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"I... purchased a ticket to Delgo, in the process doubling its gross for the week... [It] sends out the heartwarming message that if you overcome all manner of obstacles en route to realizing your biggest, most ambitious aspiration then you too can become a laughingstock to the entire world."
A 2008 animated fantasy film, Delgo is the brainchild of Marc Adler, a technology wunderkind who managed to build his own Atlanta studio and scrape together a $40 million budget from well outside the Hollywood system. The film holds the dubious honor of the worst wide-release opening in movie history: it was released in more than 2000 theaters and earned less than a million dollars in its first and only week.
The story is set in the land of Jhamora, where a group of lizard-people called the Lockni allow a group of displaced dragonfly-people called the Nohrin to settle on their lands. The Lockni immediately regret this decision when a power-hungry Nohrin named Sedessa (Anne Bancroft in her last performance) tries to enslave them. Sedessa is exiled but returns fifteen years later, bent on conquest and with an army of ogres backing her up. It's up to Delgo, the telekinetic son of one of Sedessa's victims, and a cast of colorful side characters to stop her.
As an epic love-in-a-time-of-war story set on another world and driven by an auteur's singular, risky vision, it's sort of like a Bizarro-world Avatar. The filmmakers certainly thought so, and actually considered suing Fox and Cameron after seeing Avatar's first trailer. Not much seems to have come from that.
The movie contains examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The film's website gives names for the various creatures in the background. It's also the only place where the Ando (Sedessa's army) are referred to by name.
- All Animals Are Dogs: Sedessa's weird bald gryphon-thing. Completely apropos of nothing, right in the middle of dramatically gloating before the defeated king, is a "comedy" scene where it urinates on the king in explicitly doglike fashion.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Sedessa's army of lizardmen and kobolds. Runs severely counter to the whole "racial harmony" theme.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Right before the credits.
- Bloodless Carnage: All over the place. Most weapons are blunt, most hits scored are with "blasting" powers, and all, by which I mean "both," stabbings or impalings occur ju-u-ust off-screen. You have to wonder why they gave characters sharp weapons at all. And when one character gets stabbed and pulls out the knife/arrow/whatever it was, it is pretty darn clean.
- Bound and Gagged
- Broken Aesop - The film's anti-war message really doesn't seem to stick once both warring sides make peace...and then join forces to fight Sedessa's army.
- A twofer--the races, one of which has been constantly derided as a race of "savages"--join forces to take out a race of savages with no redeeming value. Jeez, doods.
- Constructed World: It's clearly a labor of love, just not a compelling or interesting one.
- Cross-Dressing Voices: Young Delgo was voiced by a girl.
- Disappeared Dad
- Disney Villain Death: Sedessa, falling when the ledge cracks after Delgo saves her.
- Distressed Damsel: With a token effort to make her seem more actiony.
- Dueling Movies - Avatar, as mentioned above. The most lopsided duel in dueling-movie history.
- Fantastic Racism - Sedessa's motivation for starting the war in the first place. Later expands to include petty revenge.
- Fantasy World Map: The film's website has one.
- Hollywood Tactics: So, your specie has higher tech than the other guys and you can fly. That's pretty good, right? Bad news: the other guys have powerful psychics and, presumably, because they're land-bound, are able to wear much sturdier armor than you. So, what do you do? Hover one foot above the ground in thick swarms and engage the foe at melee range, conspicuously ignoring the psions. At least the effects are more or less what you'd expect.
- Honor Before Reason - At the end of the movie, Delgo recalls some pro-mercy words of his mentor and decides to save Sedessa from falling to her death. Surprise surprise, she tries to stab him, and ends up falling to her death anyway.
- Groin Attack: Delgo flies through the air, only to land crotch first on the neck of a dragon.
- I Control My Minions Through... - Acceptance. Sedessa promises her troops a fair shake by invading the beautiful resource rich continent.
- Interspecies Romance - From the above-linked My Year of Flops entry: "Instead of rooting for these star-crossed lovers to overcome the odds and unite their people I found myself wondering if it was even ethical or right for a lizard-man and a dragonfly-lady to knock boots."
- Inverse Law of Sharpness and Accuracy: Very few pointy weapons make their mark. It gets really blatant when two thrown daggers hit crossguard first.
- Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: Semi-averted. The telekinesis stones are used in, for example, mining tools and for making elaborate artwork. They can also be admirable blasting weapons.
- Invisible Advertising - Probably the biggest reason for the film's failure, even above the actual quality of the thing.
- Mad Scientist - complete with Evil Laughter. He gets a little Dr. Robotnik-esque battle pod, too.
- Meaningful Echo - "You're on your own, kid." Repeated, with a flashback, for the slower members of the audience.
- Meaningful Name - The filmmakers were very much aware that Delgo shared the same name as a certain town in Sudan.
- Missing Mom
- The Mole
- Mundane Made Awesome: The voting scene. Levitating rocks is just more visually-engaging than having council members say "aye" or "nay".
- Multiple Demographic Appeal: A case study in why you shouldn't try to invoke this deliberately unless you're damn sure what you're doing (and even then, think twice). The plot and themes are a little too heavy for really little kids; on the other hand, Filo and the scene mentioned above under "All Animals Are Dogs" could only have been intended for really little kids.
- Nice Hat: Filo, considering his scrappy status, at least has the decency to sport a nifty cap.
- No Flow in CGI: The characters have pointy hair, or no hair at all, and mostly wear pants. Work began in 1999, and it was released in 2008, and this is the result.
- Plot Induced Stupidity: Okay, Delgo, here's the sitch: you're in melee with a reptile-ogre... thingey... he's got two feet and a few hundred pounds on you, he's got a warhammer that weighs as much as you, and by sheer stroke of luck you've managed to loop your pickax through his nose, pointing its payload of telekinetic phlebotinum right between his eyes. What do you do?
- Answer: Jump away from the ogre like an idiot and wait until it's knocked loose, tele-retrieve it, then wave the light in his eyes until he cracks the crystal. Way to go!
- Rebellious Princess: Well, marginally rebellious.
- Save the Villain: Played straight, then negated soon after.
- Scenery Porn - The biggest praise the film tends to get is the imaginative world and beautiful environments. A couple of the monsters and bits of fantasy tech are cool, too.
- Smooch of Victory: The last scene, followed by an immediate cut to credits.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Embraced while averting The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In.
- Timeshifted Actor: Delgo
- Viewers are Morons: There are a large number of flashbacks to stuff the audience should remember pretty clearly from the first time around.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Carried out with, of all things,a gas chamber.