Once in a while an underground niche will burst to the surface and lay down a title that has the power to reach a wider audience. That's exactly the kind of film Godkiller is. For a select few it will not be all that original as they are familiar with the niche, others will hate this film with a vengeance. But there's an important third group which will consider the film a real eye opener. Guess that's what happened to me.
Pizzolo markets Godkiller as an illustrated film. A very close relative to the motion comic but with more cinematic ideals in mind. Motion comics try to bring life to existing material, illustrated films aim for an original cinematic experience through the use of illustrations. The techniques used to accomplish both visions might be quite similar, but the illustrated film is way more ambitious than the motion comic.
Beware if you see this film advertised as an animation film. While it's essentially part of the world of animated films, there's not a lot of animating going on here. Through the use of camera pans, visuals effects and simple mathematical transformations (think Flash animation - zoom, rotate, slide) drawings are brought to life. Even then, there isn't as much happening on screen as you might expect. If you judge quality of animation by fluidity, this is definitely not your kind of film.
For those who can get themselves past the animation barrier, Pizzolo has a few other challenges in store. Godkiller resides firmly in the cyberpunk universe, serving the audience a rather barren, detached and somewhat vaguely defined world. Common cinematic highlights like murder, rape and illegal organ trafficking are handled in a somewhat light-hearted, uncaring way which definitely fits the setting, but quite possibly not the mind of those watching. Just a word of warning there.
The setting and story of Godkiller is loosely explained throughout the film. It's a little complex (in the sense that it's quite unique and strange, leaving you at the mercy of Pizzolo's morbid fantasies) and it doesn't really follow a straight path, but what's there is definitely interesting. Bounty hunters killing for organs, post-apocalyptic wastelands and a little personal drama form the basis of Tommy's tale. And all he tried to do was saving his sister from her imminent death.
As there isn't too much animation (most of it quite ugly too), the visual strength of the film is heavily reliant on the drawings. I must say Godkiller does a tremendous job at keeping things interesting for 70 minutes. While there is a global tone of art, many style variations exist within the film. And not limited to particular scenes or sections either. There's an organic mix of styles throughout the whole film which helps a lot in keeping the audience engaged.
Two other important aspects of the illustrated film are soundtrack and voice acting. I must say I was quite surprised to see the intro credits mention Alec Empire and Nic Endo as composers. I have regular albums lying around of both artists, which is actually quite a rarity. Their collaboration results in a powerful mix of atmospheric ambient, industrial overtones and even some powernoise. A delight for fans of dark and powerful electronic music.
The voice acting could have been a little stronger though. Some voices are powerful and sound great, but the voice of Tommy (one of the main characters) is a little sterile. While not particularly bad, his acting sounds a little awkward in some scenes, somewhat unsure of how to give his character his detached attitude. There's quite a lot of dialogue too, so it might have been a bit too much for a first-timer to handle.
With its 70 minutes running time Godkiller is a pretty short film. Which is not a bad thing, considering the leap many people will have to take to even make it to the end of the film. Unless you are familiar with the concept of illustrated films, it will take some time to adjust your mind to this kind of film making. In the process you will need to leave behind some old and rusted notions of what a film is, which will not be easy if you can't relate to the soundtrack, the visual style or the cyberpunk experience.
Many people are going to hate this film, many others will not even call it a film. Still, I believe it's worth trying out anyway, as this will probably be your first contact with an illustrated film and unless you've tried it, it's virtually impossible to judge its strengths and weaknesses. So don't be mad at me if you want to turn this thing off after 10 minutes, just sit through it and wait until it's done to decide whether you would like to see more of this.
I found Godkiller to be a refreshing experience. I loved the art style, dug the soundtrack and simply swooned at the cyberpunk storytelling. I didn't check my watch once and I'm already looking forward to Pizzolo's next project. I believe it's a quality addition to regular animation and live action film that captures cinematic strengths through another layer of abstraction. Great stuff.