Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, the new animated film based on the series of video games.

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost opens inauspiciously, with a scene packed with casual sexual harassment and homophobia, which is always hilarious. It establishes James Vega as a stoic, soft-spoken leader... and The Gay Guy, which draws the ridicule of his squad, consisting of The Tough Girl, The Perv (seriously, why are biotics always assholes?), The Quiet Sniper, and The Terrified New Kid who, of course, is also The Nerd.

There's a lot of little bones thrown to Mass Effect fans here, though most of the film is retreads of material covered in ME2. Perhaps most notable among the details taken from the games, though, is...
A REALLY LONG ELEVATOR RIDE, in which characters engage in awkward conversation.
Other than that, the adaptation of familiar elements is decent enough. The Krogans and Vorcha are pretty cute, and the Asari character model is lovingly detailed (if indifferently colored, with a Charlie Brown zig-zag at the "hairline"). James Vega's admiration for Shepard isn't overplayed, which is a relief. The visual detail, at least in the hand-drawn portions, is attentive - weapons, clothing and armor, vehicles, and even the civilian habitats on the colony planet are straight from the games. These accoutrements are a bit lifeless, though - I swear, throughout the whole movie, no one ejected the heatsink from their weapon once, perhaps taking too seriously an early admonition from Vega to conserve them.

The character animation is pretty good, though it's nowhere near the level I expect from Production I.G., and there are many moments of hilarious "quality". There's some really well-integrated 3dcg, like omnitools, but there is a LOT of really terrible cg that doesn't blend in at all. Worst offenders are some incredibly dated, simplistic background landscapes, and a few moments where a background or vehicle is hand-drawn in one shot and 3d in the next. The budget limitations show through the seams everywhere.

The English voice acting is uniformly awful, as is the dialogue writing. There are a few moments of endearing unintentional humor, but it's mostly groaners.

On the whole, the script is flawed in ways which are almost bafflingly incompetent. Given a story cobbled together from scenarios seen in the games, and a cast of standard military stereotypes, the movie nevertheless struggles when attempting to establish stakes that drive each character's motivations, and fails to pay off almost any of them.


The major stakes for Vega seem not to be his sense of duty or his need to do the right thing, but his attraction to an Asari, for whom he ends up sacrificing a planetful of colonists (and incidentally his entire squad, who die trying and failing to save the colonists who Vega finally abandons when his blue darling is in danger). This is weird, because the writers of Paragon Lost seem to be trying to establish Vega as gay in the opening scene, and imply that he's attracted to The New Kid.
As +Anna Fischer said, "They establish that James Vega is gay in the first scene, and for the rest of the movie he kills everyone he knows trying to overturn that."
Building the story on Vega's conflicted feelings is an odd choice anyway, given the character's ambiguity in ME3 (though my favorite fan comment on that is that he won't romance Shepard because Vega's interested in Cortez). And I guess Asari aren't quite men or women, but here they're depicted even more conventionally human-feminine than in the games, making it a total about-face from his introduction as The Gay Guy.
Besides that, they establish him as a consummate soldier, dedicated to protecting others, and it's hard to buy this last-minute change of heart when so many lives are at stake. The romance itself goes nowhere, and is given little emphasis except as a motivation for Vega.

His final decision, bizarre as it may be, at least has a root in the Mass Effect games' motif of forcing players to make difficult decisions between equivalent or unknown results. Vega is commended for his actions, told that the information recovered by the Asari will be instrumental in resisting the Collectors.
Unfortunately for fans of the series, the time spent explaining this information was dull and pointless, because it's identical to what Shepard learned about the Collectors' origins and plans in ME2 (the only point of interest for me was about 20 seconds of animation depicting a battle between Protheans and a Reaper that's Collecting them).
Some level of redundancy is perhaps unavoidable, since the story must be contemporaneous with ME2's, but it's hard for the viewer to see this as justifying Vega's choice if we know the Alliance didn't accomplish anything much with this info, at least not until after Shepard had already taken the fight to the Collectors. It's also not expressed as a motivation for his choice, since in the moment of decision his reactions seem to be entirely emotional.

There's another confusing and disappointing moment very late in the film, when Vega, returning to the colony world, finds a tattered stuffed bunny, belonging to a colonist child who he failed to save from the exploding Collector ship. This prompts me to start singing "How Do I Live" to myself, but it puts Vega into an anguished reverie, during which he flashes back to the critical moment of decision. I was sure the movie was about to make an interesting choice by showing the aftermath of the OTHER decision, the results of sacrificing his Asari crush and saving the colonists, and then finally reveal which decision he actually made. But nope, it was just a regular flashback, probably motivated by the need to save money by recycling a minute or so of animation. And I guess that about sums the movie up.
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