LAVA (2019) Reviews of animated Argentinian sci-fi

 

Lava is a 2019 Argentinian animated science-fiction feature film about mind-control via mobile phones and an invasion of giant alien cats.

Directed by Ayar Blasco from a script co-written with Nicolás Britos and Salvador Sanz.

Featured guest review:

Can a lonely tattoo artist with self-esteem issues save the world from an invasion of giant alien cats? That’s just one of the questions posed by Lava, a new animated science fiction film from Argentina. Director Ayar Blasco (El Sol) along with co-writers Nicolás Britos (Dead Man Tells His Own Tale) and Salvador Sanz (Necronomicón) also have concerns about relationships, the media and life in the internet age. But really, who cares about that when cats and tattoos are involved?

Débora (Janeane Garofalo, Mystery Men, Ratatouille) has just sat down to watch the season finale of ‘Gain of Clones’ with friends Lazaro and Nadia as well as Samuel who they’re trying to hook her up with. Suddenly the screen becomes a mass of static. Rebooting, (they’re watching a torrented file), doesn’t help. Then the static is replaced by strange images which appear on their phones as well.

Although the leads aren’t affected, others report having no memory of the two minutes when this happened. People shrug it off until later that night when the giant cats appear, silently watching from the tops of buildings. It’s an invasion, but by who? And what do they want?

Lava actually isn’t as concerned with the invasion itself as with what surrounds it and people’s reactions to it. The effect of the media and our electronically connected lifestyles are the film’s main target. Knowing how much time humans spend staring at their electronics the aliens use them to leave us literally rather than figuratively hypnotized by the screens.

There is a resistance manual, in the form of a comic named ‘Lava’. Why a comic? Maybe because both Blasco and Sanz are comic artists as well as animators. It even comes with a mail-in coupon for a rifle to fight the invaders with. Beats the X-Ray Glasses and Sea Monkeys they had ads for back when I read them.

Débora’s rather toxic relationship with Edgar and his connection to the aliens is another of Lava’s running themes. As are relationships and sexual orientation for that matter. The problem is, the plot is so thin at times it’s easy to lose track of these things. It often feels like a bare framework to hang individual scenes on. This isn’t helped by having several characters show up just long enough to tell a joke or drop a bit of information before exiting the film.

Speaking of characters, I have to wonder what the f*ck was up with Lava’s one Asian character. She’s drawn with hyper slanted eyes and buck teeth like something from a World War II propaganda cartoon. She also jumps around like a character in a wire-fu Chinese martial arts film. I want to believe this has some other meaning in the film’s homeland and it was lost in translation. As it stands though, it feels like overt racism.

Unlike the last animated sci-fi film I reviewed, To Your Last Death, Lava does feature full animation. It’s a somewhat simplistic 2D style, which apparently is the same as Blasco’s drawings. It gets the point across and it fits the story in a way glossy computer-enhanced animation wouldn’t [read more].

Jim Morazzini, Voices from the Balcony

Other reviews:

“At just over an hour-long, this quirky little movie manages to poke fun at itself, people’s overreliance upon technology, disengagement from technology, and both the continued acceptance and modern abandonment of traditional gender roles.  Moreover, it does so while quietly emphasizing the importance of these social issues.” Another Anime Review

“Attempting “what if phones but too much” commentary, end of the world drama, and zine culture revivals (which seems to be having a moment, between this and Moxie) muddies the waters. I think there’s an interesting story here. But it needs to be refined a bit before it can really come into its own.” Bubble Blabber

“It seems like a simple hour-long pet project. Something that’s deeply emotional, satisfying and wonderful to its creators but simply not connectable enough for others to invest in. I’m sure many will like it, it has many good points, but its uniqueness is only equal to its ability to disappoint.” Lost Woods

“It’s certainly not for everyone, but people who love this style, or at least grew up around it, will find something to enjoy. That’s actually a similar conclusion I arrived to with a movie called Unicorn Store, but its feel was more 2000s to mid-2010s quirky/indie. Just wanted to throw that comparison out there because the return to simplicity, in any and all aspects right now, is a welcome one.” Why We Watch

Release:

Rock Salt Releasing will release Lava onto various digital streaming platforms on March 15th 2021 in both English and Spanish. You can check their website for more information.

Trailer: