Movie Review – Missing Link
This is the fifth film from the movie company known as Laika. It is the second of those five to be directed by Chris Butler, an English storyboard artist and designer who was nominated for an Oscar for his debut feature ParaNorman (2012). Laika specializes in stop-motion animation, which is a long and painstaking technique that can take about five years or longer just to complete one film. The level of craftsmanship and detail that Laika puts into their works is incredible and very beautiful. That can’t be disputed and the fact that all of its previous works have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature is no wonder. Laika’s last film, Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) even got an additional nomination for Best Visual Effects, which was again well deserved due to the technicality and craftsmanship involved.
None of Laika’s features have ever won, and I think a reason why is that beyond the craftsmanship, Laika’s films haven’t been as emotionally well-crafted or as emotionally wrenching as Pixar’s films, for example. Laika’s films never really pull at my heartstrings as much or as hard as Pixar’s films do and even as much as Disney’s films do. That kind of sentimentality might not be Laika’s aim, but it is effective. While I did enjoy Butler’s last film, I struggle to remember ParaNorman, whereas I still have vivid memories of Brave (2012), which was the Pixar film that won that year. I also have more affection for the characters and the relationship at the center of Wreck-It Ralph (2012), which was the Disney film that year.
This film I feel suffers from that same problem. It’s technically well-crafted and in various ways a visual feast with interesting character designs, good use of colors and movement, but I was rather bored through most of it. The visual effects aren’t as stunning here as they were for Kubo and the Two Strings or even Laika’s debut feature, Coraline (2009). The effects were fine, but I wasn’t that dazzled. The film is buttressed with a very good opening action sequence and a very good closing, action sequence that both get the adrenaline pumping. The type of stunt or gag in that closing, action sequence isn’t new or clever, but it again gets the adrenaline pumping in a way that everything leading up to it or in the middle of this narrative doesn’t.
Hugh Jackman (Logan and The Greatest Showman) stars as Sir Lionel Frost, an explorer living in perhaps the mid to late 19th century, maybe early 20th century. He seems to investigate mythical creatures or legends, mainly to prove them real. He starts out in this film attempting to prove the Loch Ness Monster is real. He seems like a version of the protagonist in The Lost City of Z (2017), mixed with that of Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), as well as a little of Fox Mulder from the TV series The X-Files.
Like with The Lost City of Z, Lionel is trying to prove himself to a society of men who claim to have a high social status because of their so-called accomplishments or simply because their men with guns and a snobbish sense of education. The comparisons to Indiana Jones are a bit obvious, but the closing, action sequence is what drew the most comparisons, but not to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the comparisons are to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), particularly comparisons to the famous rope bridge scene in that Spielberg hit. The links to The X-Files are simply that Lionel is a kind of predecessor to Fox Mulder in his pursuit of mythical creatures or legends, as if they’re real.
Zach Galifianakis (Birdman and The Hangover) co-stars as Susan, one of the mythical creatures or legends that Lionel is searching for. Susan is what’s known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch, an ape-like man. Sasquatch is believed to be the “missing link.” According to some theories of evolution, human beings are descended from apes, but examination of the physical evidence has come up with a gap that can’t quite connect humans and apes as descendants beyond a shadow of a doubt. Finding such evidence, meaning someone like Susan or the corpse or bones of someone like Susan would help. However, Susan is the last of his kind, living in the American northwest, and wants to find other Sasquatch or other beings like him.
Susan gets Lionel to help him. Susan thinks that there other Sasquatch, known as yeti, living in the Himalayan mountains. Susan wants Lionel to help him get there, to help him journey half-way across the globe. One of the Lords of the society that Lionel was petitioning doesn’t believe that Sasquatch is real. The Lord doesn’t want to believe it’s real because he doesn’t want to believe in the theory of evolution. He doesn’t seem to object on religious grounds, which would be the obvious and common reason why. Instead, the Lord makes it more about pride and a general sense of superiority.
It’s not as if Butler’s script is devoid of religious or even Biblical references. Lionel, in part, quotes the Bible and its famous line from Proverbs 16:18. However, it’s a line directed at the character whose religiosity isn’t in question. The line instead should have been directed at the Lord, but it isn’t. I suppose that the line is actually supposed to be a reflection of Lionel’s own pride or his desire to associate himself with people who are so prideful that it makes them ignorant and harbor supremacist attitudes.
Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy and Avatar) also co-stars as Adelina. She’s a feisty and colorful character. Yet, her only purpose is to tell Lionel how he needs to change. She’s featured a lot more here than Zendaya who was the main female character in Smallfoot (2018), but that’s not saying much.
Smallfoot is the animated film from Warner Bros. that came out last year, which also is about a Sasquatch and a tribe of yeti. The main female character in that wasn’t featured as much as Adelina. Yet, the main female character in Smallfoot had a more impactful role than Adelina does here. I guess we should be grateful that Adelina gets to shoot a gun and be a strong, independent, female character that doesn’t need a man, even romantically. But still I wasn’t that impressed by her.
Rated PG for action/peril and some mild rude humor.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.