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Archetypal Meets Extra-Terrestrial
on December 19, 2008
Many will complain about the lack of originality in "Delgo." Indeed, it's an archetypal fantasy story about a young, reckless hero, a wise elder, a damsel in distress, a wicked conqueror, and above all, a battle between good and evil. The only thing about this film that's original is the look, with typically medieval settings pushed aside in favor of a completely fictional, computer-generated alien planet called Jhamora. The characters are anything but human; they're divided into the amphibious Lokni people, the winged Nohrins, and an assortment of other strange beings that would pass for animals on our world. The pallet reminded me of the colors you'd see swirling on the surface of a soap bubble, bold shades of purple and green and blue with hints of red and orange. The visuals of this movie are so thoroughly extra-terrestrial that I find it hard to criticize them. I thought they were great to look at.
As for the story, yes, it follows a very well established formula to a tee. But did anyone complain about the lack of originality in "Star Wars," which was also about a young, reckless hero, a wise elder, and everything else I listed earlier? What about the "Lord of the Rings" saga? Or "The Chronicles of Narnia"? Or "Beowulf"? Poking holes in an archetypal story is pointless, in my opinion. If you don't agree, then you probably never liked such stories to begin with. All I know is that "Delgo" achieves exactly what it wanted to achieve, and because of that, I was able to look past its shortcomings and just enjoy it for what it was. The only thing I wondered about was how long ago it was made; it features a vocal performance by Anne Bancroft, who died in 2005. It seems a little odd that this movie was delayed for so long.
The setup: Long ago, when Nohirn lands became inhospitable, King Zahn (voiced by Louis Gossett, Jr.) made an agreement to share land with the Loknis. It wasn't long before tensions grew, the Nohrins claiming more land than was necessary. Then Zahn's power-hungry sister, Sedessa (voiced by Bancroft), launched an unnecessary attack against the Loknis, many of which were slaughtered. She then planned the murder of Zahn, his wife, and his infant daughter; she was caught before she could finish the job, which led to her being banished and having her wings cut off. The Loknis and the Nohrins formed a very shaky truce after that, forming a border that neither species is allowed to cross over.
The story proper: We meet a teenage Lokni named Delgo (voiced by Freddy Prinze, Jr.), whose parents died when Sedessa attacked his village many years ago. Ever since then, he's been living with Elder Marley (voiced by Michael Clark Duncan), a Zen-like master with mystical powers whose speaks almost entirely in proverbs. As hard as he tries to train Delgo with mind exercises, Delgo is stubborn, careless, and intolerant of the Nohrins. One day, while spending time near the border, he meets the headstrong Princess Kyla (voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt). While there's an immediate attraction, there's also hostility, and it's made worse when Kyla's escorts--Raius (voiced by Malcolm McDowell) and Bogardus (voiced by Val Kilmer), both in Zahn's army--attack Delgo for making a wrong move.
Raius is secretly in cahoots with Sedessa, who's plotting to steal the throne away from her brother. This involves kidnapping Kyla and blaming Delgo for it, which in turn will start a war between the Nohrins and the Loknis. In order to save both Kyla and their peoples, Delgo and Bogardus reluctantly form an alliance; hopefully, they can put aside their differences long enough to stop Sedessa and prevent Zahn from launching the first attack.
No archetypal story would be complete without some comedy relief. On the Lokni side, there's Delgo's best friend, Filo (voiced by Chris Kattan), who sounds like a tweaker on a bad amphetamine high. On the Nohrin side, there's Sedessa's servant, Spig (voiced by Eric Idle), a bumbling dragon-like creature. Neither one adds much to the story, but then again, that's not what comedy relief is for. Filo and Spig provide the audience with a break from the action, and nothing more.
If what I've said hasn't piqued your interest, then it's probably best you avoid this movie. As I've already said, "Delgo" gives us nothing new in the way of story or character; with the exception of the visuals, it's about as formulaic as it gets. I'm recommending it mostly because it delivers at a basic level--you want a tried and true fantasy, you've got a tried and true fantasy. Some may not appreciate the animation, and I agree that it wasn't as polished as it could have been. Still, I've seen worse-looking CGI characters ("Star Wars: The Clone Wars" comes to mind). Ultimately, you'd be doing yourself a great disservice by expecting anything more from "Delgo" than what it promises. It functions in much the same way as a children's bedtime story: It's enjoyable even though it's been told to us time and time again. Consistency is always more comforting than originality. There may come a time when we will want a new story, but until then, we have movies like "Delgo" to keep us entertained.