This animated short from the director of Bloodshot definitely walks the edge.
Since Covid-19 cancelled Bloodshot’s run in theaters, I felt like checking out the rest of director David Wilson’s library. While he boasts and extensive resume in the video game industry, he has only one other film credit: Sonnie’s Edge.
This short film shipped out in the anthology collection, Love Death + Robots, which we sampled before. I originally skipped Sonnie’s Edge because its visuals and story didn’t grab me. While I don’t love everything this short film does, Sonnie’s Edge did deliver what’s offered on the tin: punk dystopia, violence and gore, and a few twists.
Sonnie, a survivor in a burnt-out futurescape, makes her living competing in “beastie” fights. People who can establish neural links with gargantuan bio-weapons fight it out in semi-legal gladiatorial combat. While most seek fame and fortune, Sonnie has a different axe to grind.
There are lots of sci-fi threads woven into Sonnie’s Edge. You get a touch of Avatar in the neural diving. You get a bleak and nihilistic junkyard dystopia akin to Alita – Battle Angel. Little bits of Bladerunner’s aesthetic bleed in around the edges. Monster design blends aspects of Pacific Rim and any number of Japanese creature features.
Besides just movie influences, the imagery borrows from video game as well. I would not be surprised to hear that the techno-organic ideas of the recent Deus Ex games were an inspiration. The character design feels like you dropped a gaggle of latter-day Final Fantasy characters into Mad Max, and cranked up the NC-17 dial to max.
All of this adds up to a product that initially struggles to stake out its own vision.
Another aspect of the short film that initially put me off was all of the edgy posturing. One character walks around in an outfit that barely contains her cleavage, and is so impractical it shouts “this character is designed solely to titillate.” There’s also a sexpot character who falls into the “lesbian for the male gaze” mold.
There’s cursing aplenty, and the opposing beastie handler constantly makes obscene gestures to Sonnie. This is doubly repellent as we learn Sonnie is a sexual assault survivor. I was by no means certain that Wilson was going to handle that character beat with delicacy thanks to other edgelord material in the short.
With a Twist.
What goes a long way towards getting us out of the above minefield are some clever twists and character reveals. While the ending won’t blow minds, it is accomplished deftly and helps to recast the events and assumptions we’ve built up to that point. The script also is aware of some of the squicky tropes it’s dealing in, and grapples with them, to greater or lesser success.
Part of the Package.
I’d have to say that Sonnie’s Edge just falls short of a solid standalone experience. The combat scenes are really impressive, but other visual elements are either generic or so dark and gritty that they get lost in the shadows. The story rises above its questionable tropes in places, but still has lots of problematic elements.
As a part of the ensemble that is Love Death + Robots, I’d say it’s a slightly above average offering that fits well with the edgy sci-fi in that collection. On its own, I don’t see Sonnie’s Edge quite making the cut.