Netflix’s new animated film entergalactic is entirely and wholeheartedly the work of Kid Cudi. Not just in the fact that he helped write/produce/score and star in it, but it feels like a visual recreation of everything his music stands for. When a movie is so intimately tied to a musical artist like entergalactic is with Kid Cudi, it’s easy for the final product to feel more like a music video or mashup than an actual movie. Especially with its episodic nature reminiscent of an album tracklist and the fact that Kid Cudi released an album to accompany the film, it seemed inevitable that the film couldn’t eclipse the aforementioned pitfall. But entergalactic ends up feeling like a real movie instead of something insubstantial because it’s cut from Kid Cudi’s mind rather than his music.
It is difficult to correctly quantify the degree of influence of Kid Cudi, first name Scott Mescudi, has on the modern music scene, especially hip-hop, as virtually any statement would diminish its impact. The Cleveland native draws inspiration from a number of classic hip-hop acts, but the way he draws inspiration from Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and MGMT has taken the genre in a whole new direction since his breakthrough in the late 2000s. Not only can Kid Cudi’s psychedelic, atmospheric sound be felt throughout modern hip hop, but his introspective lyrics and openness about mental health issues pushed the genre in a more vulnerable and endearing. And the same qualities that made so many fall in love with his music are what shape this on-screen adventure.
The music is related to the film
It is quite obvious that entergalacticThe protagonist of is a replacement for Mescudi himself. Voiced by the musician, Jabari’s character is a New York street artist who just struck a deal with a comic book company to bring his signature graffiti character, Mr. Rager, to the pages, though the cornerstone of the film is a poignant love story. between Jabari and his neighbor. The character’s drug use is extensive, which Kid Cudi revealed as a problem in his own life. Jabari can be seen rocking a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt and has a Nirvana poster pinned to his apartment. Even Mr. Rager is the subtitle of Kid Cudi’s second studio album and a character that runs through his story. It might seem self-indulgent to have the protagonist of a work you’re so steeped in stand in for you, but it signals that the film embodies the same soul-searching that made Kid Cudi’s music so personal and vulnerable.
Therefore, entergalactic oozes the necessary personality to make it feel like a true story. The characters feel completely filled out rather than mere sketches, each of them being funny in a way that makes it seem like there’s a backstory behind every joke instead of just actors reading jokes weightless about a page. The film is effortlessly cool, exerting the kind of suave energy that everyone imagines courses through the veins of the people we hope to become. But it turns into a fully realized Kid Cudi project as the comedy and charm are infused with its pinch of existential dread. Jabari is a character of immense talent and personality, but haunted by a sense of cosmic loneliness. Behind the graffiti and obscured by weed smoke is a man who can’t help but feel that his internal doubt and restlessness make sadness inevitable, so hopeless that he no longer knows if he deserves the happiness he desires. With Jabari serving as Mescudi’s sketch of himself, the film can’t help but feel substantial. There’s no way the narrative threads will end up being paper thin as they take us from song to song because Kid Cudi’s art is more concerned with communicating the inner workings of his own brain than with create something commercial.
It may also seem disturbing that there are so many montages in entergalactic, and nearly all of them are played to a song from the film’s accompanying album. The edits often blur human sensibilities and let the music take center stage, so their repeated use is disturbing as the film tries to distinguish itself as something essential. Kid Cudi’s music has always been atmospheric, his frequent use of humming in favor of lyrics even becoming something of a trademark. And entergalactic assumes this kind of style, where a psychedelic feel often overshadows transparency, and the music is a major player in creating this atmosphere.
What sets Entergalactic apart
But what keeps this from being a cardinal sin is that the aura is far from being sound-only. There are plenty of atmospheric beats in the film while no Kid Cudi tracks play in the background. The animation is just as committed to creating the atmosphere as the soundtrack. Its visual signature is as if Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse popped a tab of acid, swapping comic book flourishes for something more psychedelic. The figures look like they are carved from expressionistic wood, lush shadows overflow with emotion even when reclining on sofas or lying in bed. Buildings and landscapes are tinged with purples and pinks straight from the cosmos. And most of the montages are accompanied by hallucinogenic sequences, vibrating the fluidity of a movement that otherwise gives the impression of being painted frame by frame. The visuals are there almost entirely to create a mood for the characters to root themselves in, making sure that the atmosphere the film wants to surround itself with isn’t just evoked by the soundtrack.
The final nail in the manufacturing coffin entergalactic more than just a musical mashup, it’s the amount of subplots that run through the film’s veins. The film injects energy into New York City, breathing life and color into a city often portrayed as bleak. A supporting character delivers a monologue about wanting to show off the brightness of the Big Apple, and it’s easy to imagine Mescudi wrote those lines from the heart. Jabari struggles with his own artistic integrity while trying to turn Mr. Rager into a comic book, wondering if he has to sacrifice his vision for the character if he is to find success. It is a showdown between artistic and economic sensitivities that each artist experiences. And there is an ongoing critique of the commodification of love filtered through recurring mentions of a fictional dating app, commentary on the practices and politics of modern romantics. The romantic comedy’s main plot and Jabari’s character portrayal offer a lot to digest around the intertwining of love and self-esteem, but it’s the subplots that ensure Mescudi’s film n doesn’t feel like playing a note all the time.
It might be more appropriate to say that entergalactic is entirely Scott Mescudi’s project rather than Kid Cudi’s. Of course, it contains so much of the artist’s music and one of his albums accompanies it. But it’s much more the work of a man than a musician. The music populates the margins of the film because Kid Cudi is the best artist to express what Mescudi feels and sees the world. It’s a movie that never feels like it was meant to have an asterisk next to it, to have footnotes next to the subtitles. It feels like a real movie because it’s not overrun with music, but with the way Mescudi can best communicate what he feels the need to say.