Fantastic Fest 2014 Review: WASTELANDER PANDA: EXILE Takes Its Anthropomorphic Oddity Very Seriously

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
Fantastic Fest 2014 Review: WASTELANDER PANDA: EXILE Takes Its Anthropomorphic Oddity Very Seriously
Victoria Cocks' post-apocalyptic saga of an anthropomorphic panda trekking across a great barren wasteland in search of redemption is remarkably restrained in its treatment of this absurd concept. 

Wastelander Panda: Exile's greatest asset is, without a doubt, its commitment to world building, as well as its uncanny ability to remove any but the slightest hints of acknowledgment of its own insanity. I can't say for sure that I am 100% sold on the project, but it is that same commitment that gives me pause and keeps me from dismissing the thing out of hand. Wastelander Panda: Exile is a uniquely Australian oddity that should not exist, but it does, and that is an achievement in and of itself.

Issac has commited a sin. The seven-foot panda with an impetuous streak a mile wide has destroyed one of the Tribe of Legion's most valued assets, a young girl who may have borne children to further the tribe's lineage. In order to avoid a certain execution, Isaac agrees to scour the Wasteland to find the girl's replacement and win his own freedom.  In order to ensure his compliance, the elders of Legion decide to send along his brother, Arcayus, and his mother, Hannah, on this trek into almost certain death. Isaac rushes headlong into his mission to win back his place in the safety of Legion, but conflicts from within and without continually rear their ugly heads and force him to consider his own place in this world that was not made for him.

I went into Wastelander Panda: Exile nearly blind. I had seen the concept presented on these pages and read the various synopses, however, what threw me the most is the dead serious tone of this seemingly ridiculous idea come to life. I'm a great fan of anthropomorphic animals. Kawasaki Minoru (The Calamari Wrestler, Executive Koala, Crab Goalkeeper, Neko Ramen Taisho) is a huge favorite of mine, and I must admit that I expected the kind of asburdist tone that Kawasaki has perfected in this film. However, Wasterlander Panda is far from whimsical.

Cocks strikes a tone somewhere between bleak and downright dour in this film, and it is that tonal consistency that is actually one of the film's biggest strengths. Wastelander Panda: Exile is actually a feature length cut of six different ten-minute episodes of the Wastelander Panda saga that exists mostly as a web series (and is, in fact streaming right now in Australia). The problen with translating that structure to a feature is that for all of the onscreen angst, there is frustratingly little action, it all feels as though it's building to a climax that never actually arrives, when the more likely explanation is that the climax does arrive, it just does so after the events featured in this cut take place.

I must admit, that while I wasn't blown away by the pacing of the film, Cocks' world building skills are quite impressive. What the film lacks in pyrotechnics, it more than makes up for in atmosphere, well-written characters, dynamics, and design. I walked in expecting something akin to Rango and walked out thinking more along the lines of Lone Wolf & Cub

All great things, if the payoff warrants the vamping, and in this case, I must admit, I feel as though I was left hanging. Perhaps the good people of the Land Down Under will get to see those clashes for which I pine when the time comes, I just hope that the chase, to paraphrase great hero Lemmy Kilmister, is not better than the catch.

Wastelander Panda

  • Victoria Cocks
  • Marcus McKenzie
  • Aaron Schuppan
  • Marcus McKenzie
  • Roger Newcombe
  • Chantal Contouri
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Victoria CocksMarcus McKenzieAaron SchuppanRoger NewcombeChantal ContouriAdventureDramaFantasy

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