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Directed By: Jonathan Vaughan

Genre: Sci-fi, Action, Fantasy, Drama
Length: 23:07
Released: December 31st, 2009

Content Advisory:  moderate violence.

Director's Comments

In the not too distant future, an invention called picture portals has revolutionized transportation. However, its potential for evil is exploited when a mysterious mercenary kidnaps the president. Captain John West races to uncover the truth and find out who was behind the kidnapping in this explosive scifi thriller unlike any other Brickfilm.

This project has been in production for more than two years, so I'm really glad I finished it this year, even if I am cutting it just a little close.

Staff Review

Randy Yard:
If there's one area where Picturesque gives up nothing, it's ambition. Director Nick Durron is no stranger to longer projects, having already released two brickfilms over eight minutes in length, but this effort trumps them all by a large margin. Yes, its 23-minute running time is a large part of that, but the amount of visual effects here cannot be overlooked, either. Expansive visuals and a sweeping dramatic story add up to a film that feels bigger and bolder than almost any other brickfilm in history.

The visual effects are everywhere in Picturesque, from CGI buildings and massive landscapes to futuristic holograms and mouth animation. Almost every shot sports some sort of digital retouching, a frequency that calls to mind the works of Heinrich and Harris; factor in a running time that doubles up any potential competitor, and as far as the sheer volume of visual effects goes, this Durron effort practically stands in a class all its own. That said, the visuals are far from irreproachable. Mouth animation suffers from the same issue that plagued Heinrich's Unrenewable: the CGI mouths are composited well, but sometimes look more like amorphous shape-shifting blobs than verbalizing mouths. The buildings look great, but the larger exterior shots are less convincing. Correcting these issues would have been a monumental task, and you certainly can't fault Durron for going with "good enough" in these circumstances. Factor in excellent lighting, cinematography, and animation, and though it may not be perfect, it's still a wonder to behold.

Once all the eye candy is stripped away, things start to get more problematic. The premise is quite creative, but story that unfolds is traditional summer popcorn flick material: revolutionary new invention, shadowy organization tries to use it for evil, stalwart cop tries to stop them. On one hand, it's a tried-and-true formula that, for the most part, works again here... but on the other, you can't help but think that it would have been nice to see Durron take things in a more unique direction. The dialogue can get awkward at times, as well, as character's lines don't always seem to logically follow one another. And the acting doesn't help. Durron's voicing of the lead character in particular is nearly as lifeless and plastic as the minifig itself and is an anchor that almost singlehandedly drags the film down into mediocrity. Other actors turn in competent performances, but are often miscast. There isn't a single voice you can single out as being noteworthy, and for a film aiming for the dramatic, the lack of character emotion is a crucial misstep.

What emerges from the dust is a film that decries comparison. It's unequivocally ambitious, but a few insurmountable missteps along the way leave it well short of its lofty goal--a goal that may prove unattainable. After all, the challenges of creating a true dramatic brickfilm in the LEGO medium have seen many directors fall short or veer off into more lighthearted tales, and lead many to believe that such a feat may never be accomplished.

Someday, the ultimate action brickfilm will be made; one that perfectly nails the visuals, sports a stellar voice cast and superb script, and answers once and for all whether creating a compelling dramatic film can be accomplished in this medium. And when it does, the name of Picturesque will be invoked--not as a film that tried and failed, but one that paved the way. It may not be the perfect brickfilm, or even qualify as excellent, but what Picturesque undeniably does is push the boundaries of what is possible in LEGO, and should prove an inspiration to future directors for years to come.

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