on 24 December 2013
As a huge Mass Effect fan, I thought I would enjoy this movie. I was wrong. Buying this movie has been the biggest mistake of my life since I accidentally left the 'Send me promotional information' box ticked on a super market questionnaire. It might not seem like much, but it lowers your quality of life.
(Very mild spoilers)
This movie covers James Vega's adventures (or rather, one mission) set during the events of Mass Effect 2 whilst Shepard is off fighting the Collectors, and it doesn't fit into the story of the games whatsoever.
It was an interesting idea done very, very badly.
It's predictable, annoying and honestly, if someone told me the writer's had never heard of Mass Effect at all, it wouldn't surprise me.
The story is weak. The characters in Vega's squad are equally weak and can be reduced to sets buzzwords for their characters. Like 'Arrogant Guy', 'Beautiful But Tough Female' and of course, that die hard favourite, 'Geek With Glasses Who Is Eager To Impress'. Oh, of course I can't forget 'Love Interest Who Is Initially Cold To The Lead Character But Then Warms Up... For Reasons'.
The pre-established characters such as Alliance officials from the game and Vega himself seem oddly deflated. The patter between them is stiff, unnatural and inconsequential. I'd like to say that thankfully, at least they got Freddy Prince Jr. back to voice Vega, but he seems about as impressed with the movie as I am.
The character of Vega in ME: Paragon Lost is distorted. He sounds like Vega, he—well, he doesn't talk like Vega, doesn't act like Vega and looks nothing like Vega. Also, fun drinking game: Take a shot every time Vega's (or any other character's) heads/ height/ width/ breast size and eye location change, every time Vega acts out of character, when you spot an anime cliché, whenever something directly contradicts the established story of the games and finally, every time a character from the franchise (e.g. Shepard) is name-dropped. I can personally guarantee you'll die of liver failure halfway through the introduction.
The animation is bad, the attempts to try and cram as much reference to the games into the story is irritating at best and the one dimensional, predictable and downright insulting at times plot is honestly awe-inspiring.
I hoped that Mass Effect: Paragon Lost wouldn't follow the path of the similar films EA had licensed for the Dead Space franchise, but nope, in my opinion, they're all terrible.
Sounds like nerd rage but yeah, if you're a die hard fan of the Mass Effect games, I wouldn't recommend it. If you're wanting to get your M.E. kicks, I'd suggest punching yourself in the head until you pass out, at least it'll be a more interesting and more compelling story than this one.
on 10 November 2013
On the surface, any decisions about whether or not to watch Paragon Lost would seem to be a no-brainer for any fan of the Mass Effect franchise, or indeed for anybody who has invested in it's lore, universe, story arc and characters. The anime-style production fills in some of the gaps between both Mass Effect-Mass Effect 2, and also between Mass-Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, fleshing out the story of James Vega (one of the crew-mates in Mass Effect 3) and his mission to save a colony threatened by the nefarious Collectors. Indeed this mission and it's repercussions form part of Mass Effect 3's official cannon, and are mentioned by Vega himself during various in-game conversations. Watching the anime seems like a good method of filling in the blanks - or so you'd think.
Before you go ahead though, be warned; accepting any of the 'canon' events told within Paragon Lost at face value requires some serious mind shuffling on the part of the viewer. We're forced to accept a great many things that do not necessarily work for the betterment of the story arc. If you're prepared for this, go ahead... otherwise it's very much a case of buyer beware!
Most of the (to my mind, somewhat petty) initial criticism from fans of the series tend to focus upon the production's minor details. The Citadel orbiting a planet,(apparently representing the center of human governance), pistols that fire like an assault rifle, biotic abilities requiring batteries - the list goes on. I'm inclined to forgive this kind of thing, placing it firmly within the realm of 'window dressing'. Other criticisms focused upon the style of animation used, the relative crudity of the drawn characters, and the confusing and over-the-top action scenes with their fast cuts - which admittedly did make the action hard to follow at times.
As this low-detail 'anime' form of characterisation was clearly a stylistic choice I found that I could live with it - and, to be honest, are not most of the action-scenes within the actual games fairly over-the-top in places? How many times do we see Shepard in cut-scenes fleeing from exploding locations, escaping by the skin of his teeth with mere milliseconds to spare?
