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‘Scavengers Reign’ Review: A Disturbing and Beautiful Animation Achievement

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Scavengers Reign is a continuation of a short film released in 2016 on Adult Swim created by Joseph Bennett and Charles Huettner. If you haven’t watched Scavengers yet, it’s available for free online on YouTube here and it’s a quick 8 minutes. Is it necessary viewing? No, but I do recommend you watch it as a primer to get a feel for this world. Scavengers Reign had a three-episode premiere on October 19th and now airing on Max and should definitely be part of your weekly programming.

[Warning: Possible spoilers and impressions of Scavengers Reign are below!]

Into the unknown in this Max original series

The Demeter is a cargo ship holding our scavengers. Mechanical failures and, we later find out, human error, set the sad path for our protagonists. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the sheer stillness and beauty of the sprawling backgrounds; countless creatures moving peculiarly in a Studio Ghibli-esque manner. Often they’re so strange that at first glance you wouldn’t know it’s a living thing, and the majority remind me of Jean “Moebius” Giraud’s paintings. I’ve always had a profound respect for French animation (even if it’s very weird) and it appears that Huettner and Bennett do as well.

Even the simplest terrains held a deep allure, and often I paused to review the landscapes wishing I could utilize them as my background. As we ventured further into the unknown of the planet Vesta, the variety of uniqueness amongst everything (creatures, locales) increased which only highlighted the insane amount of imagination the crew had on this show.

No one is a hero in Scavengers Reign

The narrative here is three simultaneous tales, slowly but surely weaving into each other by the end. While it does take a while to get to that point (I felt that episodes 7-9 dragged a small bit) the care in the development of each storyline is noteworthy. Like a comic book team-up that takes separate arcs and harmonizes at the end, you must individually allow them to struggle, which Scavengers Reign did. In this story, no one is a hero, but there are plenty of villains.

It’s not man against man, it’s man against self, against nature. One of the most terrifying things possible is complete solitude because that forces you to sit with your thoughts. This is the thread that is set for Kamen (Ted Travelstead) as he’s forced to relive every bad decision and attitude prior to dangling from a tree in a pod similar to the Jeep in Jurassic Park. His encounter with a little monkey-frog combo that is clearly parasitic in nature breaches his literal mind and tortures him with the mirages of his lost lover, Fiona. It’s incredibly cruel and equally entrancing. You end up kind of rooting for Kamen to break free but you also want to let it happen just to see how far it will go.

The failure is felt

Azi (voiced by Loki fan favorite Hunter B-15, Wunmi Mosaku) was far and away my favorite storyline, mostly due to her robot companion Levi (Alia Shawkat) who has faulty programming but is delightful in every way. The relationship between Azi and Levi is interesting as Levi is surprisingly more sentient than what you would imagine it to be.

This isn’t a chatty or lippy AI, it feels things and even asks Azi to consult with it before doing a “manual shutdown”. Hearing a robot talk about the coldness of being “dead” was subtly chilling only because it held so much of a human element with it.

Scavengers-Reign

Lastly, we have Ursula (Sunita Mani) and Sam (Bob Stephenson) who, if you watched the short Scavengers, you will recognize from the dialogue-free short film. They’ve adapted to the environment intelligently and know how to get the most out of the vast resources they scavenge.

The creativity in solutions and remedies will have your jaw hanging from time to time. Their relationship is a simplistic and respectful one, they both have a simple objective and work in tandem. First, they try to use the planet’s bio-electrical ropes to power a battery backup and instead blow it up. It’s a tense moment, where everyone’s holding their breath and the failure is felt through the screen.

Hearing it all in Scavengers Reign

I’ve pored over the visuals but the sound design was another impressive achievement. Screeches, pants, and growls are all paired to perfection with their painted parts. At times, I did struggle to hear dialogue over the music or ambiance and found that to be a small detraction. Using context clues and carrying on though, the blanks will fill themselves in as the tale progresses. Still, hearing it all, from the vacuum of space to rivers and a stampeding herd was an experience within itself.

If you’ve longed for the days of a slower animation style with a compelling story full of immense themes, then tune in weekly to Scavengers Reign, which drops on Thursdays on MAX. The first three episodes have hit the service and will throw you into the mix where you’ll be theorizing yourself into corners.

Will you be watching Scavengers Reign as it releases weekly on MAX? Do you think they’ll succeed in getting back to the Demeter? Tune in and find out and let us know your thoughts in our Discord server or give us a shout on social media @mycosmiccircus.

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Anthony Flagg

Howdy! I cover a variety of topics for The Cosmic Circus. My favorite topics to write about are video games, Pokemon and music. Drop me a line on Twitter! @redovah_

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