Beyond Beyond (2014) Review

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To Infinity and Infinity

Beyond Beyond (Resan till Fjäderkungens Rike) (2014): 5 out of 10: A young rabbit searches for his mother in an attempt to reunite his family after she is taken by the Feather King.

The Good

The Good: First, this is a beautifully animated film. Especially for one that is going on ten years old. I watched the animated dub and some of the voice work, particularly Patrick Warburton as the Feather King, and Emily Deschanel as a frog ship captain, were excellent.

The Bad

The Bad: I am not into trigger warnings, but the mother bunny starts coughing a lot a few minutes in. Yup, we are very much in Pixar’s Up territory here. Alas, just not as well done.

Quick aside. As my wife Sherrie was dying of incurable ovarian cancer, we tried to pick films that would get her mind off of it. Sherrie liked light hearted Bollywood musicals, and I found one streaming called Love Mocktail that seemed to fit the bill to a T. The movie is 147 minutes long and for the first two hours it is exactly the light musical comedy one would expect. What one wouldn’t expect is that after two hours, the female love interest now wife develops ovarian cancer, undergoes chemotherapy and dies. Yeah.

As I also lost my mother to cancer at the tender age of nine, so films where the mother dies and the son and father are let to fend for themselves are not always my cup of tea. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes I really like them. The Bruce Willis vehicle The Kid gets my waterworks going on every viewing and is one of my favorite movies.

On one level, what Beyond Beyond does is somewhat clever. Parents will immediately know what happened to the coughing mother bunny while the film is ambiguous enough (She is literally snatched by a giant bird) that kids may not pick up right away on the subtleness. This parallels the understanding of the father bunny character and the child bunny character in the film.

Or it would have had the father not immediately whisked the boy away from his home to hide out on a boat on the ocean because The Feather King was coming for them as well. (The Feather King is allergic to water. That is why they are on a boat. But he does fly, so perhaps a carrot shaped submarine would have been wiser.) These actions plus the father’s refusal to explain death to his son makes the boy’s actions less grief fueled imagination and more a perfectly reasonable response to the surrounding adults.

Speaking of perfectly reasonable. There is a sea dog named Bill (One of a handful on non-rabbit characters running this version of heaven (or perhaps limbo? purgatory?) including The Frog Captain (Charon), The Feather King (Death), and a Lovecraftian Cthulhu tentacled monster named Mora (God))

Bill is the caretaker and general contractor for the place. He is not dead himself, going back and forth through a literal stairway from heaven. (Or Jacob’s Ladder to be more exact). Bill has no time for the rabbits in heaven (One of whom rudely and inaccurately calls him the janitor). He thinks they mindlessly follow the rules of their tentacled god and refuse to have any fun. (A complaint I have had during the Church of Dagon’s annual orgy and human sacrifice in Providence.)

And here the story runs into another snag. Bill is supposed to represent some sort of disturbing force or runaway id. He is portrayed as being incredibly self-centered. And yet Bill is completely right. The rabbits are all incredibly boring, leading meaningless lives (deaths?), and they are mindlessly following the rules of a higher power who has not exactly made his tentacled case.

So between a father acting as if the Feather King is not a harbinger of death but rather a creature one can escape from, and the Seadog Bill, who can break all the rules, thinking the rules should not apply. It is not only children who are apt to be confused.

The Ugly

The Ugly: The poster for the American version of this film is both ugly and really horrifying misleading. First, it gives no hint that you are in store for some beautiful animation (The poster looks like something for a 90s film about an all animal clown college). It also gives no hint you are about to watch a Scandinavian mediation on the afterlife. Think of the everyone smiling on the poster of My Sister’s Keeper (A film about harvesting organs from children) or even more on point The Secret of NIMH with its animated smiling mice family. (The secret turns out to be vivisection and genetic testing by the titular National Institute of Mental Health).

Also, our rabbits are apparently master level free divers. Think Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. While some rabbits do occasionally swim when to avoid predators, I feel a little like Mike Nelson watching Pumaman. “You know, I hate to be picky, but pumas aren’t really known for flying.”

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: Beyond Beyond is a beautiful animated film with excellent voice acting. The story, however, doesn’t really add up, particularly for such a sensitive subject. Add in some really terrible songs, some physical anomalies (apparently juvenile rabbits can hold their breath for a very long time and are super strong), and that one of the voice actors has changed his (it’s?) name to Evantubehd after I am assuming his YouTube channel? (Are there any now unemployed actors named Chrismyspace or Carolfriendster?). I am giving Beyond Beyond a skip recommendation.

Leaving your son, who just lost his mother and is currently afraid of a killer bird, alone on a rust bucket boat by himself while you run errands a few days away? Father of the year material here, people.
Well, you put a nine-year-old in charge of the boat. What did you expect to happen?
Writing notes and putting them in bottles is a major plot point/theme.
Theophrastus would approve.
Deep Dive Bunny.
I mean, you are what, 200 yards under water in a death grip of Cthulhu? Thank God a juvenile bunny is there to help.
This is not a one off. The bunny is constantly going all The Big Blue throughout the film.
As incredible as the animation is, this one bunny’s teeth is creeping me out a smidge.
Patrick Warburton has made quite a career playing giant blue characters.
Seadog Bill trying to recruit a band.
The songs in Beyond Beyond are children’s movie awful but the jazz band is okay.
The city of the dead reminds me (in a nice way) of Sardinia or Lesbos but with bunnies.
Or perhaps the Kowloon Walled City recently featured in the video game Stray. A game about a cat that Kotaku accused of orientalism because the robots wore conical rice hats. (Also claiming the game about where you play a stray cat interacting with robots didn’t properly address the historical wrongs of the historic slum. Which I note no longer exists.) You can’t make this up.
You know when I saw this ball turret on the paddle boat (Or ferry cause she is literally the ferrywoman) I thought what a great idea. Why don’t more ships use this? It took me a while to realise she can’t see other most other ships or the weather from under the boat. Still less likely to ground.
Water effects are often hard to do in animation. Beyond Beyond has a lot of water effects and never misses.
Despite a very Scandinavian story, I can see why producers in other countries were so quick to localize it.
Beyond Beyond is gorgeous.
In most movies, this is a scene that would not end well.
Yeah, nightmares incoming for the little ones.
Seriously, this is something right out of a SyFy movie except with better graphics.
A Stairway from Heaven or Jacob’s Ladder? Either way, Cthulhu over here is not having it.
I am still unclear how newcomer bunny mom scored this house out of The Shire while the rest of the bunnies are stuck in public housing. Plus, why are they not in burrows? Is the lack of predators? Cause there is a big tentacled monster living nearby.
Never let Rowlf the Dog steer your ship is one of the lessons I got from Beyond Beyond.
Beyond Beyond is beautiful. Alas, the story heads towards the rocks.
You know, with all the children’s media, from books to film to fairy tales focusing on the death of a parent. I am surprised more children naturally don’t assume they will be orphans by thirteen.
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