Rendezvous is an Australian production coming from relative newcomers, Nanoflix, although having seen this I would hope that I'll be getting to see a lot more from them. Based on a love story between two deep space probes Rendezvous manages to pull off one of the most 'story' centered machinima pieces in years. The voice acting is superb, avoiding all the traditional machinima problems of slurred lines, unconvincing emotions and clearly ad libbed dialogue and replacing it with crisp witty banter which somehow manages to make the idea of two large angular lumps of machinery falling for each other both believable and oddly touching. Fans of the droid characters in 'Star Wars' will perhaps appreciate this film the most, and while it is never linked to the Star Wars universe I could see it working within George Lucas' setting without much difficulty. Fans of Anne McCaffrey and especially her 'Ship Who.' series would probably like this film even more. The very obvious humanity of the two probes - the cockiness mingled with loneliness of the male character and the wistfulness lurking behind the dutiful exterior of the female probe - despite their very clearly mechanical exteriors made them seem more closely related to Helga, the ship powered by a human brain, than R2-D2 or C3PO, whose anthromorphic shapes can sometimes seem more human than the whistles or precise English that Lucasfilm attribtes to its mechanical characters.
Visually, Rendezvous manages to be interesting without being deeply innovative. As is usual in Machinima there are few curves and yet Rendezvous manages to make this a feature, closing in on the angular 'hands' of the two space probes with a kind of tenderness. While this may be due to lack of time or expertise I also liked the film makers' refusal to overly anthromorphisise the two characters, instead choosing to let the character animate the very obviously mechanistic models they were given. They seemed to fit into the bleak outer space they were set in very well, moving with a nice grace.
The camerawork is well thought through, with the final shot of pictures tumbling through space being the kind of additional touch that would have been easily forgotten by many. There is a sense of movement throughout which is also often left behind in a lot of machinima.
Given the small number of people credited as working on this film the achievements of it are more impressive. Director/producer/writer Peter Rassmussen has clearly managed to motivate both his cast and crew, coaxing warmth and depth out of his actors and solid consistency from his technical staff.
As a technical piece Rendezvous is nothing special - the Ill Clan have done more with visual comedy, The Gods have brought us more impressive space age panoramas. However, in terms of its story and narrative drive Rendezvous is something both new and memorable. It stands out as a film made by film makers who have chosen to use machinima purely as a storytelling medium, which to me seems like a really encouraging step for the medium in general. Its characters are warm and sympathetic and the relationship both subtle and realistic. It stands out for me as something which is watchable without any special interest in or knowledge of machinima, something that can be enjoyed by a casual viewer. This in itself is a huge step forwards. After many years of films which by and large rely on either a viewer's awareness of the computer games used (Apartment Huntin' , for example, seems to provoke howls of laughter from every Quake player I have ever shown it to and blank confusion from those folk out there for who 'Quake' is something that is measured on the Ricter scale) or a viewer's knowledge of the technology that has been used (The 'wow - how did they do that' response is one which an overwhelming number of short films lately seemed designed to produce lately) to see something which embraces techincal simplicity and focusses on the emotional side of film making is intensely refreshing.
In fact, speaking as a beleagured old hack who has long ago given up trying to explain exactly what it is I am involved with I have every intention of finally sitting my highly sceptical father down and setting Rendezvous running.
"Dad..there is something I think you ought to see. no. it isn't just about things running around and shooting each other any more. you don't need to understand computer games"
I think he might enjoy this film!
Strange Company 1999 - 2001.
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