You can't really expect a lot from an animated movie that began as a video game idea, and you should expect even less when it's the first effort at 3-D animation from a studio, in this case France's Bac Films.
Still, "Kaena: The Prophecy" manages to be a letdown, with characters and action so yawn-inducing that you might wonder if the creators had in mind a video game for insomniacs.
Yes, there is a long and impressive tradition of French cartoon fantasy that includes everything from the works of Jean Giraud to last year's delightful "The Triplets of Belleville."
"Kaena," however, is derivative and aimless filmmaking by directors and "writers" who know only how to craft eye candy. Their visual work is skillful, but it makes no lasting impression stacked up against the wizards of Japanese anime and American CGI.
A ridiculous back story goes with the sci-fi territory; this one involves a forested nugget of outer space where tree sap is both the nectar of gods and the bane of en
slaved people. Ever since his ship crashed into that gnarly space grove 600 years ago, Opaz (voiced by Richard Harris in one of his last roles) has been trying to return home, aided by worms that he's turned into upright intellectual snobs via the invention of an exoskeleton.
Kaena (Kirsten Dunst), an orphaned teenage Lara Croft clone wearing thigh holsters and not much else, meets Opaz while rebelling against the constant harvesting of diminishing sap, most of which is offered up to liquid-sugar beings known as Selenites. The queen of the Selenites is Anjelica Huston -- well, a gooey glob that sounds like Anjelica Huston, anyway -- who must keep both Kaena and Opaz in line if she's to preserve her power.
Unfortunately, no one appears to have power over this movie's plot, which directors Chris Delaporte and Pascal Pinon reveal to viewers in such a slow and convoluted way that the sap flow seems efficient by comparison.
Maybe while you wait in vain for things to make sense, you can count how many elements "Kaena" appropriates from "Star Wars" and other sci-fi fantasy classics. That game never gets old.
Janice Page can be reached at email@example.com.
Kaena: The Prophecy
Directed by: Chris Delaporte and Pascal Pinon
Written by: Delaporte, Patrick Daher, and Tarik Hamdine
Featuring the voices of: Kirsten Dunst, Richard Harris, Anjelica Huston
At: Brattle Theatre, through Sunday
Running time: 91 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (frightening images, sensuality)