Reviewed by John Hussey
In the Dream World, power and adventure belong to the Lucid Dreamers, while Night Terrors haunt the troubled and the helpless.
A lucky few are watched over by mysterious guardians.
The protectors of our shared unconscious lives are known as…
Let us travel back to 2014 when I first came into contact with this obscure animated film. I knew very little about it to begin with but after viewing the official trailer I was hooked. I wanted to know more about this unique looking tale and explore its extensive universe. What comes as a massive surprise is the man behind the idea. Tom Delonge. Most will know Delonge for his punk-rock days within the band Blink 182, where he was notorious for his dick jokes on stage and producing multiple music videos bollock naked.
Though this is where I first discovered Delonge I have to say I truly grew to love his work through his spin-off bands Boxcar Racer and Angels & Airwaves. The latter, especially, got me into listening to such a unique range of music as Delonge created space rock, incorporated with fantastic guitaring and immersive electronic sounds. It was within Angels & Airwaves I found that he discovered himself and was able to be more expressive with his messages, which leant to him developing his business, To the Stars, and create projects outside of the realm of music.
It was by this point that he stopped referring to himself as a musician and became an artist. Delonge started taking on the roles of writing, directing and producing, as he set about creating a multitude platform in which he could merge the different mediums of entertainment. This meant that he could bring together different industries and artists to collaborate, having stories told through books, films, animations, documentaries, comic-books, as well as music.
This all began with Poet Anderson. This idea started with an image in Delonge’s mind of a man, wearing a black suit and bowler hat whilst carrying an umbrella, running across the rooftops of Paris. Delonge then became fascinated with the idea of dreams. There was an area of discovery to be explored and Delonge was determined to create a unique tale set within that journey.
Everyone can agree that dreams are a puzzling part of life, one that even makes scientists scratch their heads. Nobody fully knows what dreams are, or where they come from, but they are an integral part of each of our lives. I like to believe that dreams mean something, as they play on our subconscious and tell us what we need to do when we wake up. In some cases it can be a form of escape – I know I’ve been there, waking up in the morning feeling bummed out because I have to re-join the world and it’s negative elements when I’d rather stay in a land of fantasy, where anything is possible.
Imagination is the key to dreams, and combine this with Delonge’s enthusiastic mind and you have a great concept on your hands. Poet Anderson follows the story of young Jonas Anderson who has the ability to create tunnels between the realm of dreams and reality. It begins the traumatic journey of Jonas battling between two worlds and understanding where he belongs.
Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker opens up with a clever little title-card which unveils Delonge’s banner – From the Imagination of Tom Delonge. We are introduced to Jonas as he races through the Dream World, teleporting from place to place, whilst a terrifying creature pursues him. This creature is known as a Night Terror, a thing that pursues the troubled minded whilst they sleep.
Jonas ultimately ends up on a locomotive and runs across its carriages in the moonlight sky. He constantly hears a voice whispering to him, calling him closer to an unknown location. This leads him to Jarabec. A Dream Walker. Jonas awakes and it begins a long struggle for Jonas as he determines what is real and the work of his imagination. The film is clever at seamlessly blending the two worlds together to keep you guessing as much as Jonas.
He then contacts his girlfriend, Sam, from the institution in which his dream activity is studied. You can tell from this desperate message that Jonas is struggling, growing tired of the constant running as the Night Terror grows ever near. In this moment you get the sense of this tragic, but beautiful love story, which is accompanied by a later moment in which Sam visits a sleeping Jonas in order to reassure him.
The Night Terror continues to pursue him as Jonas teleports between the realms of dream and reality, making you wonder in this wonderfully edited sequence what the hell is going on. But the answers don’t fully matter because the action onscreen is intense, and heartfelt, to the point where you’re blindly hooked, eagerly waiting to see what happens next.
The narrative then goes full-throttle (no pun intended) when Jarabec arrives in Jonas’s room on his hover-bike. They then travel through another tunnel, followed closely by the Night Terror, into the city of Genesis – a place where all shared consciences come together. It’s a stunning moment within the film as you gaze at this incredible landscape. What you get is an animated reimagining of Blade Runner. Delonge’s imagination here certainly isn’t short as he conveys this incredible world of design, accompanied with an engaging narrative filled with deep characters.
Poet Anderson comes to its final act as Jonas and Jarabec teleport onto a bridge where Sam happens to be driving past. In the process of their escape Jarabec crashes the hover-bike and is badly injured whilst Jonas is faced with his greatest fears. It’s at this moment, having witnessed his Dream Walker sacrifice his life to protect him, and then seeing Sam in peril at the hands of his demon, that Jonas embraces himself. In a glorious moment of heroic proportion Jonas rises to the occasion by donning his outfit and challenging the Night Terror, finally overcoming his inner demons.
