The set-up for the short film trilogy Swine will sound familiar to many sci-fi fans out there. A faceless, oppressive authority, in this case known as the Colonials, finds itself at conflict with a small group of rebels, in this scenario known as Vox Populi. Vox Populi are outnumbered and ruthlessly hunted, but they do get an occasional victory here and there; enough so that they must finally be stopped at any cost, which is where the audience is brought into the series.
In the first chapter, we follow along as Vox Populi strikes back at the Colonials, taking out the generator for a weapon that has been plaguing them for far too long. Chapter Two finds the Vox Populi underground with a bounty on their heads while a small group of Colonial concubines makes their move to better their position and, in Chapter Three, pieces set in motion in the previous segment come to their appropriately nihilistic climax.
The pitfalls for this type of project tend to exist when the back story of the overall conflict between oppressor and oppressed is too complicated to follow, or when the ambitions of the filmmakers far exceed their own capabilities or budgets. Swine sidesteps both of these issues by letting the audience’s own familiarity with the common oppressor-oppressed theme fill in the blanks, almost like a narrative persistence of vision, and just gets right into the individual tales on a tighter, more approachable level.
That said, this film goes ambitious with a steam punk meets World War II ragtag army film meets spaghetti western tone and style that really raises the bar, though there is at least one moment where I laughed out loud at a plot development that was most likely not intended to provoke laughter (it’s in Chapter One and pertains to the generator’s power source; for all Swine gets right, the wide shot in that sequence really bumps the needle off the record for a second). Still, you can forgive the small misstep because the whole is well done. The fact that the three segments are narrated by a different main character also manages to give the project a distinct personality flavor, depending on which segment you’re watching. While the overall theme may be familiar, at least the voiceover gives a different taste.
The art design and locations are appropriately post-apocalyptic and dusty, and the acting has that “everyone wants to be the Han Solo” feel to it that tends to work with these types of tales. By the end of the trilogy, I wasn’t entirely sure who my protagonist was anymore. At least three characters, Wallace (Osa Wallander), Erikson (Gregory Lee Kenyon) and Mercedes (Kellsy MacKilligan), via their perspectives and voiceovers, take the lead role but, in the end, who really was our hero or heroine? Was there one? This did not bother me so much as made me think, and re-interpret many of the scenes I had so recently witnessed.
Overall, this trilogy of films most reminded me of Æon Flux. No, not the live-action movie with Charlize Theron, and to a lesser extent not even the animated standalone series that came previous. No, this felt like the real early Æon Flux mini-eps that aired as part of Liquid Television. You never really knew who your hero was and even though you were following one character for a large chunk of time, often the animated bits would suddenly kill that person off and you’d be left with a “it’s so cool, but what!?!” That’s how Swine made me feel quite often, but not in a negative way.
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