Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Movie Review: Expelled from Paradise

I had barely even heard of this movie before a friend texted me that he was in town to see the movie at a special, one-night only event (on a night I worked of course) and I was wondering how the heck I could see it myself since this is the rare anime film that the JICC hasn't screened. But then suddenly it popped up on Netflix so my problem was solved! Now, Aniplex, since you did that for the Madoka Magica movies as well, think you can toss Garden of Sinners up there as well?

Expelled from Paradise

The world is different in the future, the Earth is a wasteland and so the majority of the remaining population have abandoned their physical bodies and now reside in the digital servers of Deva, located in orbit above Earth. But someone from Earth keeps hacking into the system and Angela Balzac, an enforcer in the system, is sent to Earth with an organic body to investigate just why someone wants to recruit people for an interstellar mission. After all, if the people in Deva have all that they can want and as her guide on the surface Dingo shows her, the people who remain behind prefer their life on terra firma, who out there still has greater aspirations?

The reason this movie received as much chatter as it did is for two reasons, one is that Gen Urobuchi was the writer (and didn't actually leave the project before it was finished) and the other is that it is one of the few all-CGI anime films and at the moment is considered one of the best looking of that small group. I'll admit that it did look pretty good, compared to Polygon Pictures production of Knights of Sidonia it does much, much better with the small facial movements and keeps the characters looking real, but funny enough it did have trouble making the big movements (like fight scenes) look real but that's where Sidonia excelled, it seems odd that Paradise wouldn't be able to accomplish both then*. I did like the aesthetic of the designs but there are still problems with the shading and coloring which frankly is frustrating. People keep saying "oh look how much better it's all become!" but I still feel like CGI anime is literal decades behind American productions and it's as if I'm watching it out of pity than anything else (although it sounds as if Japan's non-anime focused CGI production houses, like the people Show by Rock! was out-sourced to, generally perform better).

Moving on, I was also a bit disappointed by the story since the reviews I had seen said it was a really good argument between the characters on what's more important, luxury or freedom, and that the movie didn't come down too hard on either but I thought the movie had a very clear opinion on which was better. The movie had an almost Psycho-Pass ending (the first season) with Deva resolving to be ever more vigilant and aggressive towards it's threats, suggesting that this might eventually become it's downfall. By comparison, the movie seems to extoll the idea of "freedom", that living where it's entirely your own skill and luck that keep you alive (as opposed to having to contribute meaningfully to "paradise" to be awarded enough data to continue existing) is what everyone should prefer. If you go into the movie not expecting a balanced argument then you'll probably enjoy the plot just fine, it's not a ground-breaking story in any sort of way but it's a nice popcorn flick^. The pacing works well and Angela and Dingo have a nice banter by the end of the story, it's fun but not thoughtful and I wanted it to be a bit more of that. 

*the reason seems to be because Paradise insists on using the same "limited animation" that print anime does, ie while there are 24 frames to a second the same image is used for three frames at a time to cut down costs. For some reason this still "flows" well it's traditionally animated (and animators will animate "on the ones" or twos if the scene calls for it), but you aren't saving man hours (ie, cost and time) when you do this for CGI, it's all in the rendering. CGI anime seems really loath to let go of this for some reason, the only reason you'd keep it would be to match it with traditional animation in the same scene, and it's usually why the CGI looks so awkward.
^I also saw people pointing out that this might be the most heteroromantic thing Urobuchi has ever written given the tones and outright couples in Madoka and Psycho-Pass which is amusing, or at least you don't have all of the straight couples dying like they did in Fate/Zero.