A patchwork of previously digested dystopias, animator Christian Volckman’s feature borrows from a variety of sources: A cursory list would include anime (notably Ghost in the Shell), all of Fritz Lang’s German oeuvre, the shadow-pulp of Frank Miller’s Sin City comics, Blade Runner’s retro-future decay and stoner-rock album covers. The biggest comparison that this French sci-fi noir will draw, however, won’t be to a predecessor but a peer: A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped take on Philip K. Dick’s novel. Like Linklater’s paranoid android of a parable, this tale of a cop (Craig) coming apart at the seams animates over its live-action sequences for maximum graphic-novel effect. While Volckman & Co.’s computer-generated imagery isn’t quite as fluid—there’s an occasional stiltedness in movement reminiscent of a cinematical from a PlayStation game—Renaissance’s visuals are still a technological wonder, full of inky-black nightscapes and Paris locales turned into tomorrow’s urban wasteland.
You just wish they had installed some software capable of ironing out convoluted narratives. The film knows its genre staples (hard-boiled heroes, femme fatales, evil corporations) but can’t seem to organize them coherently. Solid storytelling would have made the homage graft take; instead, this Frankenstein-stitched pastiche simply makes you nostalgic for what influenced it. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear