So Nolan’s Interstellar was a good movie if you’re into characters who speak dialogue meant to convey plot points and thought-provoking ideas rather than talk like actual human beings. It was a little overlong with a plot eerily similar to Gunbuster meets 2001: A Space Odyssey, terrible implementation of Hans Zimmer music, and Anne Hathaway’s distressed female role being a little too obvious of a counterpoint to McConaughey’s fatherly one. But the mixture of intense space sequences, Oscar-bait family drama, and really engaging things to say about humanity’s future was well worth the IMAX price of fifteen dollars.
As such, I can probably be excused for being a little aggravated that I paid the same price to see a movie that tried to mimic Nolan’s success, only to get a jumbled mess of half-baked ideas and cliches with lesser visuals and even lesser characters. I mean sure I got a free poster out of it, but considering I think that sort of stuff is tackier than a disco ball in a board room, let’s just say it’s never going to marry a wall anytime soon. It did have the advantage of being shorter than Interstellar, but that’s a small blip compared to its other numerous problems.
Basically, what I’m saying is that I got to seeing Expelled From Paradise a little while ago and it wasn’t very good. Which is a shame because this is the first thing Gen Urobuchi has worked on anime-wise that he had full control of script-wise, and not just something he wrote the scenario for and handed to some lesser studio because they wanted a piece of that “butcher pie”. I’m not sure what he was thinking during the writing process, but let’s just say if you saw the promo art, trust me when I say that the problems run deeper than the awkward CG and the lead being a skimpily dressed female officer voiced by Rie Kugimiya.
Not that those problems help. The CG is a step-up from some of the TV stuff we’ve been getting recently, but it’s still awkward to watch, especially with its “lower than it should be” fps rate. And Angela, our main female character, ends up little more than a tough-as-nails female who experiences weakness when out of her environment and has to be taught by her male partner, Zarik, regarding how his life is different from the one she’s used to. Yeah, that doesn’t sound similar to Kugimiya’s other roles, does it? These flaws pay off a bit during the final climax when Angela has to take on a bunch of her own fellow officers – even if the action can be a little too busy at times – but the buildup to get there isn’t exactly a smooth ride.
The plot of the movie is basically a mix between “virtual reality sci-fi” and “buddy road trip” with the crux of the film centering on the relationship between the two main characters acting about as chummy as an actual human and a female cyber personality out of her element can be. Both of them are assigned to deal with a potential virtual threat by Angela’s higher-ups and we basically follow them for the majority of the movie with most of the conflict being internal rather than external. Because Angela is used to having machines do everything for her, she’s not used to getting sick, needing sleep, and other such things we humans can do because of the hardships we were unlucky enough to experience. Thus, the majority of the movie is her dealing with such things whilst the characters talk about their differences and exploring the benefits/costs of both worlds whilst bonding in the process.
Which would be fine if the “tell don’t show” mode this movie runs on wasn’t so awfully handled. Not only does the show utilize talking heads rather than actually showing us said worlds and what they can accomplish, but the dialogue is duller than a college class introduction. The ideas it brings up regarding reality versus the virtual world are about as complex as the cliffnotes version of Tron. Everything ultimately boils down to Angela realizing the virtual world she was used to isn’t for her. The tipping point where she makes her decision due to the fact that she sympathizes with the very robot she was supposed to destroy is about as Hollywood cliche as they come. If you replaced the environmental messages with technological ones and downgraded the CG animation, you’d basically be watching a less pretty version of Avatar.
And despite the final climax being the highlight of the film, it isn’t very good either beyond the spectacle. Without spoiling too much, the cause of said fight is due to one side wanting to give someone potentially dangerous a chance whilst the other side will have nothing of it. This isn’t an inherently bad idea if said person/object in the middle of the conflict was Jonah from Monster, but let’s just say he’s nowhere near that quality. The potential danger he provides is no less complex than a DDoS attack except targeted towards a much bigger system – aka the virtual world – which probably would have been engaging if I knew more about said world beyond the shallow things discussed during the mountains of dialogue delivered in the real world segments. But as I stated before, that is not the case, and the final climax would have functioned better as an animation showcase rather than a vital part of a lacking movie.
I guess this movie is worth watching if you want to see Urobuchi enter the film business in something not related to any of his past projects and see some actually competent usage of CG. But outside of those attributes, if I wanted to see a Christopher Nolan movie, I’d watch the actual Christopher Nolan movie that’s still in my local theater.
Interstellar blended in its multiple genres reasonably with unique ideas, powerful scenes, and flaws beyond what’s written in “How To Write Cliches #101”. Expelled From Paradise tried to do all that and failed, getting lost in a sea of tired shallow cliches, anime or otherwise. I don’t know if Urobuchi watches Nolan’s films or if the director is more to blame and hasn’t seen ’em either (he did direct the Gundam 00 film and Conqueror of Shamballa after all), but either way they need to become friends with the dude and learn why he works. And Nolan would deliver his wisdom in long bouts of exposition that he prepared years in advance for such an occasion.