Weekend Entertainment: Paragon Lost
Director: Atsushi Takeuchi
Actors: Vic Mignogna, Travis Willingham, Todd Haberkorn, Jason Douglas, Eric Vale
Bioware have created a universe so rich that amazing new stories are in endless supply. Storytelling is their specialty, and they do it brilliantly in any medium. Discounting ‘Deception’, there are three great novels, a series of top-class comic books, and now an anime movie. ‘Paragon Lost’ is a direct-to-DVD prequel to Mass Effect 3, and follows the story of James Vega – the big dude who does pull-ups in the shuttle bay.
The story opens with Vega and a team of marines landing on a human colony that’s under attack from Krogan mercs. The opening fight scene is intense, carrying the same weight that we’ve come to expect from battles in the Mass Effect franchise. Biotic powers are on display, alongside all of the weapons you’ve grown to know and love. The whole thing feels like Mass Effect straight off the bat. The characters introduced as the story progresses are as varied as they are interesting, from the brooding Asari scientist to the cute kid who you know will become integral to the plot. Sure, some of it is a little clichéd (like the obligatory rookie in the squad) but even those characters add something valuable.
This is exactly what you’d expect from a movie that has been produced by Bioware themselves. They didn’t ship this out for someone else to do as a mere cash-in, and boy does it show. Avoiding spoilers as much as possible, the central story revolves around a Collector attack on the aforementioned human colony. “We’ve seen that before in ME2”, I hear you say. True, but exploring the concept in a different medium engenders a whole new level of emotional connection to the event. You really feel for the colonists and Vega’s squad. The movie is great at instilling a sense of both hopelessness and urgency, despite the fact that you know Vega will ultimately survive (because he’s in the third game).
Good anime is always striking to look at, and Paragon Lost steps up to that plate, knocking the visual challenge out of the park. The movie looks beautiful; it has that seamless blend of CGI structures and vivid animation that gives modern anime a feeling of other-worldly depth – perfect for a movie that is set on another world. There’s a great scene where the team explore an ancient ruin site, and the visuals are absolutely stunning; from the sweeping nebula at the beginning of the game, right through to the explosive finale, you’re eyes will never get tired of watching Paragon Lost.
So, great characters and story. How does it stand up as a movie in and of its own right? Well this is where the film is between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the story hit me hard where it counted, but on the other a lot of that had to do with the context provided by the hundreds of hours of games, books and comics I have read. If you’ve never touched Mass Effect before I don’t think you’d hate this movie, but I doubt it would hit you as it did me. As I said, it was a dilemma (or trilemma) for Bioware; either they spend a lot of time explaining things, or water the Mass Effect elements of the story down… or just say “fuck it” and make a Mass Effect movie. I think they’ve landed somewhere between options two and three, but as an avid fan who thoroughly enjoyed the movie it’s hard to give an unbiased view.
All in all this is definitely worth a watch – no matter who you are. Paragon Lost’s story is well told, its characters are entertaining, and it’s a shining example of extra-game media that other franchises should take heed of.
It’s anime, and it knows it. Slick transitions between CGI and high-quality animation set the perfect mood for the story. The variety of settings gives this movie an unrelenting pace that will keep you glued to the screen.
Paragon Lost will deepen the emotional connection to the tragedies caused by the overall reaper conflict. Thanks in part to the characters and their development, it puts a tragic face on the horrors you’ve come to expect from this sci-fi warzone.
It certainly isn’t a bad movie, but admittedly a lot of the impact comes from being someone who already feels part of that universe. It’s still definitely worth a watch if you aren’t a fan, as it’s a solid anime movie.