Mass Effect: Paragon Lost (2012)

Okay, it’s your standard gritty space soldier story, sort of a Samuel Fuller ripoff by way of Starship Troopers, where we know the enemy is going kill our favorite characters and the hero will have to make tough choices.

Of course, as a animated space soldier movie, we know those choices are going to be particularly hard – and on some epic Galactic scale.  That goes with the territory.

Unfortunately, it gets off to a bad start – after a dazzling CGI vision of stars, a massive star ship and dazzling arcs of power from its Mass Effect drive, we are suddenly thrust into the flattest 2-D animation I have seen in a long time.  It looks like an anime series from, say, the 90s, although without the zooms on still images – and whenever there’s a vehicle or alien monster, it is, of course, in jarring, fully-shaded CGI.

And just to make things worse, the characters uniforms, with their oddly shaped patches of contrasting colors just do not work.  I suspect they were originally designed for the Mass Effect videogames and would undoubtedly have looked a lot better if they’d been rendered:  in the flat, unshaded 2-D images, the eye wants to flatten these shapes, leaving the characters looking rather curiously shaped – and uncomfortable.

The good news is that, as a prequel, they did manage to avoid the usual videogame adaptation tendency towards having about four or five climaxes too many.  In fact, the film proceeds at a brisk pace once it gets going, and ends with plenty of apocalyptic destruction.

The bad news is that it all feels a touch routine – or perhaps more than a touch.  It’s a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half but doesn’t leave much of an impression in its wake.

Perhaps it will please the fans of the game, but it doesn’t really break any new territory there, either.  Or take any real risks.  Or reveal anything new about the franchise.

It’s just there.

(Special Bonus:  You can build your own model of the M35 Mako ATV seen in the film!  Click here to download the templates.)

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