Mune: Guardian of the Moon
Alexandre Heboyan, Benoît Philippon (directors), Isabelle Malenfant (editor)
Jérôme Fansten, Benoît Philippon (writers)
Omar Sy, Izïa Higelin, Michaël Grégorio (cast)
Released October 14, 2015 (France), September 26, 2017, streaming and DVD (US)
Mune: Guardian of the Moon is a very pretty film, one that builds a sumptuous world that wears it influences–Ghibli and Laika–proudly. This French production was actually released almost three years ago, but has finally reached North America with this GKIDS dub, which had a one day release in cinemas earlier this month and finds its way to home video on September 26, 2017.
Directed by Alexandre Heboyan and Benoît Philippon, Mune: Guardian of the Moon tells the story of a young faun who inadvertently becomes guardian of, you guessed it, the moon. Mune’s naiveté and lack of care quickly put both the moon and sun at risk, and he must team up with the protector of the sun and a young girl made of wax to save the day.
If Mune sounds slightly convoluted it’s because it is. It never truly settles into its own invented mythology and quickly getting lost under the weight of its own aspirations. Writers Jérôme Fansten and Benoît Philippon set themselves the mammoth task of inventing an entire world worth of folklore and myth, and sadly, it never quite sticks. The characters who reside in the world of the film never quite live up to their incredible surroundings. Despite being set in an outlandish fantasy world, one of the film’s biggest weaknesses is that it’s still just a reworking of one of cinema’s most over used tropes: The Chosen One.
Even though Mune is a beautifully rendered computer generated faun, he could just as easily be Harry Potter, Neo, or Luke Skywalker, a young male-coded character who after years of being normal is reluctantly flung into the spotlight as the most special person alive. This is ultimately where Mune fails; even with its gorgeous, dynamic, and visually unique setting, the film can never quite escape its unoriginal core story.
Where Mune: Guardian of the Moon succeeds is as an experiment in pushing the boundaries of cinematic animation. The flawless combination of hand drawn aesthetic and digital animation lifts this film above its basic story and creates something visually stunning, with the animators creating some honestly astounding moments–the introduction of the villain Neccros and his two glowing white snakes that slither around him as he preens and poses. Or the vast expansive universe which the movie inhabits, one that often feels more alive than the characters themselves.
Though the visual world of Mune is truly lovely, it never quite becomes the engaging and fun story that it’s aesthetic promises. Writer Benoît Philippon has been open about his array of influences for the movie. From the abstract eclectic sci-fi of Terry Gilliam to Burton’s Edward Scissorhands through the big personalities of Toy Story‘s cast, Philippon cites all of these as touchstones for the movie, which is maybe why Mune: Guardian of the Moon never truly finds its own way.
The world of Mune is expansive and energetic, detailed and full of depth. It’s a safe and sweet movie which may stall when the story slows but never stops being a joy to the eyes.