Rakka – Oats Studios: Volume 1 – Review

Ok, Neill Blomkamp, as Leonardo Dicaprio said in Djano Unchained, “you had my curiosity but now you have my attention.”  Blomkamp burst on to the Hollywood scene back in 2009 when he shocked the world with his first feature film District 9 (which I have yet to see but plan on fixing that soon) and then followed that up with the somewhat divisive Elysium and then the rather disappointing Chappie (which I have also yet to see but don’t have any plans to remedy that) so it’s fair to say that, within the Hollywood system, Blomkamp has faltered a bit.  Well, he seems to be going for a change with his new initiative called Oats Studios where he and his team of 40 people have set out to make experimental short films free from the confines of the Hollywood studio system.  The one hitch is that Oats Studios and Blomkamp doesn’t have funding for this initiative, but are hoping that by giving away the finished product online for free and then hoping people will donate to the cause or purchase the films so they can get to extra content like 3D models and the raw footage from the films, they will be able to continue this project.  The only question is,  will the finished product be good enough for people to donate to the cause.  Having just finished watching Rakka, the first short film to be released, I can firmly answer not just yes, but Hell Yes.

Rakka is about 22 minutes long and drops the viewer into a world ravaged by alien invasion where humanity has been pushed to the brink of extinction.  If you haven’t taken the time to watch it, I highly suggest you do so before reading any further, not because of spoilers or anything, but because it is well worth your time to do so.

WARNING – THIS IS PROBABLY BEST FOR VIEWING BY MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY. There is a lot of graphic and potentially disturbing imagery.

Did you watch it?  Good.

I really had no idea what to expect going into watching this but I am very pleasantly surprised.  I really, really enjoyed this and might even grow to love it.  Blomkamp manages to build a world and present characters that are so much more intriguing and deeper than two and half hour, $200 million blockbusters can in the span of 22 minutes. The opening voice over paints a crystal clear picture of the horror that has transpired and absolutely conveys the appropriate feeling of doom that the viewer needs to have to fully understand the character motivations and the world we are seeing.

Over the course of the film, we meet three main characters: Jasper, Nosh, and Amir. Amir appears to be a test subject that has managed to escape captivity or at least survive the experiments on him.  From what we get in the film, he seems like he will be a very important figure going forward (presuming that this short is just the beginning of a series of shorts set in this same world) as he seems to have the genetic predisposition required to survive being experimented on by the aliens and he also seems to have gained precognitive powers.  Next up is Nosh, who is honestly kind of scary.  Nosh is a man who is thriving in this post apocalyptic Earth as he is a pyromaniac and a savant at building things from junk and scraps, things like bombs and Brain Barriers which the resistance fighters use to block telepathic attacks by the aliens.  And lastly is Jasper, leader of the resistance, played quite adeptly by none other than Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is undoubtedly the stand out of the cast, not only because she is obviously a very recognizable actor with a long and storied career but because of the way she carries herself and the way that you just instinctively know that she is in charge. I said it in the opening paragraph and I’ll reiterate it here – this short has more character development in it that the majority of modern block busters.

The production design, set work, and costuming in Rakka is also astounding.  On the Oats Studios website, it states on their “support” page that “the creation of Volume 1 required immense resources” and I truly believe it.  All of the visual effects are stunning and of comparable quality to those aforementioned $200 million blockbuster movies if not better at times.  The world the designers have put together is gritty, war torn, and feels utterly real.  This is truly a feat for a short film designed to just put on YouTube.

Rakka is a fantastic piece of film making that deserves your attention and your time and, if you’re so inclined, maybe a few of your dollars. A venture such as this, is incredibly bold and daring and has the potential to further break the strangle hold that major Hollywood studios have on cinema and that streaming services are already loosening as they continue to general original content. I, for one, cannot wait to see what Neill Blomkamp and Oats Studios do going forward, for as I said above – they had my curiosity and now they certainly have my attention.