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Movie Review by Jonathan Harvey

Starring: James McAvoy, Catherine McCormack, Julian Glover, Sir Derek Jacobi

Director: Anders Ronouw-Kearlund

It’s a perhaps unlikely decision to tell an epic story about the struggle between two mythic races by the use of puppets, but that’s been the four-year project of writer/director Anders Rønnow-Klarlund in bringing STRINGS to the screen.

The plot sees Hal, heir to the throne of his kingdom set out on a quest to kill opposition leader Kharo and avenge the murder of his father, only to discover a cover-up by his wicked uncle Nezo who plans to seize power. Hal’s journey and his quest for justice give the story a slight taste of ‘Danish mythology meets GLADIATOR’, and from about 30 minutes in it shouldn’t be rocket science to work out where it’s all going to go. And this is a real shame, because the look of the film is simply stunning. It’s beautifully shot and finely puppeteered, particularly a genuinely emotional sex scene which manages to be just as moving as its parallel in TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE is crudely hilarious. It’s also a clever stroke to make the puppets’ strings integral to the characters and the world of the story (even long shots of cities and battlefields show the skyline raked with hundreds of strings). In addition it’s all backed up by a heavyweight British cast providing the English language voice work. Derek Jacobi and Ian Hart are a strong combo as the villainous pair Nezo and Ghrak, showing up somewhat the whiny and actually unsympathetic portrayal of the hero Hal by James McAvoy.

There’s some fine filmmaking on show here, and if only the rather convoluted cod-Shakespearian intrigue of the first act could have been dealt with more crisply and quickly, the surprisingly savage action of the finale would have been all the more satisfying. It takes itself too seriously too, where a hint of comic relief would have been welcome to break the one-tone feel. If the makers had spent as long on the script as on the production of STRINGS, the result might well have been unmissable, but as it is in this case at least, beautiful looks can’t make up for a predictable plot and a real lack of soul.

4 out of 6 stars