Piratas en el Callao [Pirates in Callao]

Review by Sergio Rosa [nemirc] - Staff Columnist

If you thought that 3D movies were only made in the US, Europe or Asia, think again. A few months ago Peru released Piratas en el Callao [Pirates in Callao] — adapted from a children's book of the same name — Piratas is considered to be the first Latin-American 3D movie. In a realm dominated by CG movies made by big studios, a Latin-American movie is really something special, and possibly the start of a 3D film industry in Peru.

The plot is very simple: Alberto went on a school trip to a place called El Real Felipe. He then gets lost and accidentally opens a time portal that transports him a few centuries to the past. Once there he finds himself in the middle of a struggle between pirates and Hispanians. Being a history fanatic, he is fascinated being there, acting as a witness to history; he also wants to take part in the fight, and to help who he believes to be "the good ones."

The problem is, that if he succeeds or fails, the future will be affected by his actions. The overall story is entertaining, which is a good thing, because they made the movie with a goal different than showing off the CG stuff. When it comes to the visuals I can't compare it to anything except perhaps Jimmy Neutron. The characters and environments have this recognizable "cartoon look." I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but from my personal perspective, Jimmy Neutron isn't nearly as good as Final Fantasy or Shrek.

As I said before, the plotline was good, but we are talking about movies so we need visuals to support the story, and I think this is where Piratas fails. The characters themselves are nicely done and they look cool, however once you see them moving and talking everything changes. The animation is just not as good as you would expect, and you can easily notice that the animators' skills were not as refined at the beginning of the film, but rather they were progressing as the movie went on. This applies not only to the animation, but also some visuals and environments. If digital cinematography teaches you something, it is that you have to "lock the code" for the movie, so it all meets the same standard of quality.

It's a mistake to compare Piratas en el Callao to The Incredibles or Shrek, at least from a technological point of view. The Incredibles and Shrek take advantage of the latest animation and rendering algorithms, such as procedural muscle deformations, SubSurface Scattering, or Global Illumination — while, Piratas was created [for the most part] with off-the-shelf software [3ds Max].

Just because the technology is out there doesn't mean that anybody with a PC, running Maya, is able to use it. Or, that every studio around the globe has a copy of that wonderful software that they were showing off at this year's SIGGRAPH. On the other hand I do agree that the final product could have been more refined.

Even with all its flaws, Piratas en el Callao, is a remarkable 3D movie effort. There are a lot of people that will tell you not to watch it because the visuals are not as advanced as those of The Incredibles; however the animators from Peru dared to do what others haven't — a worldwide release of a movie. The movie hit Chinese theaters and Latin-American movie theaters a few months ago, and I don't see Europe or North America far away (or at least I hope so).

There are even rumors that Alpamayo Entertainment (the studio that made the movie) is already working on a movie about a dragon that lives in a lake at the top of a volcano — Dragones en el Titicaca [Dragons in Titicaca] — speculated release date: fall of 2006. However, I haven't found additional information about it yet, and I wasn't lucky enough to get in touch with the director in time to publish this article.

I get mixed feelings when I watch this movie. The story is entertaining and the visuals are nice. Nevertheless, the movie itself is not enough to meet today's standards. If they had taken a little more time, the final product would have been far better, and if you are looking for top of the line character animation and visual effects, Piratas en el Callao is not for you.

The difficult question is, “Would I recommend this movie?” Of course I would recommend it!. As I stated before, it is a remarkable effort and you will have a fun time watching it.

Judge for yourself, and take a sneak peek at the trailer of Piratas en el Callao on their official web site.

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Sergio Rosa [nemirc].

October 10, 2005