Simply put, “The Box Man” is the most visually impressive stop motion film I have ever come across. It bests even director Nirvan Mullick’s notable joint project with Benjamin Goldman, “The Three of Us”. Of course, the stop motion Christmas specials of a generation ago will always have a soft spot in my heart, but they do not approach the detail and feeling of depth that Mullick and Goldman’s display.
Yet, despite all of its qualities, “The Box Man” fails in one important category, story. Though inspired by the novel of the same name by Kobo Abe, this film remains very thin and abstract. The basic story is that of a man in a trench coat who comes across a large box on the sidewalk. Examining the box more closely, the man is startled away by a pair of eyes looking back at him. As of course there is nothing else for a reasonable person to do in such circumstances, the man returns to his apartment whereupon he shoots the box (and whatever else is in it) with a high-powered gun. I won’t spoil the rest for you but suffice it to say that it’s one of those ever-popular “it is what you make of it” endings. If this kind of conclusion bothers you, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. 99 times out of 100 the authors themselves don’t know what to make of these endings either.
In my previous review of “The Three of Us” I compared Mullick’s work to the stop motion videos the band “Tool” used to put out. These projects do share many similarities, not the least of which the physical resemblance of the figurines. Though more striking than a Tool video, “The Box Man” does not play out much better than a music video. All too often visually impressive movies rely upon their appearance to carry the movie without any regard for plot. It is as if any real story would distract the audience from the visuals. Visual quality is undoubtedly an important aspect of filmmaking, but it is only one part. Like a car without a second gear, any project that does not have all these facets will be severely crippled.
Clearly what needs to happen here is someone needs to pay Mullick and Goldman a lot of money and get them together with a writer equally talented in his or her field as are these animators in theirs. When this day comes, we’ll all be in for something special.