“Expelled From Paradise” is Fairly Good Anime
August 6, 2015
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John Carter had Dejah Thoris. Earl Dumarest had Derai. Conan had Bellit. But in the decades since these characters’ stories first debuted, a trend away from their vein of storytelling has emerged. Oh sure, the guy got the girl in the end whether it was a sixties era John Wayne movie or whether it was an eighties science fiction blockbuster: The Last Starfighter, Back to the Future, My Science Project, and so on. But somewhere, somehow… sinister forces declared this trope out of bounds — as if it reduced women to being some kind of prize or something to whatever dude happens to save the universe.
So filmmakers put a twist on the old formula and delivered Chronicles of Riddick– which conflated the archetypal Best Buddy™ with the Love Interest™ to produce some sort of Strong Female Character™ that has the charm of neither. Vin Diesel’s character at least ends up king of the universe at the end of that one, but that’s really too good of a deal for this decade. Elysium upped the ante by presenting a hero that lost his childhood sweetheart to some other dude, that is desperate for favors from the very person that dumped him back in the day, and that even gives his life for a child that isn’t even his. Noble, yes… but even Luke Skywalker got a medal for his efforts. (Interstellar almost looks like an attempt to turn back the clock on this trend by telling the story of a guy that saves an entire planet… but in the end his own daughter ends up taking all the credit. To add insult to injury she even has the history books go on about how much he liked farming when he really hated it. (And you know, as much as I enjoyed that film, that ending really struck me like a slap in the face. Maybe the fact that I watched it on Father’s Day made the insult all the more palatable.)
Expelled From Paradise is exactly the sort of change of pace I’ve been looking for. First off, it is an excellent mashup. It’s like Tron coupled with Gamma World. Even better, it features a classic swaggering, worldly wise “Han Solo” type character at the top of his game. He lives by is wits on post-apocalyptic earth and always seems to come out ahead. His foil from the Tron/Elysium type place is a hotshot mecha pilot… but she is completely naive about how life really works out in the real world. It’s shocking to see the hero school this Strong Female Character™ throughout the duration of the film because this sort of thing would never fly in the states these days. But there’s more to this as there is a layer of genuine philosophical debate incorporated into the mix that gives a surprising amount of verve to how the story develops: this movie is different in that it makes a strong case for why you maybe wouldn’t want to actually live into the Elysium type place.
Yeah, it’s jam packed with action scenes and gratuitous shots of a scantily clad 16-year-old anime babe… but there’s still something relatively thought provoking that comes out of it all in the end. Maybe it doesn’t grab a full five stars, but I think it deserves a bonus for how it makes up for the dreariness of the past twenty years of Hollywood cinema. Does the guy get anything for his efforts? Heck, I can’t even remember at this point. But he sure doesn’t get kicked around, dumped, or taken for granted like the guys in Elysium or Interstellar. And even if he doesn’t land himself in a fairy tale “happily ever after” type match in the end, he at least comes out of the affair with his self-respect and his independence intact.
I liked this one. Four and a half stars out of five.