Those looking for a continuation or retelling of the TV series will be sorely disappointed by the movie version of Escaflowne. Being an alternate universe version, many of the characters make an appearance, but the overall story has changed as have certain characters personalities. As such, the movie needs to be judged on its own merits as well as its weaknesses.
Perhaps the most striking aspects of the movie are the animation and the music both of which are quite good. However, for those familiar with the TV series, certain melodies have been recycled and as such the music may not be as special as for those who are new to the world of Escaflowne. Varying from Gregorian chant style to childrens songs right up to full orchestrals, however, there is a good range of music styles and melodies.
Also noteworthy are the character designs. Different from the TV series, I must admit the large, shining eyes take some getting used to, and I'm not entirely sure that I like the effect. Otherwise, many characters have a more adult feel to the design. There is also one scene in the movie that is highly reminiscent of a certain scene in Nausicaa. Done in a rough watercolour style, it looks like they had taken the storyboard drawings and animated the sketches. Even so, the effects of this change in animation style is interesting and effective. Certain other scenes also catch viewers' attention simply because they are that little bit odd. From Hitomi's faint, to setting suns, certain scenes are that little bit too abrupt.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie isn't particularly strong either. The story is made a touch weak by trying to put too much story into too little film as well as by not developing the characters as strongly as one would wish. Watching Hitomi go from confused displaced Earthling on Gaea to wanting to stay by Van's side, viewers are left wondering where her character's brain is; not enough development of this change in heart is apparent. Unfortunately, Hitomi's character overall is decidedly disappointing from her wallow in suicidal, self-pitying ennui to her inability to act on her own. At times she serves little more purpose than that of a noisy ornament. While this feeling is lessened with repeated viewing (ie. growing familiarity with the story), the initial impression is weak. The remaining characters are not particularly well developed either. Granted there is only 95 minutes to this movie, but that does not mean that characters cannot be fuller and less 2-D.
The direction is generally good with surprisingly good correspondence between certain aspects of music, sound effects, and animation. However, at times, it does take a touch of the cliche approach to certain scenes.
While I may not like Hitomi's character overly much, the voice acting is generally well done by the entire cast. Perhaps what weakens the story the most is the reliance on either familiarity with the characters or the assumption that the audience will be able to follow what is happening instantly. While this is true with repeated viewing, on an initial viewing, this movie strikes viewers as rushed in places with not enough true development. However, with repeated viewings and increased familiarity with the story line, the lack of development in places becomes less apparent thus making it more enjoyable to watch.
Certain movies I find are not as enjoyable on the small screen compared to in the theatres, and certain scenes in Escaflowne combined with the music track give the impression that it truly needs to be seen on the big screen. Unfortunately, a few scenes cannot overcome weaknesses in overall storyline development. While it will make an okay rental, this movie will not win the hearts of TV series lovers.
- JYN, 2001.11.13