“Mosaic” not quite the sum of its parts

By Kevin DeVlaming

Comic book fans considering renting Stan Lee Presents: Mosaic, a straight-to-DVD animated movie from Lee’s own Pow! Entertainment, have an important question to ask themselves: would they be willing to rent a movie titled, Stan Lee Presents: Festering Crap? Or, perhaps, Stan Lee Presents: A Waste of 72 Minutes? Mosaic proves that just because Stan Lee stamps his creative seal on a product, it doesn’t mean it will be creative gold–a lesson that should have been learned from the Fantastic Four feature film. However, while Fantastic Four may have done well with kids, Mosaic really doesn’t offer anything eye-catching or creative enough to set it apart from the plethora of cartoon movies competing for the short attention span of the modern youth.

The movie’s premise is that a society of chameleon-people live secretly among us, (dubbed, of course, homeochameleo) and the protagonist, human Maggie Smith, is somehow mixed up in a power struggle between the leaders of the lizard-race. Maggie, voiced by Anna Paquin, is caught in an accident involving lightning, an ancient relic and a lizard. Comic book history and cliche dictates more than practical science that she will have superpowers after such an event. Armed with her own shapechanging/camouflaging powers equivalent to those possessed by the lizard people, as well as some Predator-like heat vision, Maggie sets out to rescue her father, an Interpol agent mixed up in the bizarre B-movie chameleon-people-civil war plotline.

Mosaic is also strangely self-aware; at times it’s self-referencing and manages to remind the viewer no less than three times that Stan Lee also created Spider-Man. The latter is executed with the refined tact that marks the rest of the film’s dialogue–look for gems like: “I could understand getting bitten by a radioactive chameleon­–but lightning?”

The animation is reminiscent of the animated Spider-Man television series from the nineties, though character movement is a sight more awkward. A capable voice-acting team fails to redeem the film, largely because of the terrible writing, which–though the concepts came from Lee­–was translated to a shooting script by Scott Lobdell. Lobdell comes with the impressive resume of having co-written the family classic, Man of the House, in which Tommy Lee Jones must protect a group of cheerleaders who bear witness to murder. To spare anyone from looking up a review of that film for comparison’s sake: it sucked.

Though a B-movie plot reigned in by a dose of self-awareness may often be a formula for success, this is not the case with Mosaic. Beyond the clumsy dialogue and uninspired presentation, Mosaic is killed by plot devices. These range from character monologues summarizing the ‘plot so far’ in an insulting attempt to do so inconspicuously, to a questionable explanation of Maggie’s smooth convergence from New York actress to butt-kicking super-powered heroine. As an actress, she explains, it was natural that she had studied such disciplines as martial arts, target practice and fencing. Right.

This is not a movie for adults, young adults, or even children who are at above average intelligence. Mosaic would be most enjoyed by 15-year-old comic nerds, or, perhaps, LSD-crazed lizards. Stan Lee Presents: Mosaic won’t be the last straight-to-DVD feature length animation from Pow! either, as the Man has announced that Mosaic is only the beginning of a series of new non-Marvel franchises to be produced in the coming years. Watch for The Condor, a feature animation about a streetwise skateboarding wizard taking the law to the sidewalks, to be released in March. Or don’t.

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