The Breath of Life could use some more life in its animation.
Published on January 20, 2023
Rating 2 /5
The Breath of Life makes an apt choice in placing the most honest tagline for the poster: 2D Animation Made By 2 People. So before even criticizing the movie, the marketing makes it clear that this is a highly independent work by a very small team. In one respect, it’s fascinating to see how far animation technology has come to allow for any type of story to be made by anybody with enough time and ambition. So this was clearly a passion project assembled by people who deeply love a fantasy film they wanted to make themselves.
That being said, it’s hard to coast on that admiration when this two-hour fantasy spends so much time spinning its wooden wheels. There was a lot of lore in this picture (too much, even). Taking place in a land of magical kingdoms, the story follows Mila, an orphan who is continuously haunted in her dreams by the death of her parents. Before their passing, Mila’s parents gifted her a magical artifact known as the Wheel of Life, which is said to bring balance to the world of magic. And it’s a world currently at war as different magic types battle each other for domination over the land. She may be the only hope of stopping the evil Gorday, leader of the Magi of Passion nation. She also gets help from the young, talented, devious mage Varlahm.
While a lot is going on in this story of warring kingdoms, magical items, mages, and all manner of politics, this is a film that rarely lets you drink in its world. You’ll spend too much time just trying to decipher its mapped regions, government entities, royal titles, conspiring characters, and various legends. While that might be fun for a few minutes, there comes the point in the film where you can tell the majority of the scenes will just be characters standing around spouting exposition. And not even good exposition. It’s the boring kind that lacks any personality or charm, where amateur voice actors struggle to communicate emotion in these dead-eyed characters.
The animation is also a severely mixed bag. The style relies on warping character 2D character models, similar to the effects of motion comics and the animated TV series Tigtone. It’s worth noting that Tigtone also takes place in a fantasy setting but was far more hilarious because of the pacing and absurdity placed in the many visuals. By comparison, The Breath of Life is, well, lifeless. There are very few moments where the characters express genuine emotions that don’t feel stony in the movie’s attempt to replicate fantasy artwork. And suppose you’re going to spend two hours where the bulk of the scenes are just characters talking endlessly about the intricacies of their fantasy world, like some boredom-inducing PTA meeting. In that case, it’s not a good look to have characters who look and move stiffly.
The Breath of Life could use some more life in its animation. Devoid of dazzling moments or compelling character drama, this was a real slog of a picture to sit through, where the allure of independent animation wears off fast. When even the conspiring thief who dances in gold feels like he’s only phoning it in, there’s very little to care about in this fantastical world that spends way more time talking about its wonder than ever showing it to the audience.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.