It's within the nitty-gritty of plot placeholders, and how they relate to the rest of the franchise (particularly the games) where Paragon Lost truly falls down. To be frank, the viewer is required to take a few too many unlikely events on blind faith.
Let's begin with the cure for the Collectors' neurotoxin, the one that freezes hapless colonists in some kind of suspension; allowing them to be bundled up and taken to the Collector vessel for processing. According to Paragon Lost a cure for this specific neurotoxin already exists, and resides conveniently within the Alliance archives, allowing anyone with the bare minimum of science apparatus to manufacture it on-site.
Well, ok - let's take that on faith. It demonstrates that the Alliance already has substantial previous experience of these 'near-mythical' Collectors, to the extent of gaining enough understanding of the creatures' biology and genetic makeup to make this cure available. It would, at the very least, seem to indicate that the Alliance have previously encountered these 'frozen victims', and understood the root cause of the affliction. If that were the case, why was this cure not stockpiled within all the human colonies? Why was the Cerberus team headed by Shepard, on their mission to Horizon so shocked and surprised to encounter the frozen victims? If this condition, it's source and cure were so well-known by Alliance officials, to the extent of placing it's details into the archives for easy construction - how come Cerberus, or even former N7 Operative Shepard knew nothing?
If we accept that Vega's team of marines were successfully able to infiltrate a Collector vessel, and distribute this cure to all those held inside; gained access to knowledge of the Collectors' origins, and eventual plans to construct a human Reaper... and then chose to save this information at the expense of the captured colonists' lives; we must also accept that the Alliance, personified by Admiral's Hacket and Anderson, knew all of the above, yet chose not to act upon this information.
We have to accept that the Alliance knew all along that the human colonies were being abducted in their thousands by Collectors; they knew of the Collectors' methods, and already had a cure for their neurotixin, they knew that the Collectors were all that remained of the Prothean civilisation, that the Reapers were a real threat, and that they were rendering these humans down in order to construct at least one human Reaper. They knew all of the above and yet chose to do nothing except (to paraphrase ME2's Jacob Taylor) form committees and write reports!
They chose not to share any of the above with the Galactic Council, or any other council race. They chose not to reveal any of the above to Commander Shepard, who was, at the time, actively searching for information on the Collectors with a view to ending the threat.
Very well, we'll accept that. Shepard was, after all, working for Cerberus, and perhaps could not be trusted with this kind of sensitive information, forcing him to find it all out for himself (the hard way). We know that the Alliance did attempt to fortify some of their colonies with Alliance personnel (such as Ashley Williams) and giant cannons, perhaps that was considered to be enough? But what about Cerberus? Are we to also believe that The Illusive Man also had zero knowledge of the Collectors, their origins, the neurotoxin cure and their eventual goal?
Two possibilities spring to mind:
Either that the Illusive Man, for all his fathomless resources, agents, spies and moles planted deep within the Alliance simply did not know - That the Alliance top brass were so thorough in their secrecy, and paranoid about revealing the Collector data to the outside world, that they were able to foil even The Illusive Man - or - that The Illusive Man knew all along. He knew of the Collectors' origins, methods and goals even before giving Shepard his assignment; choosing to withhold this information from one of his most trusted agents, from EDI and from Shepard himself - meaning that Shepard and his team never once discovered anything that The Illusive man did not already know.
Which explanation do you prefer to buy into? As far as I'm concerned, neither one particularly bears up to intense scrutiny. Ok, we know that The Illusive Man always had an ulterior motive, we know that his true goals were to garner Collector technology to further human dominance within the galaxy, but how much sense does it make to withhold critical intelligence from the agent he sends to help further these goals? Bear in mind that Shepard obtained this intelligence regardless, and shared it with Cerberus? If The Illusive Man was so paranoid about Shepard finding out the truth, why send him to the Collector Vessel, where it would be easily discovered? Similarly, if The Illusive Man truly had zero knowledge of The Collectors, their origins, methods and goals, why invest so much time and effort into confronting them?
Which either way you play it, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.
If you're after a ripping yarn, a good old shoot-em-up adventure set in the Mass Effect universe, which reveals some additional insights into Vega's character, then Paragon Lost does the job. If you are looking for something a little deeper to fill the gaps between games, it may be better to look elsewhere.