Stolen Life is a product of machinima from Nanoflix Productions, written and produced by Peter Rasmussen and directed by Jackie Turnure. It’s an entertaining film.
What is machinima? According to the Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences, “Machinima (muh-sheen-eh-mah) is filmmaking within a real-time, 3D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies. In an expanded definition, it is the convergence of filmmaking, animation, and game development. Machinima is real-world filmmaking techniques applied within an interactive virtual space where characters and events can be either controlled by humans, scripts or artificial intelligence.”
So it’s a movie made via game engines. It’s an interesting concept, fascinating technology, and promises some unique films, as evidenced by Stolen Life.
It’s set in the future, on an asteroid that is a refueling station for deep space missions. The station is run entirely by robots. It was shut down by the “company.” In fact, it seems that the company is shutting down many of their stations. On this particular one a robot has gone missing, apparently “murdered,” and the company is missing thousands of dollars of property. An investigator, a robot named Pi, is dispatched to find the truth. And so a unique noir style movie begins.
Pi arrives at the refueling station and awakens the commander, Kieru, voiced by Stargate’s Claudia Black. She begins explaining the workings of the station and reactivating crew members. And, of course, acting very suspicious. As Pi begins to investigate, we are introduced to the other members of the crew. Each character is fleshed out well and adds their own comedic or sinister flavor to the story. In fact, they all have something to hide. It might just be something detrimental to the company, even to Earth itself.
The story itself has a strong theme. It deals with reasons for living, meaning in life, even if the lives depicted herein are robotic. Do we exist just to work? Or should we have some other purpose? It’s plotted very well and contains some good twists. It’s well paced and fun to watch.
I especially appreciated the soundscape. The musical score is definitely reminiscent of old detective movies. You almost expect Bogart to wander into the movie. I swear there was also a faint hint of Pink Panther in the undertone of the theme. The music effectively sets the tone for the movie. In general the audio effects were good, from the crunching of the icy gravel under the robot’s wheels to the liftoff blast of Pi’s ship – it all added some realism to the film.
The voice performances are very well done. The animation is definitely not Pixar – it is somewhat rudimentary, in fact (which machinima filmmakers readily admit). However, the scenes are crafted so very well, the voice acting has such depth, that viewers will easily personify the robot characters. There were a few scenes where I was sure Doc was squinting menacingly or Pi was staring disdainfully or Kieru was putting on a wide-eyed ‘innocent me’ face. It wasn’t the animation that gave that impression, it was the story and the voices. Jackie Turnure did an excellent job of directing on this project.
Both Rasmussen and Turnure have labored hard to produce a fabulous piece of machinima-noir. Stolen Life has been nominated for Best Direction, Best Story and Best Visual Design at Machinima Festival Europe which will be held October 12-14. You can visit the website and either buy a DVD or download the film.