‘Unicorn Wars’ overview: The Bears of War

Throughout the soon-to-be-over awards season, as Guillermo del Toro collected trophies for his mature reimagining of “Pinocchio,” the filmmaker repeatedly advocated for animation to cease being mistakenly designated as a style, when it’s actually a flexible medium efficient in telling tales of every kind and never solely family-oriented fare.

Exemplary proof of Del Toro’s pronouncement is “Unicorn Wars,” the hyper-grisly and philosophically wealthy second function from Spanish illustrator and animator Alberto Vázquez.

This blood-soaked fable stars a pack of rainbow-colored teddy bears waging carnage towards the unicorns that inhabit a divine forest — assume the Garden of Eden. But don’t be deceived by the cuddly exterior of the round-faced characters. They have interaction in graphic acts of violence, a drug-fueled descent into insanity, bear nudity and loads of verbal vitriol.

The dissonance between the lovable design of the anthropomorphic animals and the caustic harshness of their conduct has been Vázquez’s creative signature since his acclaimed quick movies and his debut function “Birdboy: The Forgotten Children.” But the intent of such marked distinction feels extra narratively formidable in “Unicorn Wars,” because it illustrates the atrocities of struggle, non secular indoctrination and the cyclical nature of battle.

Told in vibrant hand-drawn animation, the story begins in a navy camp the place bear troopers obtain bodily coaching, in addition to an ideological brainwashing by a priest who followers the flames of hatred. He cites a Bible-like holy textual content as motive to annihilate all unicorns, offered as darkish silhouetted creatures, and reclaim the woodland for all bear folks. Chanting the toxic slogan “good unicorn, dead unicorn,” the platoon of younger, cute, and underprepared fighters will quickly set out on a dangerous quest within the trenches.

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Among the recruits there are brothers Bluey (Jon Goirizelaia), a perverse and self-centered manipulator, and Tubby (Jaione Insausti), kindhearted and ultimately decided. They are Vazquez’s personal Cain and Abel. Early on, Bluey stands out for his unabashed malevolence and his abrasive, by-any-means need to develop into a revered, feared chief.

Flashbacks later reveal that his sadistic mistreatment of his solely sibling began throughout their time inside their mom’s womb. And as grownup Bluey’s festering envy escalates into murderous cruelty, so does his hellbent conviction to achieve energy. That Vazquez conceived the bellicose saga of brotherly discord from the standpoint of this villainous, although removed from simplistically rendered determine leads to a captivating, if unsettling research on the character of evil.

With clear references to animated predecessors together with “Watership Down,” Disney’s “Bambi,” the Care Bears and even environmentalist elements that invoke Hayao Miyazaki’s oeuvre, Vazquez goals for a visible and thematic dichotomy. Distinct coloration palettes and aesthetic decisions separate the bear and unicorn realms, with the previous displaying extra cartoonish sensibilities, whereas the opposite options extra practical depictions of the animal kingdom.

The combatants concerned on this ugly battle, made solely barely much less disturbing as a result of it‘s not live action, clearly symbolize the duality that torments the human condition. As much as we are prone to greed and resentment, we can also choose to surrender to our better instincts.

An inspired antiwar epic that recently won the Goya Award (Spain’s equal to an Oscar) for animated movie, Vazquez’s sophomore nightmarish fairy story culminates with frighteningly revelatory imagery signaling the sample of destruction that has characterised human historical past.

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Even this early within the yr, it appears unfathomable that one other launch might dethrone “Unicorn Wars” as probably the most uncompromisingly audacious animated movie of 2023.

‘Unicorn Wars’

In Spanish with English subtitles

Not Rated

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Alamo Drafthouse, downtown Los Angeles