The Time Masters (1982)
Directed by Rene Laloux
March 9, 17, 25 at the Spectacle Theater
The most startling thing about the visually stunning The Time Masters is that it's a kid's cartoon. Rene Laloux made the film nine years after his earlier animated sci-fi fantasy, the better-know Fantastic Planet. Here, Laloux and co-writer/artistic designer Moebius set up a characteristically psychedelic sci-fi adventure wherein characters question their mortality and are alienated from each other thanks to the vast expanses of space.
But again: this is a kid's movie. So while the film, with faceless winged angel aliens and tentacled cave monsters certainly looks like it was made by Moebius, one of the most instantly recognizable European comic book artists, The Time Masters is very much for children.
The bifurcated story follows two sets of protagonists, both prominently featuring a character to whom child viewers can relate. Piel, a recently orphaned survivor of a mysterious crash that killed his father, ends up lost on a planet on the wrong side of the galaxy; struggling throughout the film to reunite with him are Yula and Jad, two sprite-like homunculi that can read the minds of anyone around them.
The relatability of the characters and their circumstances would be far for the course if the film’s real subject wasn’t accepting the inevitability of death. Piel's father is the film's major catalyst, after all. And over the course of the film, several other characters die, or come close to dying. Some are wicked, some are only incidental supporting characters, and some are actually key figures. None of them expire sensationally, either: they just quietly give up the ghost, leaving the rest of the film's protags to go on without them. Parents: what are you waiting for? You too can scar your children for life this weekend with a powerful and very strange mortality play!