A feature version of Genndy Tartakovsky’s cult animation could provide colour reinvigoration for an increasingly grey movie genre.
Has anybody noticed how very grey sci-fi has become lately? “Grey” is an apt word here. It not only describes the genre’s increasingly plain storytelling, but more literally, its bland colour palette. Just to clarify, we’re not talking more human sci-fi dramas here (Gravity, Robot and Frank) – we are talking classic sci-fi/action/adventure. At least Hollywood can be commended for its consistency, the general consensus for most releases being a half-hearted, “Yeah, that was cool”. The sci-fi genre has become a great platform for turning your brain off and letting pointless action unfold before you.
The only reprieve we get from sci-fi’s greyness is in explosive action sequences, treating our eyes to the red corner of the colour wheel
By this point, however, over a century after Georges Méliès introduced us to out-of-this-world spectacle, you would have thought filmmakers would want to inject a bit more colour into their movies. Not a tall order given the armies of visual effects artists at their disposal and the whole universe to play with. Instead, as mentioned, we get greys – grey suits, grey aliens, grey spaceships, and so on, merged tiresomely with saturated browns. The only reprieve is an occasional establishing shot of planetary foliage and of course the explosive action sequences that treat our eyes to the red corner of the colour wheel.
Hollywood producers must have noticed early on how easily people mistake ‘visually stunning’ for ‘visually safe’, the same imagery being thrown at us for years now. Like moths to flame we are drawn to the black and neon blue. Fear not, however – there are always hidden possibilities just waiting to be tapped into and pasted onto our movie screens in colourful arrays of magnificence. Enter Samurai Jack. The Cartoon Network fantasy that ended nearly ten years ago without any sign of resolution could quite easily be the reinvigoration the sci-fi genre needs and, to put it bluntly, one hell of a film.
The world has been deprived of a conclusion to the epic tale of a time-misplaced samurai for too long. Now, more than ever, it’s time to unleash it in all its glory and force people to remember how great science fiction can be. If you never came across this piece of cartoon history then you’re probably one of the few who can’t understand what’s so important about artistry within a genre that has infinite play space. Samurai Jack was, basically, the greatest cartoon ever. Because it was so much more than that. Each episode was a condensed feature. In regards to tension, impact, and cinematography, it utilised everything a great action film would, all within its half-hour scope, allowing it to extend its substance beyond any other cartoon around.
If you never came across Samurai Jack then you probably can’t understand what’s so important about artistry within a genre that has infinite play space
In fact, any of the heavy hitter TV successes of today would be hard pressed to match Samurai Jack’s cinematic prowess. It was built on a foundation of impeccable visuals where archaic mysticism battled it out before the backdrop of a futuristic dystopia. If you took the imagery of Blade Runner and added it to a Frank Miller comic, then multiplied them both by a Hokusai painting, then you might just about match the beauty of Samurai Jack. It then becomes a simple case of combining the best combat moments from Dragon Ball Z, The Matrix and 300, and then dividing it all with long takes and hard/soft juxtaposition to elicit the perfect blend of tension and audience investment.
A Samurai Jack movie, if done correctly, could blow any sci-fi feature out the water in an array of epic colour. There have been murmurs of a feature film for years now, with Genndy Tartakovsky, the series creator, in particular still pushing hard for a 2D animated realisation. But with great power comes great responsibility. Given the droll state of science fiction, for Samurai Jack not to realise its live-action potential, spear-headed by a game by Tartakovsky and art directors Scott Wills and Dan Krall, one would almost lose hope of the genre ever pulling out of its grey slump. But if it does, expect it to be half as beautiful as it could be.
All images: Cartoon Network