I think the only way to properly review this film is to do it in two parts, reviewing the film as it's own thing, and then reviewing it in the context of TBALC and their legacy, because other reviewers are treating these like they're the same thing which seems a little unfair.
As it's own thing, "The Spares" immediately struck with it's super clean cinematography, that gorgeous opening shot of Noah's ark on the beach, and the wonderful production design of the animal enclosures. Was this the same set from "New Fish"? Or do TBALC just secretly have access to a bunch of different prisons?
I really enjoyed the acting as well, as with Submission Impossible, I don't know if there is any one stand out, but if there was ever a film that made a case to include a 'Best Ensemble Award' next year, it's this one.
So after setting up a really fun and fresh premise, we get into the story which is paced well enough for it to never feel like it's dragging along despite being set in only one location. I didn't personally see the twist coming, but many others have, and perhaps this is something you expected, as the "how did the platypus get made" joke feels vaguely familiar, like something my grandfather would have told me when I was a toddler. What's the takeaway here though? Make it less obvious? Maybe. Could there have been more characters involved, and by the end the spares are all that are left? I'm getting into retooling, which is bad for a reviewer and a city manager, so these are just my thoughts.
The dialogue is great as well, along with the aforementioned acting, "Does anyone have a corkscrew?" is a line so strikingly hilarious, but at the same time super subtle, that those in the audience who got it could be heard in a bubbling giggle that rose up to surface. Naughty TBALC! Dirty Joke! Please include even dirtier jokes next year :)
In terms of ULTRA, I do think that this was kind of a cheat, as others have said, and maybe this is something I should be talking about more in the second part of this review, but yeah, the animals idea is cool, and obviously you couldn't have used real animals (can you imagine), but for a team as prestigious as you guys it was kind of like "Oh, okay they're doing it this way".
So that brings us to TBALC then as a team.
I'll continue on with ULTRA thoughts regarding this.. While I love all your actors and look forward to seeing who'll take center stage each year, I was more surprised than I was disappointed that this was the route you went down. What I guess I'm saying is I am fascinated by the idea of seeing a TBALC film about kids going on an adventure a'la "ET" or "Stranger Things", this was the heart behind ULTRA being what it was this year, and I guess it's a bit of a bummer that Christchurch's favourite sons (and daughters) didn't dive headfirst into this, and now there'd be no reason to do it again.
You guys were nominated for 7 awards, which was the most out of any team, but as it all ended up playing out, you didn't take home any of them, which is a pain I know and feel (and I know you guys know that I know... that), so I thought, while the wounds (if there are any) may still be a little tender, that this puts your team and its future in an interesting kind of place, because of all the awards you were nominated for, you were probably second place for almost all of them. IS THIS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO HEAR!? WHO KNOWS LET'S KEEP GOING! This is by no means a bad thing, it just means while "The Spares" excelled in so many ways, there just ended up being at least one other that cut the mustard a little more effectively.
What all of this means then, is that you guys at TBALC have settled into a comfortable place, where you make the competition look so easy, but at the same time that comfortability has become a safety net. Do you guys continue to work within your boxes and make great films year after year which, while being amazing are more of a master of none as opposed to jack of a single trade? Or do you attempt something truly striking and different and powerful and grab that Apee for a fifth time?
"The Spares" is wonderfully executed film, and I absolutely loved it, and while I'm not saying the judges are harsher on you guys because you're so good, I am saying that other teams are quickly catching up to your level, and some already have, and a couple may even be surpassing.
I hope this isn't too harsh or mean, I just know how much value you guys put in feedback so I'm trying to be as thorough as possible, and I'm trying to invigorate you to the point where you put me in the difficult position of having to award TBALC with city winner for a fifth fucking time.
As for your title, "The Spares" is great because as soon as we land on them in the panning shot of Noah's ark, we know exactly what game we're playing.