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The Secret of Kells Reviews

Page 1 of 49
Apeneck F

Super Reviewer

September 21, 2013
Laden with the magic of childhood like donuts are covered in powdered sugar this simple tale about the creation of a book is less about story and impact than about mood, memory and remembrance, not about how things are so much as how they seem and a patina of wonder settles over you, the blanket over your head as a child and wondering what all those sounds are out there. The story is a slight and wistful thing, a snowflake melting on your palm, but one that chose to fly to you.
Matthew S

Super Reviewer

February 4, 2012
A rare modern animation with a sense of soul, not directed by the appeal of focus groups. After the opening scene, a young member of my family was already uncomfortable. Our young protagonist has to face fears of the unknown and the film's directors mean to make us an active participant, daring us to keep going along with him. This fear is induced with inventive, minimalist animation and is fed to us in bits throughout the movie, breaking with beautiful, playful, and joyful art and music that left me in awe.
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

May 1, 2011
The biggest surprise of the past year's Academy Awards wasn't the triumph of Kathryn Bigelow or the ominous inclusion of "The Blind Side" to the Best Picture lineup, but rather the nomination of a little Irish film known as "The Secret of Kells," with barely any screenings to its name. The question at the tip of everybody's tongue became: what was the Academy thinking? Yet once "Kells" emerged quietly onto the moviehouse scene, people began to understand. In a year where 3-D glasses and grand IMAX screenings dominated the box office, one can't help but feel that the Academy members that voted for it were onto something, a form of silent rebellion against all things big and explosive.It's rare that the visual components of a film can so completely saturate its entire being. Indeed, the Irish fairytale story seems to exist wholly for the sumptuous drawings depicting it. A flighty little nymph sprite, with her white hair blowing spiritedly in the wind, guides ribbons of smoke along the geometric curlicues of the screen. Armed with nothing but a pencil, Brendan battles the fearsome Krom Kruit as he catapults himself within a milky plasmatic nebula. And then there are the montages, some whimsical, like filigreed clockwork, some impressionistic, like a smudgy Renoir painting, and some brilliantly naturalistic, featuring jeweled leaves with verdure smeared all over its surface.Yet although "Kells" features scenes heavily laden with Irish mysticism and subversively pagan rituals, the film could essentially double as a social allegory for modern film industry. Brother Aidan says dishearteningly to Cellach: "You've forgotten how important it is. All you want for us is this wall!" Just replace "it" with "hand-drawing" and "wall" with "hyper-explosive 3-D graphics," and you've got yourself the perfect antidote to James Cameron and his devoted followers. With a run time of little more than an hour, "Kells" is a refreshingly different take on classic animation, lovingly and defiantly flattened into two dimensions, inspiringly simple - and more than a little trippy. By paying homage to an ancient time where beauty and patience inevitably won out over brute force, the film blends a straightforward morality with sophisticated hand-drawings to stunning visual effect. Truly, it practices what it preaches.
Mark H

Super Reviewer

September 22, 2010
Animated Irish folk tale about young Brendan, an apprentice in a monastery who becomes obsessed with completing the legendary Book of Kells, a treasured illuminated manuscript. Set in the 9th century, this hand drawn film is a glorious mixture of Celtic art and geometric cubism; sort of The Powerpuff Girls Go to Ireland! in illustrative style. When Vikings attack the monastery, the assault is a brutally gorgeous scene, a stylized war of blood and snow. The problem is with the spiritually muddled narrative. It's random and doesn't flow like a good storyline should. We know from history that the Book of Kells contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. That would explain its significance, yet although Brandon is compelled to finish the text, no explanation is ever given as to why. Additionally, character development is minimal. When Brendan goes out into the woods he encounters Aisling, a magical fairy. She appears at first glance to be just a human girl. Her ability to change form is never explained and a source of bewilderment whenever she is on screen. Other sequences feel too abstract. When he does battle with Crom Cruach, a Celtic snake god, the encounter becomes rather conceptual in style. The odd execution feels lifted from the pages of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Visually, however, this stunning fable is a joy to watch, a luxurious burst of color and glow. The story is admittedly an awkward amalgamation of Christianity and pagan folklore. Nevertheless, every frame is dazzling and the artwork's hypnotic power can be appreciated even when the action is confusing.
Kylie B

Super Reviewer

March 1, 2011
This is a stunning piece of work; by turns sweet, terrifying and sad, and always so beautiful thanks to its quirky art style.
sanjurosamurai
sanjurosamurai

