The Secret of Kells is a very interesting story. It's a unique style of story telling, as well. It doesn't embrace much of the standard structure. Grant it, it has the secret woods, the evil monsters, special magic, a fairy, and even stock characters like the sage and the uncle. That being said, it's rising action, though there, is subtle, and doesn't run alongside the character arc. When the conflict finally arrives, it does not go well for the good guys, and they never go back and win in a round two. They really just lost. But that's when the main character finally has an opportunity to complete his character arc, and the happy ending is very different from many others. The reaction to such a style strikes me as polarizing: either you like it or you don't. You either hold it in high esteem or you or so violently infuriated you've soiled yourself.
Visually, this film is amazing. The animation is absolutely engulfing, truly spectacular settings, which is very fitting to the fantasy genre. It's hard not to get into this film based on the visuals alone, and most people should find themselves truly imagining another world, possibly inspired by its creation. The woods alone are eerie and beautiful, ominous and attractive, and this is without words. There's one scene in particular where a fairy sings a beautiful song and turns a cat into a ghost-like form that is able to slip through small cracks. Not only is it visually stunning, the scene really establishes this beautifully imaginative fantasy world with mysterious elements that we're to obviously know we haven't seen it all. Definitely worth a viewing.
Despite the visual effects and unique story-telling, the film is ultimately anti-climactic. You could say this is the result of the different form of story-telling, and you'd be right, but people have altered the structure many times before without abandoning the heaviness and pivotal moments of the characters or the plot. Unfortunately, the film doesn't extend much beyond being a unique story and visually stunning. What it's missing is a certain emotive element, there's little tension or climactic moments because the characters are left very simple, as is the story. The film doesn't ultimately have much of that, but it's partially because it's an experiment into untraversed territory. When trying something new you're not likely to achieve complete greatness the first time through. It's best to look at The Secret of Kells as a starting point, a foundational moment. Though, because of its shortcomings, I find it very difficult to reach a final ruling, but it gets Rent It. Make no mistake, you must see this film. It will expand your understanding greatly, and if you find it worthy enough for another viewing, you can certainly make this review a Buy It, because I'm right on that line, but I think one viewing should be enough to capture what you can from the film. Still a wonderful piece of originality and I hope to see more films take these risks.