Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost

Lowdown: The story of James Vega’s coming of age as a marine facing the Collectors.
The first ever incarnation of Mass Effect on the big screen, and all we get is a movie about James Vega? And a Japanese anime (manga) at that? I have to admit, that’s a bit of a let down. I would have much preferred something dealing with one of the more popular characters, say Garrus or Liara; not to mention FemShep. And although I have nothing against anime – quite the contrary – Mass Effect has the potential to blow crowds away with a live action movie. Still, on the positive side, we have ourselves a Mass Effect movie. Hooray!
Complaints aside, I actually enjoyed this one. It’s a simple, entertaining animated action flick; as long as you don’t expect the galaxy, it should prove fine entertainment.
We follow Mass Effect 3’s James Vega during the rough period of Mass Effect 2. That is, before we got to know him in the games. Vega is a fresh marine, sent with his squad to ward off mercenaries attacking a human settlement. Pulling off some heroic tricks, he manages to beat some Krogans and win the day. That, however, ends up as nothing more than a prelude for the real thing that comes up next: the Collectors and their arrival in order to, well, collect the settlement. In true Mass Effect fashion the never a boring moment plot has Vega’s team going on a suicide mission, and at the end of it all he has to make one of those Paragon/Renegade like key decisions that Mass Effect is famous for.
Indeed, the connection with the Mass Effect games is made very clear throughout. Without it Paragon Lost would be lost, just a meaningless collection of animation scenes. This is perhaps why the name of Shepard keeps on getting invoked by Vega – often annoyingly so. There is even a guest visit by Liara thrown in, although she is not voiced by Ali Hillis but rather by some "imposter". Talking about the voices, as far as I could tell only Vega was voiced by his original gaming voice, Freddie Prinze Jr.
Then there is the problematic area of how well Paragon Lost integrates with the Mass Effect canon. The token female character here (token, at least by Mass Effect standards) explains why Vega is not romantically interested in FemShep; however, that female character is far from original. In the same way that Vega serves as some sort of an inferior Garrus type companion in Mass Effect 3, that character is an inferior Liara. More importantly, Paragon Lost sheds some light over Vega’s background story, as hinted at in Mass Effect 3; only that if you insist then you will find some inconsistencies with the venerable game.
However, as I said, if you turn the blind eye and relax yourself, you should be able to enjoy Paragon Lost as the simple action movie it is. Simple, and just like the plot, almost a fifth wheel to the real thing - the video games it follows.
Overall: I can’t help falling for anything Mass Effect, enjoying Paragon Lost 3 out of 5 stars much. However, I do suspect others will like it much less, whereas those unacquainted with the Mass Effect universe would find absolutely no reason to watch this.

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