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“Silicon Docks,” an unsuccessful satirical film


Satire is hard. Good satire is even harder. Oftentimes, satire especially in animation is just mean-spirited low blows. That’s not the case with Silicon Docks. Instead, it’s a lot of nearly incomprehensible gibberish that’s supposed to be mocking the tech and social media elites – but it just doesn’t work.

I don’t know if it’s because I don’t know who most of the characters are: Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos are instantly recognizable but the rest of them? I couldn’t tell you. And that made the movie really difficult to get through. I couldn’t distinguish between most of the characters and I couldn’t bring myself to care.

Now – I should note Kasia Wiśniewska, the animator for this film, reached out to me asking for this review. Silicon Docks was a passion project written and directed by her husband Graham Jones and is available to watch ad-free on YouTube. Clearly, I’m not expecting a movie with Pixar-level animation quality and writing. But I was expecting something that is the very least, mildly entertaining.

But that’s not it. At least not for me.

There’s probably some indie film fan who loves this movie and all its quirks. It’s just not me. 

PLOT

In the fall of 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, ten American tech moguls meet up in Dublin, Ireland to discuss signing an EU bill. But, they also need to get a drink. And thus, they go on a search for an open pub. Along the way, they discuss the internet, social media, and muse about life.

It’s the kind of artsy, philosophical kind of animated film that probably won’t appeal to a wide crowd. Despite the wild concept, the movie itself is rather quiet and low-key. It’s very dialogue heavy – with not a lot of focus on action or plot. It moves at a snail’s pace, visiting different Dublin landmarks.

In other words – I found it tedious and boring. I could barely get through it.

The Good

The film’s saving grace is its animation. While it can be nausea-inducing at times, like during one scene where we see a character’s reflection in the water; it’s different from what you would normally see. 

The animation was done entirely by [Name] which is a feat that anyone should be proud of. Hand-drawn character models with live-action set pieces make for an interesting contrast.  There’s even rotoscoping used!

Considering its production, this was really well done and honestly, I’d be interested in seeing more movies, made with such a small or one-person animation team. It would be cool to see what styles everyone decides to go with if they could animate however they want.

The Bad

The dialogue and the voice acting were just…not good. The voice actors whispered and mumbled while doing their lines – and to make matters worse, the dialogue was boring. It was a lot of philosophical nonsense or talking vaguely about the world – and it just doesn’t feel genuine with it coming from the mouths of poorly satirized billionaires.

None of the voice actors really attempted to give their characters any personality and there wasn’t an easy way to distinguish between two characters speaking. Except for one, and I can’t even name him, who sounded almost exactly like Ernie from Sesame Street.

That made it so hard for me to focus on the movie. It was just one of those things that bothered me.

The point of satire is to make a point – and I just didn’t get the personality traits they gave to each person. Maybe it’s because I’m not familiar with most of the tech moguls but most of them felt one-dimensional and like they could have just been generic ‘billionaire’ types.

Also – while I get logically why this film takes place when and where it does (due to them voting on an EU bill and the team being Irish) – it doesn’t feel like the location really does anything for the story. Especially since none of them are Irish, to my knowledge.

The Scoop

This is a film where I’m struggling to figure out if it’s good but just doesn’t appeal to me, and my dislike of it is a matter of personal taste or if it’s actually just…not a good movie. Especially considering that it’s a low-budget passion project.

But I’ve seen passion projects where I could feel the passion oozing out of the screen. I’ve seen interesting animation, heard amazing dialogue with talented voice actors, and enjoyed them immensely. 

And this just isn’t it.

I was bored to tears during this movie. It couldn’t keep me engaged… So many people think they can take some pseudo-intellectual lecture, give it to some mumbly-sounding voice actor who trips over their lines and put it in a non-conventional art style and think it’s one of the greatest pieces of animation; don’t recognize the power the medium has. The fact is – I don’t think the animation does anything for this film.

The film doesn’t justify the use of animation, and that’s coming from a person who thinks that animation can be just as good if not better than live-action for the vast majority of movies. 

And that’s the scoop.

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Grade: C

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Release Year: 2022

Length: 1 hour 23 minutes

Writer/Director: Graham Jones

Animator: Kasia Wiśniewska

Production Designer: Diep Hoang

Background: Sonia Egan

Music: Freedom Trail Studio, Futuremono, The Tower of Light, RKVC, Ashley Shadow, Dan Lebowitz

Voice Actors: Grace Power, Shane Lynch, Brendan McDonald, Fiona Bawn-Thompson, Bobby Calloway, Rob Smith, José Naghmar, Gerry Cannon and Matthew McMahon

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