J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Ithaca Fantastik ’16: Nova Seed

In ancient Rome, the Christians were thrown to the lions. In this Romanesque future, the lion will be thrown to the kaiju. Technically, he is not a lion. He is a NAC (neo-animal combatant). Whatever you call him, he is not inclined to be cooperative, but he just might save the day anyway in Nick DiLiberto’s Nova Seed (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Ithaca Fantastik film festival.

Initially, it is not clear the giant lion will be our protagonist. He seems to be the beast a human gladiator is forced to combat, which indeed he is. The two-legged tool puts up a good fight, but he is no match for the NAC. Having proved himself in combat, the enhanced lion is shipped off to serve as humanity’s reluctant champion. The plan is to have him battle the evil Dr. Mindskull and his kaiju minions. The NAC must also pry loose the cosmic being known as the Nova Seed from the clutches of Mindskull, who has harnessed her powers of creation and destruction.

Understandably resentful of the shabby treatment he has received, the NAC goes rogue at the first opportunity (about five minutes after landing on the planet). However, he still stops to liberate the Nova Seed, out of a shared sense of underdog solidarity. At that point, the chase is on.

Although clocking in just over an hour, Nova Seed does not skimp on the action. It is pretty much pedal to the metal, just from the start. In terms of style and aesthetics, it is sort of a cross between ThunderCats and the original Heavy Metal, but DiLiberto and his co-screenwriter brother Joe toss in some intriguing world-building details for good measure.

In all honesty, Nova Seed totally shows up Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, for being excessively twee and insufficiently ambitious. Both films use deliberately simple styles of animation for effect, but Shaw’s film just ambles around like cartoon mumblecore, whereas Nova Seed has story and attitude coming out of its snout. Recommended for nostalgic animation fans, Nova Seed screens Friday afternoon (11/11), as part of this year’s Ithaca Fantastik.

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