelina and Mr. Link dubbing him a redneck and not one of them. She does a great job of showing why the warriors follow her and also the closed off nature of what her people have become. They are portrayed as a warrior civilization with her as the head with survival above all else. Which given their isolation, I can see but there was no nuance. The Yeti Elder showed as much. She was just as close minded as the English villain just not a sexist imperialist.

Okay:

The Villains – Lord Piggot-Dunceby is simply a sexist pig consumed by ego (he has a great design at least as he is the largest human in the film) while the hunter is just a western style cowboy who never feels threatening. The characters are one dimensional and they serve their purpose within the narrative but that is about it. I’m glad Stephen Fry at least hammed up Lord Piggot-Dunceby or he would have been a bore. So much more could have been to critique the British Empire and the era but Butler was really lazy in trying to delve deeply into any of these characters or ideas.

The Cons:

Mr Link/Susan – Zach Galifianakis was the wrong person for this role. Mr. Link needed to be played by more than a comedian as so much of what he says are meant to be jokes said by a comedian. This was a disservice for the literal mindset and childlike nature of Mr. Link. This is a character who doesn’t really grow. He eventually finds family in Adelina and Sir Lionel but that isn’t through his choice, it is through theirs. Throughout the story he is always rejected and a more nuanced actor and script could have made that mean something.

Colonial Tropes – The problematic colonialist tropes that stood out where how native cultures were treated as props. They were just there to get Sir Lionel to his next location and discovery was always seen as new. The power of the British Empire is never questioned even as the film tries to be progressive.

I didn’t like this film but I didn’t hate it either. This film was enjoyable and fine. I would also only recommend for people who are fans of Laika like myself and who want to keep the studio going. I don’t want stop-motion animation to become a thing of the past, and Laika Studios is still one of the best at it. I do wish this film had managed to stand more for something and hadn’t been problematic, but for a forgettable fun film, it was serviceable.

Final Score: 7 / 10

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12 Days of Doctors – The 1st Doctor – Season 1, Episode 1 – “An Unearthly Child” – An Okay Start

An Unearthly Child

“An Unearthly Child,” with William Hartnell is the first ever Doctor Who episode. The episode was broadcast on November 23rd, 1963. The writer for the episode was Anthony Coburn and Webber and the director was Waris Hussein. This was a big risk to take, no one had really done the concept of the time traveling man in a tv series before this. How does the episode hold up? Well I’ll get into that in the assessment.

“An Unearthly Child,” begins with two teachers Barbara and Ian worrying about their new pupil Susan who has been both super brilliant and in their minds oblivious on a lot of things. When they go to where she lives they find nothing there but eventually are drawn to a police box. From here they run into The Doctor her grandfather and the conflict unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: The idea – The idea is fantastic. A time traveling alien who looks like us visiting the present with his granddaughter. Why is he there? Why can’t he get home? These are the questions that are posed to us in the first episode as well as reveal how would a refugee alien interact with species that he is so much more advanced than technologically.

An Unearthly Child 13

The First Doctor – I like the First Doctor, you have a guy who tackles the world from a point of separation because for him most of this has already happened, not to mention he fears Susan getting hurt or people learning about who he is initially. It is only because of Susan that Ian and Barbara learn who he is and he deals with their denial of it (largely from Ian) for a good portion of the episode. I don’t know anyone who would willingly choose to put up with that. He is old but he is also childlike too, at one point he traps Ian and Barbara and when Susan says she will leave him with them…leaving him alone he turns on the T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) in order to run away from them revealing him to the world and running away from Susan leaving. This running is a major part of his character and why he wasn’t on Gallifrey in the first place. Hartnell is fantastic in the role.

TARDIS An Unearthly Child

The T.A.R.D.I.S. – Looks like a police box, inside is shows the larger interior of the space ship. It is a great introduction to this vehicle and we get to see it go back in time when the First Doctor runs away with them in it.

Okay/Con – The Companions – The teachers are concerned but are unable to accept the truth that is right in front of them, Susan is also pretty useless too. She is the innocent who must be protected and the one time she tries having agency leads to the Doctor running. Susan, Barbara and Ian are basically generic people in this…which is a shame since Susan is a Time Lord too, but we don’t really get that beyond her knowledge that she most likely got from the Doctor, making her no more than a generic human companion who those with agency (the Teachers and the Doctor) try to protect.

Execution – The teachers are stalking a student because they are worried, and Susan does not look 15. This would have worked much better at a British University or school where her disappearance tied to her age would be more noticed, or cast someone who looks like they are a teenager.

So, how is the first outing with the Doctor and our first time with the First Doctor? It is Okay. The T.A.R.D.I.S. and the Doctor are the best parts, but the script isn’t really elevated. I would have continued watching if I was watching it when it first aired cause I’d be curious where they were taken to and I would like to see more character development from the companions and learn more about the Doctor. I wish the Doctor had been introduced earlier in the episode, we don’t even meet him until it is already halfway though and Barbara and Ian cannot carry the script.

I recommend it because it is the first episode, but it is very average and forgettable. Going to give it an extra point because it does introduce us to the Doctor and the T.A.R.D.I.S. though.

Final score is 6 / 10.