The average film adaptations of video games are usually bad. Most are based on games like “Mario” or “Mortal Kombat”—games that lack a story. What about a film that takes place in continuity with a game franchise renowned for its story? “Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” is an anime film that takes place during the events of the critically acclaimed game “Mass Effect 2”.
The story follows James Vega, a supporting character from “Mass Effect 3”, and his platoon of Space Marines as they guard a human colony on a distant world. When a mysterious alien race known as the Collectors attack the colony and abduct its people, it is up James and his platoon to save them.
This plot sounds like generic sci-fi fare, and it is at times.
However, there are plenty of surprises along the way to keep you interested in the story. The twists in the film, save for one painfully obvious one, are well done, and one is particularly chilling. The story is a classic race-against-time rescue mission and holds your attention throughout its runtime. The climax of the film is excellently written and beautifully animated.
The opening sequence is especially well animated. The opening involves James’ squad engaging a group of alien soldiers in a bloody and brutal battle. The battle is well paced and wonderfully animated, and does a good job of establishing the tone of the film. It gives the audience a brief taste of the action to come before spending the next half-hour developing the characters and establishing the world in which the film is set.
After that, the film progresses into a survival-horror style of sci-fi, reminiscent of John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” One of the key themes of the “Mass Effect” franchise is choice, and the film presents James with several choices that he must make. He is aware that no matter what choices he makes, he will have to live with the outcome. The film is surprisingly accessible for people who are not familiar with the franchise. Of course, it would be much easier to understand with prior knowledge of the “Mass Effect” series.
“Paragon Lost” is a Japanese anime, which of course means that it is traditionally animated unlike the computer animation of the video games. The animators do a good job adapting the character designs of the aliens, and of James himself, to animation. The animation style of the film overall is crisp and clean. It is obvious that the film had a good budget behind it. The film also makes use of a surprising amount of horror elements, and it pulls the horror off surprisingly well. The amount of gore and violence mean that this film is definitely not for kids. The violence is on par with that of the M-rated games.
The characters of the film are the typical action-hero stereotypes that you see in most films of this style, but they are still entertaining and enjoyable. The focus of the film is James, who was one of the team members from “Mass Effect 3.” In the game, he is an affable and friendly veteran who eventually reveals deep emotional damage and trauma because of his former encounter with the Collectors. “Paragon Lost” serves to explain and develop his backstory. At the start of the film, he is presented as an eager, competent and painfully idealistic marine who will do anything to protect his squad. The film shows his progression to a darker, more troubled man who still believes in doing the right thing but questions whether his decisions are right at all.
The voice cast for this film is excellent. Funimation Studios contracted some of the best actors available for this film. Freddie Prinze, Jr., reprises his role as James from the games. Prinze’s acting talent has been debated over the years, but in this film, his voice acting is superb for the character. He is able to properly bring out the emotion and determination that the character possesses.
The film was shown in a world premiere at Anime Weekend Atlanta and will not be available for public viewing until December of this year. It has a few flaws, but the script is solid, the animation is great and the story is good. If you are a “Mass Effect” fan, “Paragon Lost” will be well worth seeing despite the long wait.