Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues
Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues 2016
There’s a few reasons why I haven’t covered any motion comics on this site before now. The biggest reason is that every motion comic that I’ve looked into is presented more like a TV season, with each issue of the comic that it’s adapting is its own episode and there tends to be a half dozen to a dozen episodes. Queen of Plagues is presented as a single movie that runs just over an hour, but the animation style is still much more like the typical motion comic style where the comic book art is translated almost exactly to screen with only minor changes to remove text boxes and animation based on moving and stretching the original art elements. While the voice work and animation – specifically the lip synch – fall in line with my limited experience with motion comics, it is much better than some of the lower budget ones that I’ve heard about with only a single voice actor and no lip synch animation at all. The film itself was a nice story even though it took a little while to get going.
Compared to traditional animation, the limited style of a motion comic does take a little while to get used to, but at the same time, this is literally one of the only ways to truly bring a comic book to life. The animation starts out with the original artwork, reframes it to fit the screen, and breaks it apart into pieces that can move. There are pros and cons to this style of animation, the biggest con is that there are limitations based on what artwork there was to begin with. Scenes with large amounts of dialogue and few panels can feel static, especially if it’s supposed to be an action scene. This particular movie doesn’t have that problem often, there are only a couple instances where the dialogue outpaced the artwork which resulted in the two characters essentially bouncing off of each other in a repetitive cycle. The lip sync and facial animation are also quite simplified, with only minor changes typically created by stretching and squishing facial features. Other movement is also quite flat, without any rotation, merely shifting or rotating the flat artwork. It’s passable, but still a far cry from even lower budget animation. There’s also panels that have less detail but are still recreated exactly, without any additional detail. Again, it works well to see the comic quite literally come to life, but it takes a little getting used to.
The actual plot of the film involves a nation beset by a plague and an invasion as well as flashbacks to a couple different moments in Sonja’s life; her rescue from gladiatorial slavery by the king of this nation, and her childhood where we see the origin of the she-devil. It initially seems like one of those stories where it’s the ragtag army of women, children, and the king against the insurmountable odds of an army of merpeople. But there are some twists and turns especially in the latter half of the story, and it weaves quite well with Sonja’s flashbacks to both her time in slavery where she fought side by side with the woman who is now the general of the opposing army and also fraught with the ghosts of her past. Sonja as a character has a great mix of humor and badassery, but there are also a couple secondary characters who actually go on an impressive character arc. Ayla and Nias start the movie as unsure rabbit hunters unable to fire upon a group of marauders and end the film as capable warriors in their own right and it never feels unbelievable based on what happens throughout the movie.
As far as the voice acting is concerned, there aren’t any major players like there tends to be in many DC Animated features, but Misty Lee takes the lead as Red Sonja and is a veteran voice actor in her own right. She pretty much nails the character in both her fierce warrior moments as well as some of the more vulnerable scenes. Shannon Kingston also does well as the twins with the character arc, she plays them both similarly but with notable differences. The rest of the cast is quite passable, but nobody else really stands out one way or another. When the twists towards the end started happening, they were surprising, but they also ultimately made sense within the entire narrative and tied together with the flashbacks quite nicely as well.
When I started this movie, my only point of reference for Red Sonja was the 80’s movie with Brigitte Nielson and this was a nice step up from that movie. It’s nice that it includes so many strong female characters without ever sexualizing them. Yes, Red Sonja does have a few moments in a chain mail bikini, but the focus is always on her as a whole rather than any of her assets. The villains in the movie are also given mostly sympathetic motivations for their actions as they are doing what they feel is right at the time rather than just acting evil for evil’s sake with only a couple exceptions, though they both play generally minor roles in the grand scheme of the story. I wasn’t quite sure how I would respond to this film before watching it, but aside from the understandably limited animation, once the story started rolling, I quite enjoyed it and by the end I was really taken by the story and invested in the characters. I hope this was a big enough success for Shout Factory to continue making these motion comic movies, or even for longer series, but time will tell. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.