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Spermageddon Film Review: Wacky Journey to Nirvana

Two cute animated sperm cells look at each other in a still from the film Spermageddon

Inside Out meets Once Upon a Time… Life in Norwegian animated musical Spermageddon, where a teenager’s sperm cells are on a crazy journey to fertilize an egg.

Directors: Rasmus A. Sivertsen & Tommy Wirkola
Genre: Animated
Run Time: 90′
Annecy Premiere: June 10, 2024
Release Date: TBA

Move over, Inside Out 2: another animated tale is here to quench our thirst for trips inside the human body with the cute, colorful creatures that make us who we are. And if the body part you’re interested in the most is the scrotum and you enjoy ejaculation-related puns, then – to quote the movie – “Carpe Penis!,” Spermageddon is the right film for you.

Filmmakers Rasmus A. Sivertsen (also an animator at Qvisten Animation) and Tommy Wirkola (Violent Night) bring us what is, without a doubt, the wackiest movie at the 2024 Annecy Film Festival, but there’s also an emotional core in Spermageddon. Telling the double tale of a teenager discovering sex while, at the same time, his sperm cells try to fertilize an egg, Sivertsen and Wirkola deliver a film that’s as full of witty puns and pop culture references as you’d expect it to be, but that’s also – surprisingly, given the subject matter – grounded enough to make you care about its characters.

And Spermageddon has many characters. There’s the world we recognize, where awkward teens Jonathan and Lisa reunite on their summer holidays, ready to confess their love for one another and to start exploring each other’s bodies. And then there are Jonathan’s sperm cells, who have been waiting, and preparing, for this moment their entire lives. Among them are the young Simen and Cumilla (oh yes, those are their names); when we first meet them, they are attending a “Screwniversity” class, where a professor is showing them all the ways in which the journey to “nirvana” could go wrong.

His presentation – which, needless to say, is accompanied by Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” – is the first scene of the film, and it’s also the moment you’ll fall in love with it: I rewinded it three times just for the sheer absurdity of it, and there’s just so much to take in that I laughed at something different every time. That’s the kind of humor you’ll find in the entire film: it’s in-your-face and even childish, but the characters are so likable and the worldbuilding so imaginative that you simply won’t be able to stop watching. As Simen, Cumilla, and the many sperm cells inside Jonathan’s body try to “secure a place in history and become a God,” as their professor would put it, you’ll grow surprisingly attached to them.

a girl kisses a boy while they both lie on a bed in a still from the film Spermageddon
Spermageddon (Qvisten Animation & 74 Entertainment / 2024 Annecy Film Festival)

Most of the characters we meet in Spermageddon don’t survive the journey: after all, there are so many sperm cells in Jonathan’s body, and not all of them are “worthy”. Whether by condom, spermicide cream, morning after pill or unforeseen circumstances, most aren’t able to reach the egg, but they also “died doing what [they] loved most: living.” In all its insanity, the film also has a few lessons to teach us, and the most important one is that life is worth living even if, to quote another beloved hero, “part of the journey is the end” – a reference that feels particularly appropriate given that the strongest sperm cell in Jonathan’s body wears an Iron Man suit (don’t ask).

There’s a lot to love in Spermageddon, and the film is at its most successful when it focuses on its protagonists. Simen and Cumilla, and Jonathan and Lisa are on two sides of the same journey, and watching them is so effortless, thanks for the movie’s many self-aware jokes, cute moments, and catchy musical numbers. Some of its side characters are just as charming, such as a trio of shady, cigar-smoking sperm cells on a mission to give birth to triplets, and the film, as a whole, is fun and enjoyable. It’s as if you took Once Upon a Time… Life (Il était une fois… la vie) – a French animated series for children where animated characters explain how the human body works -, added the look and attitude of Trolls and the general idea behind Inside Out, and developed it all into a more “adult” version.

At times, the film overdoes it with the absurdity, and some of the characters in particular made me wonder about the target audience of Spermageddon. There’s a poo-eating bacterium that takes up a good chunk of the movie and is definitely not as funny as the film thinks it is, and the main antagonist – a muscular, mustached sperm-cell with an Iron Man armor – feels more like a plot device than a character in itself. On top of this, some aspects of the worldbuilding feel a bit too forced, such as the presence of a Starbucks in Jonathan’s scrotum and other puzzling oddities, and the two teens’ brains, which we occasionally get to see, feel a little too reminiscent of Inside Out.

But the main issue in Spermageddon is that, on top of being an entertaining flick, it also tries to tackle big themes, from female sexuality to abortion, and only approaches them in a superficial way. It’s clear that Lisa isn’t enjoying her first sexual experiences with Jonathan, who doesn’t yet understand how women’s pleasure works. Yet, the solution seems to be for our heroes to keep having sex in the exact same, male-centric way – except that, at some point, Lisa begins to enjoy it. While it’s admirable of the film to bring up the subject in the first place, these efforts are undermined by it missing the opportunity to explore it any further.

Similarly, there’s an entire musical number about how it’s ok to have an abortion, but it doesn’t really explore the subject in any depth, and the whole scene clashes tonally with the rest of the movie. It feels like Wirkola and co-writers Geir Vegar Hoel and Jesper Sundnes didn’t know how to make the movie end: after all, if an egg is fertilized, it would lead to pregnancy, and our protagonists are teenagers, so the subject would be brought up. To their credit, the writers opted for a conclusion that, at least, acknowledges the issue. Yet, it’s all so rushed and lighthearted that I can’t help feeling the film would have worked better had it ended sooner, and retained that mix of adventure and charm that defines most of its other scenes.

In the press notes for the movie, Sivertsen and Wirkola describe Spermageddon as “a road movie and an epic adventure, a most incredible journey, much like Lord of the Rings,” and that description is so on point because it captures the essence of the film. Of course, Spermageddon has very little in common with Lord of the Rings, but it’s ambitious enough to dare make that comparison, and we love it for it. If you forget about the surface-level approaches to some of its themes and simply enjoy the ride, you’ll have so much fun with Spermageddon. And if you can’t catch it at Annecy but end up watching it upon release, do not despair: to quote the movie one last time, “it’s better to ejacu-late than to ejacu-never.”

Spermageddon premiered at the Annecy Film Festival on June 10, 2024.

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