Reviewby Allen Divers, Jul 26th 2002
Escaflowne The Movie
DVD: The Movie Ultimate Edition
Lost and alone, Hitomi Kanzaki is looking for something to believe in. As the world seems to close in around her, she simply wishes to fade away. Hitomi's heart finds resonance with another and she suddenly finds herself on another world called Gaea. There, she is the Wing Goddess, able to call forth the ancient armor, Escaflowne.
Thrust into the heart of conflict, Hitomi meets Van, a young man who has also lost hope for the future. Together, they must overcome their inner feelings and fight against the destroyers of Van's clan. As the Wing Goddess, Hitomi finds that she alone holds the fate of Gaea, either its freedom, or its ultimate destruction.
After a fairly successful tour in North American theaters, Escaflowne the Movie finally makes its way to DVD. Based on the TV series, the movie is a retelling of the entire series utilizing new artwork and character designs. Taking 26 episodes worth of material and compressing them to an hour and a half of movie time creates a rather rushed and disjointed story leaving an audience wondering what just happened. While the overall story makes the major plotline clear, a lot of the more subtle aspects get left behind.
The standard release of the DVD centers on the movie as well as the various soundtracks. The soundtracks included are: Dolby DTS 5.1 Japanese audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese and English audio, Dolby Digital Isolated Score track and a realtime storyboard track. All of this complements the anamorphic transfer of the movie. Menus on the disk are simple in nature, featuring animated clips from the movie. The menus are rather intuitive making it easy to switch between the various audio tracks.
For fans of the original TV series, the most striking change with Escaflowne the Movie is the new set of character designs. Each character gets a bit of a facelift and new wardrobe, leading towards a much darker feel for each character. Working with a larger budget than a standard episode, more detail fills every aspect of the screen. A lot of this detail becomes irritating as many of the characters take on bug-eyed appearances depending on the emotions of the scene. Many of the stunning visual aspects of the movie get laid aside as the focus rapidly shifts from a mix of trying to show great panoramic scenery shots to trying to move the plot along.
The disc includes three dialogue tracks, 2 Japanese and 1 English. The tracks share the same music and sound effects. The lip sync for the both languages is a bit distracting, more so because of the detail around the characters mouths. There seems to be a lot of distracting movement around the mouth while the rest of the character is immobile. The overall performance for both soundtracks is well crafted, with suitable voices for each character. Being very dramatic in nature, there does seem to be a lot of long winded-ness in many of the performances, but that's to be expected with a wordy script. The English script feels a bit wordy, when compared to the Japanese track, but can be justified by the need to match up to the lip flaps. Overall, the English script stays close to the Japanese script, without creating any unneeded dialogue.
Backing the serious mood of the movie is the musical soundtrack. Eerie in many places, while still maintaining a sense of wonder, the music helps the viewer move through the rushed pacing of the movie. There are also times when there is simply no music, with the void being filled by crashes and bangs of the sound effects. Being deep and heavy in nature, these sounds also push the viewer through the movie.
For those that have seen the TV series, there may be a general feeling of disappointment, since it's simply a reinterpretation of the original storyline. This leads to the major flaw of the movie: too much information to pass along in a very limited amount of time. The creators were given the flexibility of creating all new animation to retell the story, allowing them to tell one complete story from beginning to end without being constrained by the existing TV animation. This of course, leads to another set of problems as the viewer is dragged through an hour and a half of story and in the end must believe that it all fits perfectly.
While the battles and the final outcome make perfect sense, it is the interaction between the 2 leads that is most troublesome. The relationship that develops between Hitomi and Van goes from one extreme to another with no real transition. About halfway through the film, the viewer is suddenly aware that something has changed between them, but there is no clear moment marking the change in attitude. This is not surprising, considering the limited time given to the movie to tell its story. The shortness of time also eliminates much of the time the secondary roles have to make an impact. Characters such as Merle, Allan and Millerna come across as distractions providing no impact on the overall storyline. They actually create a bit disappointment, as the viewer is teased by their presence, but nothing really comes from them. These characters could have been left out, causing no harm to the overall plot.
In the end, the story simply moves too quickly for its own good. Natural transitions seem abandoned as viewers are expected to handle the sudden leaps from scene to scene. Newcomers to the series will feel that they missed something in the movie, while fans will know that something was left behind. The overall story makes it clear who the bad guys and good guys are, but again there is little time for growth amongst the characters. Much like the viewer, the characters are simply plucked from one scene and thrown into the next.
Escaflowne the Movie is a visual feast with a solid soundtrack that will make the audience take notice. Unfortunately, they'll be noticing that a lot seems to be missing from the beautiful imagery in terms of actual story. The good news is newcomers to the series will be intrigued and seek out the TV series in an attempt to better understand what they just witnessed. The bad news is that many fans will go unsatisfied, as they would have been better served with a movie based around a new storyline. The movie, much like the series, leaves room for potential sequels, but only time will tell if the world of Escaflowne will be revisited.
+ A visual banaza with a solid score
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