"Robot Carnival" is strictly for die-hard animation fans and those who thirst for science fiction in any form.
This collection of eight Japanese animated shorts, some fascinating and others banal, is an offbeat mixed bag. But it does have its moments.
The framing device offers a strange beginning, though it is not out of sync with the rest of the film. In a "Mad Max" motif, the stereotypical burned-out, post-apocalyptic future, the film's title card becomes a giant robot that goes crashing through a poor village.
Then comes "Franken's Gears," a "Frankenstein" takeoff, with a Japanese scientist using all kinds of gizmos and gadgets to create a robot monster. Like many of the others in this anthology, it features some terrific animation, evoking interesting atmosphere, but doesn't really have anything to say.
Of the eight, there were three I found particularly intriguing. "Cloud," the most abstract of the bunch, with a little boy standing in the lower left-hand corner of the screen while a myriad of wild visual images float past him in the sky; "Presence," set in futuristic England, in which a man builds a female robot and then lives out his old age wishing he'd paid more attention to it, by far the film's most reflective and gentle piece; and "Nightmare," with some wild imagery depicting a pack of urban renegade robots that resemble giant insects.
Much less interesting were "Star Light Angel," little more than a hyper music video set in a futuristic Disneyland-style theme park, and "Deprive," which has a "Blade Runner"-"Total Recall" look, but with its superhero story feels too much like a video game someone else is playing.
Worst of all was "A Tale of Two Robots," the third chapter in an apparent ongoing series, about two feuding giant robots in Japan, though it is set 100 years ago. This one is far too juvenile and irritating.
Still, if you can put up with its lapses, "Robot Carnival" is worth the price of admission just to savor the good stuff — assuming, of course, if you are into animation and/or science fiction.
Though unrated, "Robot Carnival" would doubtless receive a PG for violence, which is mostly in the form of property destruction.