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Laramie Movie Scope:
Escaflowne: The Movie

I want my money back

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 11, 2003 -- I rented this Japanese animated movie, "Escaflowne" yesterday and I want my money back. First of all, it was supposed to have cost $2, instead, it was $3.50. A dollar would have been more like it. Although the film has great artwork in it, the story sucks. It is the usual Japanimation junk, no character development, characters with haphazard motivations, a climax that leaves much to be desired and a "huh?" ending. The only reason I rented this is because I'm trying to catch up on anime for an upcoming vote on animated features for the Online Film Critics Society and this was on the list. It is not a bad film, but it is far from being one of the greatest animated films of all time.

The story is based on the popular Japanese animated TV series which I haven't seen. If I had seen the TV series, maybe the story would have made more sense, but then again, movies should be self-contained. I also have a real problem with paying $2 to rent an episode of a TV show just to background a movie. That makes cable look cheap by comparison. Our story starts with Hitomi, a troubled teenage girl contemplating suicide. Because she is depressed, she is whisked away to another world called Gaia where she is proclaimed as the Wing Goddess. It turns out that Gaia is also a depressing place where other people are also contemplating suicide. She has the power to call upon a great warrior dragon known as Escaflowne. She meets, and falls in love with the magical and heroic Van (pronounced Von), king, and last surviving member of the Dragon Clan. Van is involved with a war with the powerful Lord Folken of the Black Dragon Clan, another magical king.

Both Folken and Van are trying to access the power of armored dragons so they will have the upper hand in their upcoming battle. Van's brother, who is now his enemy, is seeking to control the other armored dragon, while Van seeks to control Escflowne. These dragons are so powerful they can destroy the world. As usual in these kinds of stories, there is a lot of talk of prophecy and hand-wringing over fate versus free will issues. Seemingly minor characters pop up to play major roles in the story and then fade into obscurity. At one point, Van inexplicably decides to kill Hitomi. Later, he repeatedly risks his life to save her. If I could understand Japanese, I might be able to make sense of this irrational behavior by listening to the original soundtrack of the film, but alas, I don't, so I have to make do with the translations. If I had a better knowledge of Japanese storytelling traditions, the anticlimactic climax and the deeply dissatisfying ending which fizzles out in a pile of feathers might have made more sense, too. What sense does it make to have a minor character suddenly appear out of nowhere to fight the final battle? It is bewildering to my admitedly western mind.

As far as the artwork goes, it is beautiful. There are some gorgeous scenes in this film. The use of color is stunning. The music is also hauntingly beautiful. It is just too bad the film's story does not live up to its style. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)