About an hour and a half ago I got out of a screening for a movie called LAIKA. It is a stopmotion animated feature from the Czech Republic loosely based around the real Laika, a stray dog taken from the streets of Moscow that was one of the first animals in space and orbited the Earth. Not much was known around that time what the effects of living creatures were in space yet. Laika was sent into space in 1957.
By the way, let’s not confuse LAIKA with the stop motion film company of the same name that produced CORALINE and KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS.
The movie LAIKA was both fascinating and painful to watch. Although this movie is clearly meant for young kids, it was quite intriguing to see the standards of what is okay to show children in a different country. Especially of one you don’t see or hear of too often of in the states. The painful part was that it was difficult to really become invested in any of the characters; because although they are three dimensional stop motion figures, every single character had the depth of a piece of paper.
In this movie, instead of Laika dying of heat exhaustion within hours of being in space, they explore where she could have gone, because that dog certainly never made it back to Earth.
After being shot into space, Laika discovers that she is not alone in her orbit around Earth. She is accompanied by all of the other animals that were launched into space by other countries around the world, including Ham the monkey. The U.S. desperately fired Ham into space after seeing Russia do it first. This is not my commentary, that is how it was portrayed in the movie…. though it’s true. Russia really made the U.S. sweat with their space experiments back in the 50s and 60s. In fact, the launch of Sputnik from Russia is what spurred the creation of N.A.S.A. in the first place.
So after being launched into space for dead, Laika’s shuttle is absorbed by a mysterious black hole, which also absorbs the other animal’s shuttles, and sends them all to an alien but hospitable planet. Here’s one of the weird parts: apparently it’s acceptable AND funny in the Czech Republic to portray perverted characters to children. The alien that they encounter, Queerneck, loves touching and learning about what is below the belt on each animal. It is quite vital to Queerneck that he learns how each of them procreate because it’s “funny”?
The animals and aliens all live in harmony until MANKIND arrives. Both a Russian astronaut and U.S. astronaut found themselves on the same planet via the same mysterious black hole. As man does, they try to hijack the planet and make it into what they want it to be. They animals aren’t having it, and they nonchalantly threw the Russian into the furnace so that he can be BURNED ALIVE. Fortunately, his space suit is fireproof and he is able to escape!
I won’t give away the ending, but what I will tell you is that it’s pretty much kept up with the same pace as the rest of the movie. It’s just weird and drawn out. This movie gave me the thought, which I suppose I sort of knew, but do now know consciously: “just because a movie is foreign, does not make it good.” Maybe this is 100% something that would entertain the children of Czech Republic, I would assume as much. What I do know is that I will probably be seeing the faces of some of the human characters in my nightmares for a while. I personally needed to go unwind after the film because I was ready for it to end a quarter of the way in. I still kept an open mind while watching, but boy, that was draining.
If you want to watch something different, and -maybe- learn a little about animation from elsewhere in the world, LAIKA is for you.