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Flatland
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2007

Format: Movie
By:   Jeffrey Travis (director)
Genre:   Science fiction
Review Date:   July 18, 2007
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

"We're going to be truncated!" -- Abbot Square

Flatland: The Movie is an animated adaptation of Edwin A. Abbott's 1884 novel about two-dimensional geometric shapes. A square challenges his rigid society when he learns there is a third dimension. The arrogant priests who run the place consider him a heretic and seek to put him down.

Abbott's book is a classic, with political commentary, social allegory, and math, three things that taste great together.

This is not the same movie as Flatland: The Film, a completely separate adaptation. Both versions are insightful tellings of the story. But this one isn't that one.

Flatland is around 30 minutes, but there's a lot crammed in there. The film's site says the movie is "inspired" by the book, and there are some differences. A new character is added in Hex, the daughter of Arthur Square. Arthur's (A Square in the book), journey of discovery here is divided into two stories, between him and Hex.

This movie is available for schools, which is a great idea. The story asks questions, and doesn't provide direct answers.

Martin Sheen is sincere, hopeful, and dramatic as Arthur. Kristen Bell from Veronica Mars plays Hex with wonder, enthusiasm, and amazement.

The well-known voices could help draw in viewers. But the story will keep them there. Because it's about 30 minutes, most of the explanation of the book's mathematical society is gone, and the focus is put on the characters.

Hex, possibly, is added because of the school-age audience for whom the movie is intended, and I feared she'd be a cloying cutie-pie. Instead she's a worthy addition, inquisitive and clever. A Square has a grandson in the original, but he's not integral, and in the original, women are a lower caste. In other words: Hex is a very positive change.

Two characters add some good comedy to the proceedings: Sheen's brother and Mystery Science Theater 3000 favorite Joe Estevez (season 10's "Soultaker") plays the nervous Abbot Square. The king of Pointland is Tony Hale, Buster from Arrested Development.

Spherius is voiced by Michael York, Logan from Logan's Run and Basil Exposition from Austin Powers. The sphere in other versions seems to lord over the square, but Spherius here has more personality, and has a character arc of his own. His comeuppance is funny, the best change to the original.

It crystallizes and expands one of the points of Flatland (so to speak): discovery and exploration is a vital, imperative quest, not a final destination.

Flatland: The Movie is entertaining and clever, and couches the value of imagination in a fun story.


Joe Crowe is RevolutionSF senior editor, and 11th-grade advanced math nearly killed him.

 
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