Fantastically odd

Read any of the online reviews of Fantastic Planet and you’ll start to think it’s necessary to be stoned in order to enjoy it.

Read any of the online reviews of Fantastic Planet and you’ll start to think it’s necessary to be stoned in order to enjoy it.

Not so. It is certainly strange and unusual, especially in an era of sugary Disney-style cartoons. But it’s also thought provoking and visually amazing.

True, the animation is not up to today’s standards, but for the ’70s, it was cutting edge. Each frame is hand drawn and colored, a true work of great art. Well, at least it is if you’re into paintings of blue fish people with red eyes.

The film opens with gigantic Traags (the name of the blue fish people in question) “playing” with a tiny human woman and her baby. When their play gets too rough and the woman dies, the baby is adopted as a pet by a Traag girl who takes him home and fits him with a collar that can control him remotely.

He grows up undertaking her schooling along with her, and eventually learns enough to know that he needs to escape and take the knowledge to the savage Oms, as humans are referred to in the film.

The tribe leader doesn’t trust the newcomer, Terr, and wants to ban the shared lessons, saying they don’t need Traag learning.

The Oms eventually decide to run away to an abandoned Traag rocket-making factory where they use their newly acquired knowledge to build a machine that will shrink the rockets to Om dimensions. The Oms plan to use the rockets to find the fabled “Fantastic Planet” where they will be allowed to live in peace instead of being pets of the Traag.

In the end they find the planet, but in doing so, also find the bizarre mating arena of the Traag. They disrupt the mating rituals, leaving the Traag unable to function. 

This film is supposedly an allegory for the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, but its fantastic oddity is more than that. It comments on how humans treat other living beings as well as each other, shows us that knowledge is power and even gives an alternative view of the creation of earth.

Although it drags in places, the film is not too bad overall and warrants at least one viewing even if you’re not stoned. Fantastic Planet is presented in French with English subtitles, which are very hard to read at times. 

But if you want the English version, or just can’t make it to the theater this weekend, you can also watch it on YouTube for free. Not a bad portal for a film whose premise seems to be that knowledge is power and should be distributed evenly to all.