What They Say:
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, the prequel to highly-anticipated Mass Effect 3, follows the early career of Alliance Marine, James Vega, as he leads an elite Special Forces squad into battle against mysterious aliens known as The Collectors. Stationed in a remote star system, Vega and his troops must stop the insectoid warriors determined to collect the human population for unknown purposes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the popular game franchise from BioWare that began back in 2007, Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is a new anime feature done in conjunction with Production I.G. and FUNimation to show a different angle of the gaming universe. With several comic adaptations and the varied games as well as the novels and plans some day for a live action film, the game universe is definitely being well exploited to let fans enjoy more than just the straightforward game. Having not played the games myself, I’m going into the feature with a pretty innocent view of things.
The feature takes place within the mainline game universe and focuses on the character of James Vega, voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr. as was done in the game itself. The general premise is that it has us following an Alliance Marine group as they head to a remote planet to help deal with an attack going on there by the Reapers, the main bad guys that we get to deal with here. They’re humanoid in general form but are bulky and almost reptilian in nature, giving them a decent if familiar look. Unfortunately for the Marines,after some colorful banter on board the ship with some cute sexual playfulness, the mission goes FUBAR pretty quickly as their transport ship that goes on the attack ends up hit and stranded on planet with no real hopes of getting off any time soon, especially with the enemy forces around them.
The opening segment of the film has a pretty straightforward Starship Troopers feel to it as the small force works to deal with what’s there, though it gets more personal since they’re not all just mindless creatures. There’s some amusing hand to hand that comes into it and some dangerous moments, mostly making the action pay off pretty well. When the show shifts to having the group integrate for the time being with the research facility and people on the planet, it takes a different turn for awhile, going more for the investigative side as well as some amusing romantic liasons.
The show spends some decent time with the action and the way the group interacts, but it also shifts things forward to two years later on the same planet. What we get introduced to is an archaeologist, who Vega takes an interest in, named Tria. He’s doing what he can to get on her good side, but things seem to always work against him, from his approach, that of his commanders when she’s locked out of her own research and when she witnesses the Marines destroying some archeological finds because it may be a threat before it can be investigated properly.
The mysterious tech only brings in more mysterious, a new race that nobody has seen before and a search for the colonists when they deal with another remote location where things have gone off kilter. The mysteries are pretty basic and while there is some approach used in terms of research to figure it out, it’s the fairly standard method of being done by action as the Marine’s work their way through things while some are able to use observations to try and suss out more details. There’s obviously plenty of familiar material here as it touches on many of the staples of science fiction for the last thirty years or so and it does it all competently to be sure while keeping it in line with what’s come through in the game franchise.
Because of its familiar feel, Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is an easy film to get into if you’ve watched any action science fiction over the years. While it does play by the numbers, it provides its own distinctive flavor as well with the way the races work, the costume design and the overall approach. It’s not mired in darkness as it doesn’t try to follow the Aliens approach where it’s just dark, dangerous and scary. There are familiar elements to that once they deal with the colony and the nature of it with the mysterious aliens, including down to having alien specimens in conatiners to be examined, but it plays it just different enough to separate it. Not enough overall, but seeing it picking up its visual cues from such films isn’t necessarily a bad thing and we are twenty-five years past since films like that came out, making their influence pervasive in general around the world.
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost plays a little loose with the time frame of things, giving us an early look at events and then shifting forward a couple of years that, for the non-gamer like me, feels like we’re missing too much information for it to all come back here so easily. Once they’re back though, that’s where the bulk of the feature takes place and it deals with some decent action science fiction stories of a militaristic tone without much in the way of a problem. The characters are straightforward and easy to watch, a few non-combatants get tossed into it and there’s what’s presumably an expansion on the overall gaming universe with The Collectors and what they mean in the scheme of things. The show does have me more interested in the games at this point, something I hadn’t paid much attention to before, as what’s presented here looks like it could offer some fun in that form. As a standalone feature, it’s a mixed bag here as there’s a lot more you get out of it if you’re familiar with the franchise. If you’re not, it’s easy to fill in the gaps because it touches upon a lot of standards in science fiction films for the past generation. It’s a fun and enjoyable flick with good performances that made for a good evening of entertainment.
Content Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 28th, 2012
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.