Amazon Review: Undone – Rotoscope Masterpiece

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Rosa Salazar as Alma
Rosa Salazar as Alma

Amazon Prime just released a new program unlike anything done in recent memory. With all of the advances in CGI performance capture and technology, we are starting to see a few programs going their own directions with filming. Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance returned to age old profession of puppetry to phenomenal success. Undone takes cartoon imaging to a whole new level now. Add in a magnificent story with great actors, you have another unique masterpiece.

What Is Undone Supposed To Look Like?!

time unraveling for Alma
Days like this…

Whether watching the show or the trailer, one will notice quickly Undone looks like no show before it.  The series is animated, but this animation looks completely different than say a Disney animated feature.  The reason is called Rotoscoping. 

Rotoscoping is when live action footage is drawn over by animators.  The effect gives the animation a more realistic look, and then the new animated images are usually inserted into the regular shot.  In rare occurrences, the Rotoscoped images are the new frame themselves.  Undone becomes the first series to use the process for the entire series. This is why the show looks like an animated show yet contains shots that look very realistic.  The show carries a very surreal look overall.

If the animation throws you off at all they made a behind the scenes featurette that you should try before watching the show. If the animation looks fine, save it for after the end of the series. Either way it makes for a fun watch to see how they made this amazing series.

The fun thing about Rotoscoping is it allows animators to accurately copy the appearance of the voice talent. Not only that, Rotoscoping transfers the actors actual movements and translates them into the animated look. One could say the process of Rotoscoping is the predecessor to CGI performance capture that Andy Serkis is making popular.

A Powerfully Familiar Voice Leads the Talent

Leading the cast is Rosa Salazar from Alita: Battle Angel. Rosa goes from the CGI performance capture of Alita to the rotoscoped performance of Alma. Rosa does a wonderful job in this series. One doesn’t realize how much of this series rests on her shoulders until later in the episodes. Rosa’s career looks to be blooming, whether she performs on screen or as an animated voice.

Constance Marie and Angelique Cabral do wonderfully as Alma’s mother and little sister, but its the performance of Bob Odenkirk as Alma’s father that turns in a gem of a performance. He plays a solid role as the father, but again, it will not be until later in the series that viewers will realize how good a job Odenkirk did.

Alma's father
Alma’s father

What Get’s Undone?

Undone tells the story of Alma. We meet up with her driving her car recklessly until “something” distracts her and she crashed into another car. She awakes at the hospital. Her family comes and goes as she wakes from a coma. Her mother and sister lecture her on her actions, and her dad tries to explain some things to her….except he’s dead.

Yup. Alma’s father died several years ago. His death has sculpted the character flaws of the Winograd family ever since. His reappearance makes Alma think she is crazy, but her father explains she descends from special indigenous peoples. She possesses the gift that, if trained properly by her father, will allow her to travel through time and change the events that killed her father.

Alma spends the eight episodes jumping back and forth through time, wildly at first but controlled later. Her jumps back and forth will remind Doctor Who fans of THIS statement.

What Makes Undone Special

Reality begins to fall apart
Reality falls apart

So what makes Undone different from other time jumping, future altering shows? Besides the great performances and rotoscoped performances, Director Hisko Hulsing does a magnificent job of telling the family story while Alma attempts to solve the puzzle of her father’s killer. The family story and the crime story are woven together with expert precision, neither ever feels like an unneeded story.

As Alma grows in her powers, we watch all of the Winograd-Diaz family evolve and change. The stories are all woven together as tightly as the family/crime threads. It really does not feel like any of the parts are wasted. Each serves the other stories to keep viewers involved.

Undone tells a wonderful story I highly recommend. The time jumping and family stories are fun to follow. The interactions between Alma and her father really drive this show. The show grows more intriguing the more she learns. Then again…maybe Alma is simply a schizophrenic waking up from a coma.

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