Paris, 2054, maverick cop Karas is on the trail of missing research scientist Ilona Tasuiev, employee of the all-powerful Avalon Corporation. Teaming up with her rebellious sister Bislane he finds himself drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy that could have important consequences for all of mankind.
No Hollywood summer blockbuster season is complete without a CG animation or two, although mainly targeted at younger audiences the techniques are finding their way into more grown-up offerings. Increasingly Hollywood is employing motion control – scanning actor's performances into computers – to create believable artificial characters. Director Christian Volckman uses this technique to place animated actors into an animated France 50 years hence in sci-fi action thriller Renaissance.
Over five years in the making Renaissance offers an evocative comic book vision of the future most obviously influenced by Blade Runner and presented in black and white. Towering skyscrapers dwarf the population on the rain soaked streets and huge animated adverts dominate the landscape. The familiar presence of Parisian landmarks are still to be found, remnants of an older world in this dystopian metropolis. The whole film is played out as a delicate and meticulous balance between light and shadow. The characters, the buildings, every aspect of this carefully constructed world of tomorrow is defined by the presence or absence of light.
Against this backdrop are some exciting action set pieces, a high-speed car chase through glass-encased motorways running parallel to the Seine being the highlight. But the plot that moves the characters from one set piece to another, a plot that mirrors the imagery with Karas shedding light on the motivations of the shadowy Avalon Corporation, fails to rise above the formulaic and is the film's major failing. Karas is one of those loner cops who plays by his own rules and in his investigation runs up against the usual cast of characters; the femme fatale, the meddling scientist, the power mad capitalist. Lifting ideas from numerous noir fiction and sci-fi films the movie's target audience will probably find it all overly familiar.
Renaissance's main selling point is perversely another contributing factor to its failings. While the striking use of black and white creates an arresting noir futurescape it renders the characters in a rather flat unengaging way. Despite utilising the vocal talents of, amongst others, Daniel Craig and Ian Holm, they remain resolutely two-dimensional, little more than another element of the film's style rather than emotive protagonists within its clearly defined reality.
Falling somewhere between Sin City and A Scanner Darkly Renaissance is certainly a visually innovative endeavour. Unfortunately it suffers from a derivative script and clichéd characters, offering nothing to involve the audience apart from the impressive animation. All in all Volckman's movie amounts to little more than an interesting artistic experiment.