I won't lie, I don't think anyone was interested in seeing Tick Tock.
Sure, Ahsan Khan lent his voice to one of the leads but despite this I can't name a single person who saw Tock Tock's trailer and said "Oh yay, can't wait to go." Reason? Based on the trailer alone Tick Tock's animation looked extremely basic and amatuerish.
Given that Allahyar and the Legend of the Markhor come out barely a month ago and made (small) strides for animation in Pakistan, I expected more finesse from Tick Tock. But I didn't want to make too many assumptions based on Tick Tock's trailer or even just its animation. After all, the story, dialogue and overall theme plays a huge part in a film's success.
I decided to give Tick Tock a chance and even dragged a colleague with me (after many said no). I was definitely hopeful, because if you hear the synopsis, the plot sounds intriguing.
Tick Tock was marketed as being a film where two teenagers Dania and Hassan (voiced by Maria Memon and Ahsan Khan) join their teacher KK (Alyy Khan) on an adventure filled with time travel. They have to stop the villain Gobo (Ghulam Mohiuddin) from changing the history of Pakistan for the worse. They even meet some of Pakistan's heroes along the way.
Now, I'm all for historical fiction. And I do love sci-fi. And I have to say I was intrigued by the idea that Tick Tock would mix up characters from the present with characters from the past. The concept reminded me of Time Squad, an animated show I used to watch when younger. Maybe, just maybe, Tick Tock would be something worth talking about?
Here's what I learned.
The animation is terrible
I don't need to say much about the animation, you all saw the trailer. But I can't help it.
To say the animation quality is below average is an overstatement. I know the Pakistani animation industry has a long way to go, and I am all for it, but this film is multiple steps behind Allahyar or even 3 Bahadur in terms of its technical prowess. Heck, Commander Safeguard back in the day looked smoother than this. Are we really making progress with such work?
The characters lacked depth in their design and even their faces fell flat. I could barely see any emotion. In fact they reminded me of Chucky dolls and I'm being much nicer than my colleague, who feared his soul being sucked in their eyes.
In terms of attention to detail: at least give the characters shadows. Is that really so hard? Video games in the 80s were more detailed than this.
Also, I wondered why Gobo's skintone became darker and darker the more villanious he became. Were the producers trying to equate dark skin with evil? Not cool
The representation of our historical figures made me uncomfortable
Let me be clear again. I love historical fiction. I was okay with the idea of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah making appearances in Tick Tock. But when they did show up, I felt uneasy.
I initially attributed my discomfort to the quality of the animation again. The characters were drawn poorly, lacked detailing and animated inadequately overall. But it was not about the visual depiction, it was about their portrayal as characters in the film.
And while I could roll my eyes at the main characters, I couldn't do that for A. K. Fazl ul Huq,Fatimah Jinnah or Muhammad Ali Jinnah. If we're going to have such figures as characters in a movie, they should be more than mere props.
I didn't want to ask questions like "Why is Jinnah holding up his fists like a boxer?" or "Why are Fatima Jinnah's teeth so black?"
A good idea was lost in a poor script and even poorer voice-overs
Tick Tock revolves around our heroes knowing what year and place they have landed in. Half the script consists of characters talking about events in history and trust me, it did not flow with the ease of a conversation. The dialogues were written in such a way that it felt more like a lecture to the audience. It seemed like a history lesson. Plain and simple.
The history element is a major part of the plot but should have been woven into the story better rather than be so forced and inorganic.
And then came the lack of consistency in the script that had me shaking my head. The events in the movie were disjointed and didn't have a logical sequence.
Dialogues like "Yeh ghari mujhe dede Thakur" (Sholay? Really?) and "Woohoo Jackie Chan!" (No context here) felt completely out of place. Also, the characters would at times completely fall out of character.
A smart character would suddenly become the comic relief, history buff students at times couldn't piece information together. And listen I'd be willing to forgive it. I'd be willing to say 'hey, they're teenagers, even I can't connect obvious things together at times.' But if someone says their name is Jinnah and you respond with "Yeh naam suna hua lag raha hai (That name sounds familiar)," I will smack you.
Oh and by the way, the Oscars started in 1929. Making a history movie, ya'll should know that. For a character in 1892 to be impressed by someone's Oscar wins makes no sense. And don't tell me it was a joke. Because, no.
The script might have had jokes that needed to be brought out with voice acting but I wouldn't know, because the actors delivered their dialogues in such a monotonous manner that the Chucky dolls felt even scarier.
Perhaps the actors needed coaching for their voice acting skills.
The violence in Tick Tock is too excessive
I was soon re-evaluating if Tick Tock is for children at all because of all the violence in the film.
Yes, I get it. It's meant to be 'action-packed.' Yes, I get it, the good guys beat the bad guys. But if this film is for children, children for whom we already worry are being exposed to so much violence and are becoming desensitised, was this the way to go?
Let me explain. The violence in Tick Tock is far too excessive. For example, KK, our hero, was snapping people's necks and breaking them and I almost wanted to cover my ears because the sound was so brutal. Another scene depicting the 1965 war showed soldiers getting shot in the head. That scene served no purpose to the movie, and as such it only appeared to glorify violence.
Action doesn't always mean gruesome violence. There isn't always a need for weapons and gory depictions of death. A lot of animated movies across the globe have action, but the level of violence determines the age rating of a film. Many aren't even for children if they're too violent.
They could have shown fight-sequences the way many animated films like Kung Fu Panda or even live-action Jackie Chan films do. I mean, they were using a lot of scenes from old kung fu movies and The Matrix anyways.
Is Tick Tock made for cinema?
When the story failed to deliver, I started wondering where the film really stands.
Would an audience really pay to see this on the big screen? Wouldn't it be better to see something like this on TV, maybe as a part of a children's educational show? I wouldn't mind something like this being a series, I'd learned a lot from Time Squad and this could have done something of the sort. But even then they'd really need to tie their script together.
Tick Tock felt like a movie that teachers would show 5th graders as a part of their curriculum or maybe in 23rd March festivities. You know, that one class where the kids are happy they won't have to study?
Tick Tock is proof that our industry needs to take its time if they want to make great content. They can no longer skimp on manual labour nor cut corners with their scripts. We all want to support the Pakistani entertainment industry but how long can we tolerate half-baked jobs that are just rushing to meet deadlines rather than actually improve the industry? As an audience, we'll soon start to wonder if our support is actually thanked with good work. And here's the thing, we've seen good work already, we're seeing improvements. So a film like Tick Tock is just a big no.