Gandahar is a 1988 French animated science fiction film directed by Rene Laloux and it is one of the most underappreciated and unfortunately underrated animated movies I have ever seen.
It tells the story of Sylvain who after witnessing an attack on his people by the automatons is sent to investigate and meets a race of deformed mutant beings who offer their help to defeat the Men of Metal. This is such a fascinating story with an authentic and well written script. It is enthralling literally from start to finish and it is a beautifully created world thanks to some incredibly strong world building at play here. It starts off somewhat abruptly and the second half is a bit inferior to the first one, but it is otherwise a feast for the eyes and a remarkable experience mostly thanks to excellent and beautifully imagined story as it really is stunning. The attention to detail is evident here as well as the craftsmanship that went into the production. But the whole story is such an original and riveting one that the whole film flies by and it leaves an impression for sure.
As for the character development, it is solid but not great. Sylvain is your typical hero meaning that he is the one who is destined to save the day, noble and strong. Airelle is quite solid as his love interest whereas the villain is pretty memorable and quite malicious. As for the Deformed, they are the standouts here as their development is the biggest and the emotional investment is the largest. You can feel their pain, you can understand them and they are portrayed in a grounded way and also with a lot of care and detail which is evident in their language as well as of course the terrific character design. The characters are not the strongest, but this is an epic science fiction story that does not need powerful characterization and that is why I do not consider that a big flaw.
Now, the animation. Wow, what an artistic and beautiful animation this movie has. It is indescribably beautiful and although it may feel dated to some and more reminiscent to the decade of the seventies, I enjoyed that old-fashioned feel to it very much. But it’s stunning not only for its color palette and artistic quality, but also for its truly exceptional meticulous approach with lots of incredible details and extraordinary and truly authentic character design with each and every character wonderfully conceived and beautifully fitting to the world presented here. Apart from the amazing story, the animation is the biggest contributor to Gandahar’s extreme quality.
As for other technical aspects, they are all masterful. The voice acting is absolutely superb with not a single weak performance. The score and sound are also good as is of course the direction from Rene Laloux. But the approach here is absolutely audacious not only because it has such a serious and mature tone to it, but also because it is harsh and very violent at times. The action sequences are very well executed as well. The whole picture is not only original and highly imaginative thanks to its stellar script but also very memorable and powerful and daring in scope. I also have to give kudos to the cinematography and of course the imagery as it is undeniably terrific with so many intriguing and entirely breathtaking images and production design presented. The dialogue is also clever and mature fitting within this serious world.
When comparing it to other French animated films, it is not one of the very best, but it is certainly near the top of the list. I also have to mention ‘Fantastic Planet’ as it is evidently influenced by that movie and it is quite similar in both its psychedelic imagery as well as the epic scope and mature tone of the story. But honestly it is not that inferior to the aforementioned classic which brings me to this point – Gandahar is an incredibly and frustratingly underseen and underrated movie. It is certainly one of the most underappreciated animated movies of all time which is a real shame given its evident quality which it has in spades.