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Release Date: 2023 [VOD]
Genre: Animation. Action. Comedy.

Studio: GKIDS

"War-hungry teddy bears journey from bootcamp to the psychedelic terrors of the Magic Forest in this darkly beautiful horror animation." 


When a movie advertises itself as a cross between Apocalypse Now and Bambi, you see it. Unicorn Wars is that movie. And it’s also unlike any other movie you’ll ever see this year.


Written and directed by Alberto Vázquez, the animated anti-war film follows a race of bears who are at war with unicorns that occupy a nearby forest. According to an age-old prophecy, both creatures used to coexist in harmony. However, once bears discovered “a sacred book” they became self-aware and civilized. Believing themselves to be the superior race, they began to look down on the majestic unicorns. Because of their newfound awareness, the bears believed the unicorns decided to wage war on them out of jealousy.


The real root of the war is never revealed, and it’s implied that the bears have been regurgitating this lie to themselves for centuries. It’s a brilliant metaphor for how religion can breed ethical blindness. The bottom line is that the bears hate the unicorns. It’s also universally believed that when the final unicorn is killed, whosoever drinks its blood can gain eternal beauty and life.


For a majority of the film, we spend time with a group of new recruits as they venture out into the unicorn’s forest to fight the war. The platoon features a variety of bears: one’s brown, one’s a panda, etc. In a fun bit of visual irony, they’re all designed to look like teddy bears. They even have names like Coco and Gordi. While they seem cute and cuddly on the outside, they actually aren’t made of cotton or wool. In fact, many are tough as nails and will gladly bleed to prove it. While some are naive to the stakes of the war (and inevitably suffer as a result), others want nothing more than to keep the cycle of violence going. 


Within the platoon are two brothers: Tubby and Bluey. In a series of flashbacks it’s revealed that they lost their mom at a young age. Tubby became more sensitive to the world after her death, while Bluey became angrier at it. Despite their different perspectives, they still manage to have a moderately close bond. The deeper they delve into the forest, however, the greater the rift in their relationship. Their inevitable war with each other is more than just the result of growing up in an echo chamber. It’s a prime example of how infectious hate is and how it forces us to take aim at everything until there’s no one left standing.


Now, on top of being animated, Unicorn Wars is also a foreign language film (the bears speak Spanish), but Vázquez’s stunning visuals, the action, and the characters are so enthralling that it’s easy to get swept away. The fact that he could use such (traditionally) cute characters to devise such a profound fable is an incredible achievement in itself; however, the film isn’t perfect. As much as the audience is shown and told, by the end it still feels like there’s more to this story. We spend so much time with the bears, understanding their history and their reasons for fighting but not enough with the unicorns. While it could be intentional on Vázquez’s part to prove the true pointlessness of most conflicts, it leaves just a little more to be desired. 

Nevertheless, Unicorn Wars is still worth watching. If not for the fact that it lives up to its title by showing the world what a war against unicorns would really look like, or its homage to things like Full Metal Jacket or Adventure Time, then for its definitely watching for its abstract interpretation of humanity’s greatest sin of all: hubris.

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