Super Reviewer

February 11, 2011
without question one of the most unique animated films ever made. the story was simple but engaging, the voice acting was solid, and the animation among the best and most unique ive ever seen. i love the abbey as a setting, the cultural significance of the north men (vikings) as a looming threat presented a luminous and historically accurate villain, and the characters were interesting and well designed. one of the best animated films ive ever seen.
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

October 12, 2010
A cartoon with no agenda, no big corporate budget, no path to solely entertain the audience with adult appreciative jokes and 3D effects. Instead, it was an Irish tale with some impressive graphics. The character of Brendan was the quintessential boy hero, followed by a cat with different colored eyes. Love over war and friendhip above all else fueled this classic for all ages, abounding in an interesting and original film.
Alexis N

Super Reviewer

November 16, 2010
What a beautiful little legend, entertaining and stunning to watch. It's very cute.
gor41
gor41

Super Reviewer

November 4, 2010
Enchanting animation which combines the best of old and new visual techniques to create a novel vision, even if the story is thin.
rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

September 22, 2010
the background animation is utterly captivating, almost making up for the weak story. the bit where they animate some actual pages from the book is pure magic. and there's a cat! i wish i'd seen this on a bigger screen.
Lewis C

Super Reviewer

September 22, 2010
"Do you want to see the most beautiful page? The one that will turn darkness into light?"

The story of The Secret of Kells is a simple one. A monastery in Ireland hurries to complete a wall that will hopefully protect it and its village from the coming destruction of the Vikings, when it is visited by a monk who also flees the Vikings. He brings with him a special book that he is writing, and a young boy who lives in the monastery tries to help him complete it, and meets a shape-shifting forest girl in the process. The friendship that's made between the two may end up saving both the book, and the lives of the monks and villagers.

The aspect of The Secret of Kells that's most noteworthy is the visuals. This is one of the most gorgeous and visually inventive movies I've ever seen. The art style is like moving illustrations from a book of English fairy tales, and it constantly changes from scene to scene, offering new things to see while keeping the same basic theme. It really is a beautiful movie, and I don't see how anyone could watch it and not be thoroughly impressed by the amount of creativity and work that had to go into making this.

On the whole, I think this will appeal to older teens and adults more than children, as it's a quite serious story, and pretty violent in some places. There's not much of the humor or kinetic antics that younger viewers usually like in their animated movies, but anyone old enough to appreciate The Secret of Kells will be quite pleased with this little gem.
Movie Monster
Movie Monster

Super Reviewer

October 10, 2010
We've heard much rave on the film ever since it was nominated for Best Animated Picture at the Oscars earlier this year. We saw the trailer shortly after the ceremony (film lost to "Up") and was interested. We watched it today because we couldn't say "no" to this movie being on Netflix's "Watch Instantly" library. We were just amazed by how AMAZING the art was and how WELL the story is told. We can't go in to detail, just SEE IT!!!
Gx7
Gx7

Super Reviewer

October 9, 2010
How do you rate a film wherein its ideas are so abstracted? Halfway through I thought this was another one of those "Oh great divine saving book" cartoons but it wasn't really centered on it, there was something else, it was the muted message in it that I liked. High rating for uniqueness but its not really a film that I would openly recommend to people as it wasnt really an "enjoyable" film per se. It was just.. Fresh and... oh you can just go to wikipedia for the rest.
Mark W

Super Reviewer

September 22, 2010
Hand painted artwork is such a treat these days, considering most animation is computer generated and the hand crafted imagery in this one is some of the finest you're likely to see.
It tells the story of Brendan, a young lad living in a monestry in Ireland, and his interest in the arrival of Brother Aidan, who is writing an almost magical looking manuscript. However, the Brother can't finish his writings until he can get more bramble berries, to use for ink, that can only be found in the dangerous forest beyond the Abbey walls. Brendan takes it upon himself to venture out and retrieve the berries and becomes embroiled in a whole new world of possibilities.
I had high expectations for this film but it didn't capture my imagination as much as I thought it would, although the animation is second to none and absolutely gorgeous in it's hand painted intricate beauty. It truly is captivating.
The illustrations of the real "Book of Kells" are captured and brought to life in their complexity with this film. The traditional Christian iconography with swirling motifs and animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knotwork and interlacing patterns are as close a representation of the book as your likely to get. Despite the visual feast, however, there is something missing. The dialogue is stilted and it doesn't engage you the way it should. I found myself drifting throughout it, when really I should have been glued to the screen with the marvellous Christian and Pagan symbolism.
If they had put as much effort into a flowing narrative as they did with the animation this would have been a masterpiece. Unfortunately, it's not. But it's a damn good looking attempt at one.
Kyle F.
Kyle F.