We are then given the bittersweet ending of Jonas returning Sam to her bed, where it is implied that Jonas has travelled inside her Dream World. From there we are retold the information from the beginning of the film, bringing the narrative full-circle, as Jonas takes up the mantle as Sam’s Dream Walker in order to protect her whilst she sleeps.
This film is a great little tale, and although it’s a massive shame that the runtime only comes to fifteen minutes, it does enough to warrant its stay within your subconscious. In many ways the short animation is there to introduce you to the world of Poet Anderson. When I first watched it I was pinning for more content, and for that I believe the film does its job at delivering a keen introduction.
Following on from this short film we had an accompanying graphic novel, and album by Angels & Airwaves (whom did the composing for the film), and would later see a three-issue comic-book, a novel – Of Nightmares… – which kicks off a trilogy, and much more within the upcoming future.
Of course how can I leave out the fantastic animation. Sergio Martins, and his twin brother Edgar Martins, produced a brilliant animated look for the film, incorporating both flash and computer animation using software’s Blender and XSI. Both they and Delonge agreed upon taking influence from Japanese animation techniques after taking inspiration from anime show Aoki Densetsu Shoot!. This was the first time I felt an American production had understood the feel, and style, of Japanese anime and it works really well here to create a unique look, granting a nice mix between the two cultures.
Each character has a quality to them and stand out because of their unique design, granting them each a personality. Jonas feels very relatable with his natural teenage look, making his journey feel more realistic as you feel for him, knowing he is a young man trapped in a strange kind of limbo, as he desperately attempts to find himself. But when he becomes a Poet, or later on a Dream Walker, he gets this badass look to him, which is made extra awesome by the fact he’s essentially wearing a suit. Delonge and his incredible team pretty much made wearing a suit look cool (added with the intense eyes, and cool looking fringe, and you have yourself a damn good cosplay on your hands).
One of the greatest qualities of this project is the music. I absolutely love Delonge’s talent as a musician because I feel like there’s nothing he can’t do. He knows exactly how to convey emotion through his lyrics and beautiful sounding music. It always sounds inventive and poetic, making me want to listen to it over and over again. Sometimes I want to cry just because it’s that good, creating what I like to call “beautiful music”.
Delonge incorporates some of the tracks from The Dream Walker album into the film, making the chase scene through Genesis feel even more thrilling because of the addition of song “Paralyzed”. Then Jonas’s confrontation with his Night Terror is perfectly built up with the conveying feel of song “The Disease” as the music increases as Jonas comes to terms with his destiny and confronts it head-on. The credits are given that extra bonus of having the song “Tunnels” played, which also acted as the trailer’s backing song – which ultimately got me even more excited about the film.
The final touch was made with the small usage of demo track “The Infinite” – which I advise you go and check out on YouTube because it is mesmerising – as it adds yet another emotional layer to Jonas’s struggle during his conversation with Sam early on in the film. Though we only hear the instrumental version, the beautiful sounding piano really gets across this emotional struggle and the love between these two characters as they convey their feelings across the realms of imagination.
And although the voice acting isn’t at the frontier of this animation, it still stands out in its short bursts as the actors display their characters justly. August Roads was great as Jonas, whilst Wiremu Davidson acted as the perfect mentor to our protagonist (almost like Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker). It’s great how Delonge ties the dots of the multi-medium franchise by incorporating Roads in the music video for song “The Wolfpack” where he dons the bowler hat in a live-action performance.
I could go on and on about Poet Anderson. It’s a great story and one that came out of nowhere by a man that people never used to take seriously. I’m very happy for Delonge and how he has embraced his new life after moving on from Blink 182. In many ways he has become a better person and this is seen through his expressive work as he constantly pushes himself to display his meanings and journey of discovery.
Another reason this franchise means a lot to me is because of how it brought me and my partner closer together. I showed her the film, Delonge’s music, and soon enough she fell in love with his work and has been pinning for it ever since. She went as far as tattooing Jonas on her arm (twice!) to show her affection for me, showcasing how the franchise and Delonge’s work combines us.
So thank you Tom for all your hard work, and we really can’t wait to see what you bring us next. And for anyone reading this review having not previously heard of Poet Anderson, I would seriously advice checking it out because I can almost certainly guarantee that you won’t regret it.