I never planned on asking myself the question, “is Entergalactic a series or a movie?”. After all, Netflix lists it as a TV special, and the plan was to make it a series early in development. However, the only way to watch Entergalactic at the moment is through a 92-minute feature. While it has multiple chapters, you cannot access each one as an individual episode. In addition, each chapter doesn’t really have a self-contained story. Because of that, I have decided to label it as a “made for TV” movie. And since this is a Netflix exclusive, you can pretty much ignore the phrase in the quotes.
If that alone isn’t a solid argument that Entergalactic is cinema, then surely the final product will do the job. At the very least, director Fletcher Moules takes huge inspiration from a deeply cinematic movie: 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. For one thing, it is yet another CG animated movie in which the characters make jerky motions akin to 2D animation. Specifically, movements occur every few frames as opposed to every single frame. More crucially than that, though, is the fact it marries graffiti art with a comic book aesthetic. It’s a lovely stylistic decision on its own, and it only gets lovelier once we consider the protagonist driving the story.
Our main character is Jabari (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi), a graffiti artist who gets the chance to be a comic book illustrator. While at his apartment, he has a meet-cute with his next-door neighbor Meadow (Jessica Williams). Not long after, they begin to strike a bit of a relationship. This is despite both of them saying they aren’t in the mood for anything steady. In Jabari’s case, he’s downright uncomfortable reigniting his connection with his ex Carmen (Laura Harrier). And in Meadow’s case, she lives out being a mingling person through her friend Karina (Vanessa Hudgens). So it’s up to Jabari and Meadow to decide if they want to maintain their own status quo or make a leap of faith toward each other.
I mention Kid Cudi’s involvement not just to acknowledge that he plays the main character. I’m not even mentioning him because he created the idea of this project alongside the famed Kenya Barris. I mention him because, in addition to Entergalactic being a star vehicle for him, it’s also a companion piece to his latest album (also titled Entergalactic). If the songs describe how love can make you feel liberated through words and musical notes, the movie describes that experience through visuals.
Many of Cudi’s songs – including the ones in this movie – ride the fine line between being languid and comforting. People familiar with Cudi as an artist will know how well he captures a spaced-out feeling. So with this movie, we get a chance to see cosmic visuals married to Cudi’s words. You’ll have a scene of Jabari riding a bike through space, which is one of the coziest moments in the film. Elsewhere you have a scene of Jabari and Meadow flying through space, not unlike the “define dancing” sequence in WALL-E. Truly, there’s a magic that comes whenever it gets to be a visual accompaniment to Cudi’s music.
Even when it’s presenting the world of a graffiti artist turned comic book illustrator, there’s magic to it. Early in the film, there is a dream sequence where Jabari’s iconic character Mr. Rager chases him through a desaturated, grimy city. As this is happening, Mr. Rager is a flat drawing while everything else has a three-dimensional quality to it. Between the angular designs and the playful use of color, it makes a case for itself as the most striking piece of animation in 2022.
There are two ways you could look at Entergalactic: either it’s an album adapted into a feature-length romance, or it’s a romance movie that every so often bursts with sound and visuals. For this viewer, I quickly adapted to the art style, so I ended up seeing it as the latter. But there is a side effect to seeing it that way: it becomes clear that the romance isn’t very convincing. While Meadow has enough personality to come out unscathed, the same is not true with Jabari. From Cudi’s disengaged line deliveries to the inert facial expressions, he feels incompatible with the plot around him. While the emotional growth is apparent, it’s entirely due to the songs and not the writing or acting.
Ultimately, Entergalactic is a difficult experience to pin down. If all you’re here for is an artful accompaniment to Cudi’s latest output, you’re in for a good time. You will walk away disappointed if you’re here to watch an enthralling love story with layered characters. As a member of both camps, I was frustrated at the wavering quality. This is without question a passion project for Cudi, and I would hate a world in which this did not exist. Still, a part of me laments this being more generic than it easily could have been. – Mark Tan
Entergalactic is now streaming on Netflix.
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