“What a shame we can’t play with her any more.”
First off, let me tell you right now… This is not a film about a ‘Fantastic Planet’ as the name suggests. It’s actually a pretty terrible planet with terrible beings!
The story begins following a mother and her baby who are being tortured. The mother is from a species of humanoids/humans called Oms who are much smaller than the dominating species (Draags) on the planet they live on. The Draags have brought these Oms to their own planet where they are technologically more advanced. From the offset, we see the Draags treat Oms like their little playthings. In fact, we see the aforementioned mother brutally murdered but as the film is animated style, even though it’s tragic, there’s something quite unreal about it so as it doesn’t feel as brutal as it should be.
The baby is ‘saved’ by a young child Draag called Tiwa who wishes to keep it and a retractable collar is put on the baby so it cannot escape. We see the young Draag play with the baby as it grows and names it Terr. It seems like Tiwa genuinely loves Terr and she cradles Terr, as well as sharing her lessons with him through this telepathic headpiece device, even though it is forbidden by her parents. Eventually, Tiwa becomes careless with Terr as her ‘pet’ and Terr decides to run away (stealing the headset). He runs into more of his own species who help him remove the collar and eventually embrace him into their group. Many think that the education that Terr brings is dangerous, but it turns out to save many of the Oms people in the end. The group he joins is at war with another group of Oms. It seems like despite the fact they literally have bigger problems, they can’t help but fight among themselves!
With the knowledge the headset has given them, the Oms build rockets with the intention to leave the planet for the planet’s moon which they call the ‘Fantastic Planet’. However the Draag intend to eradicate them and start to gas the park they all live in fearing the seemingly rebellious act of Terr, concerned that others will follow suit and that the education they are now afforded will be dangerous. To retaliate, the Om destroy a bunch of statues which it turns out threatens the existence of the Draag. The Draag and the Om come to a peaceful resolution.
First off, the animation in this film was incredible. You don’t see films made like this any more, really. The surreal, vivid colours and imaginative creatures, plants, landscapes and soundscapes are so interesting to watch and hear and it’s no surprise that this film is so iconic. It really is quite a beautiful creation. The soundscape is undeniably 70s because there’s something quite funky about it.
The Draag, despite on the surface being more intelligent, are very savage to the Oms, just because they can. It’s completely normalised by the adult Draag that Oms can be treated poorly and there is this pervasive idea shared that Oms are savage and unintelligent like they deserve to be treated that way almost. It’s quite alarming and striking to watch, because it’s quite reminiscent of the way white colonialists used to talk about Black/Indigenous people, and it’s the way that a lot of racist white people talk to this day, with this air of superiority. Something that is touched on in many sci-fi books but also in a recent book we read in SOPHFIFEST THE READERS club, is how ‘dominating species’ tend to be super arrogant that their elite, superior intellect puts them on top and that any sub-dominant species or group not only do not have the smarts but wouldn’t dream of overthrowing them. The specific book I am thinking of is Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The word for world is forest’ where the human species feel like the indigenous peoples are savage and unintelligent and a peaceful species, that they would never ‘fight back’. We learn of course that their arrogance is unfounded and of course, the indigenous peoples certainly make the humans very foolish indeed! And the same is true for this story. The Draag televise these lengthy intellectual debates, regaling how superior they are. They don’t even see the attack on their existence coming. I really really like that they don’t, and it just shows that if you work together that you can do anything. Even overthrow a brutal alien species!
My only criticism would be that I didn’t believe the ending. If my peoples had been tortured our whole life, I would absolutely have destroyed all of those damn statues, but I appreciate that the intention is for a hopeful ending rather than one filled with carnage.
All in all, gorgeous film. Really well put together. Interesting story. It’s a must-watch!