Super Reviewer

September 22, 2010
"The Secret of Kells" opens with intense promise,possessing humor, wonder, beautiful animation and a talented voice cast; but by the time its finished, the story will not have gone anywhere significant, and you might find yourself wondering what the point was.
neverteaseaweasel
neverteaseaweasel

Super Reviewer

August 7, 2010
I read that one of the animators had worked on this film over the years of 07 and 08. It makes you wonder how long this film was in production, how painstaking the creation must have been. However much time and effort, the end result is amazing. I'm a bit of an animation junkie, but I've never seen anything quite like this. Its incredibly stylized and simple, but still so beautiful and artistic. And keeping in the vein of myths and legends, it is also reminiscent of Byzantine and Midevil artwork. Some of the characters were rather weak, but I am very much in love with Aisling and the cat. Parts of "Kells" really set me on edge. That is something that hardly ever happens. And there was not even anythin particuarly creepy!

It sort of feels like style took presidence over story. On the surface level it is not particuarly complicated or original, but that does not make it any less enjoyable. Apparently there was some deeper metaphors and deeper meanings, but I missed them. It can certainly be taken at a literal level, but it feels like there is something more. Maybe there is a historical or legendary aspect I'm just unaware of. One thing I'm pretty of is that The Book of Kells is the four gospels. Even so, that doesn't really add any meaning to the movie. At least that I can see. I bring this up only beause I've read numorous complaints about it; and they are completely legitimate. Still, it does not detract from the mystery and beauty that makes up the rest of the film.
366weirdmovies
366weirdmovies

Super Reviewer

September 22, 2010
A young boy living in the monastery of Kells is caught in the clash between paganism and early Christianity in a story that involves pillaging Vikings, wood spirits, sleeping gods, and magical talismans. An dreamlike fairytale with an amazing visual look, a cross between a children's storybook and the actual historical Book of Kells, with each frame of the film full of baroque detail, sometimes decorated with spinning geometric aemobae floating around the image. Catch it on a big screen if possible.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

September 22, 2010
WOW! An excellently awesome cinematic surprise. Secret of Kells fuses stylised animation, along with brilliant storytelling. The animation is the real star. It looks so seamless and beautiful. Every shot is a miniature work of art. The story itself tells a wonderful and inspiring tale about too overprotective, and exploring the world around us. It was nice to see a film with a calm climax, like the work of Miyazaki, Secret if Kells refuses to stick to the formulaic layout as set by Disney. It's not all sunshine and roses here. A wonderful, brilliant film for all fans of animation.
Cinema-Maniac
Cinema-Maniac

Super Reviewer

July 24, 2013
Films can entertain as well as give us insight into cultures. Teaching not only history, but beliefs, important figures, and inspiring events. This animated film gives a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the bible which has since become an Irish national treasure. It's a culturally rich experience that minus it flaws will enthrall you.

The Secret of Kells tells the simple story of the boy behind the famed Book of Kells. The story while simplistic enriches us with a thoughtful story. One that put forth the importance of the written word, preservation of imagination, and the essence of civilized life. The plot while revolving around Christianity never gives off a Christian overtone. This aspect is rightfully downplayed so it can become accessible for anyone and making it final message delivery a reflection of what most valuable in life over a promotion towards religious views. The character archetypes despite simplicity given to them keeps the viewer interested. The world, just like the characters, are lively and energetic as well somber and sullen. Though it's not entirely flawless. The fast pace of the story doesn't allow development for important characters to flourish. Too many instances elements are merely commented on or significant key characteristic glossed over. Leaving closure on some story line to feel empty. Given it's a film that is about 75 minutes one will be shocked by the abrupt ending that never materialize the true power of the Book of Kells holds.

The animation style is a varied mixture of simple 2D with highly painted background, a few of monochromatic line animation, 3D animation, and CGI. The 2D style animation aren't really just single colors; the characters have ruddy cheeks, shadows cross them, dappled forest light dots them, even firelight is occasionally reflected from a face. Sometimes they contain the movement of secondary characters, or of burning fires, or of flowing water, or of stars wheeling through the heavens. The monochromatic line segments are intertwined with 3D animation usually in sequences with multiple, evenly moving layers. These segments are inspired from the actual book of Kells in terms of art style which are some of the best segments in the film. CGI is an enhances the visuals and is used very subtly. With the exception of one scene, the CG blends so well into the art style you'll be hard pressed to find a scene where it's noticeable. The sparse Celtic musical score is effective in evoking the sense of fantasy that imbues the film.

The Secret of Kells might rush it plot, but it visuals and what it culturally shares are mesmerizing. While it's not a faithful historical account of the creation of The Book of Kells it is a rewarding visual experience.
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