Retrograde is an animated science fiction short film. It explores the relationship between two life forms left alone on a space station in an emergency evacuation. Having missed the last escape pods to the planet's surface, the two characters must take action to modify their fate in this life and death situation. The short is a stop motion film, animated with characters made with armature bodies and hand-drawn replacement faces.
I do love a good stop-motion animation, whether it is on a city-wide scale of Big Bang Boom or the smaller but emotional scale of Address is Approximate. In this case we have a stop-motion but created like a cross of a film-set and a comic book as it has elements of both in the aesthetic. The plot sees two characters left behind on a space station which has been otherwise wholly evacuated as everyone else has fled to the colony on the surface of Uranus (no, really) and has left the space station to serve as a physical barrier between the colony and an incoming asteroid.
To speak of content first, I didn't find the short as smart or as funny as I would have liked. There are elements of Adult Swim in the look and content of the film – with visual and comedy reminders of Sealab and Aqua Teen Hunger Force in there. It has a silly edge to it but there is not enough sharpness to the writing and it seems to take too long to make the jokes, with a few of them not really working when they get there. It is still amusing as a comedy, but not to the extent I was hoping for. Fortunately this aspect of the film is by far a distance second place on the list of reasons to watch this film – the animation.
It took me a minute to understand what I was watching because the characters faces seem animated but the rest of the world seemed to be real. The space station itself is a thing of beauty, done in the style of a luxury apartment, it is plush and full of art and comfort rather than the cold metal emptiness of a more cynical design. It not only looks great but it is meticulously made, with so many little touches in the detail that you'll want to watch it again just for that – for the individual books on bookcases, but really cool pieces of artwork on the walls – things like this. It being "real" also adds to the appeal and it is filmed and lit really effectively.
It is a shame that the material is never as strong as the animation, but like I said it is still amusing with a few good chuckles along the way – but to be honest it is a film I have more than happily watched twice already simply because of how impressive the miniature set design is and how fluid and smooth the stop-motion animation is. 7cb1d79195
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