Eden of the East: The King of Eden/Paradise Lost
Which is worse for a movie: to be bad, slow, or boring? I can think of lots of movies that are technically bad that I've still loved. Flash Gordon? Love it. Last Action Hero? Love it. I can still dig stuff like Runaway with Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons. Are they good in the traditional sense? Not in any universe I know of. But enjoyable? Absolutely. And slow does not always equal bad or boring. The Remains of the Day might be one of my favorite movies of all time. It is slow, but never dull. No, boring beats bad as the genuine movie killer. I can forgive a movie many things, but not just wasting my time. And sadly, in the space of two movies, Eden of the East went from one of the best anime experiences in recent memory to one of the worst.
The TV show was thrilling and full of surprises. It was technological and insightful into postmodern society but also included a sweetly developing romance and lots of charm. It had flaws -- my review of the TV show mentions them -- but it was still a fun endeavor. Unfortunately, the two films that close out the series -- The King of Eden and Paradise Lost -- have virtually none of the series' charms. Instead, they are joyless affairs that go woefully astray in almost every conceivable way. They are a train wreck in two acts that take three insufferable hours (and two additional purchases) to bring things to a conclusion. Since the movies require a working knowledge of the TV show -- and because the movies were junk -- spoilers lie ahead. You've been warned.
The King of Eden plops us down six months after the events of Eden of the East TV finished. Takizawa has been missing since the night he stopped the missile attack. Saki has his phone, but he's never called. Based on a mysterious message he gave her, she winds up in NYC trying to find him. That happens almost by coincidence...since his memories have been wiped (again). Saki tries to convince Takizawa of who he really is, but he can't quite believe it. But Takizawa knows something is afoot. While he's been off the radar of the Selecao game, it's not as if everyone else has quit playing...and some of the players are after his life.
Wow...that description sounds exciting, doesn't it? I wish that even half that excitement was in these two movies. It's certainly not evident in the production values. Granted, the movies came out less than a year after the TV series premiered, so it wasn't as if there was a whole lot of time to put these together. That said, the movies look worse than the television animation at several points. The series looked good for TV, but it's inadequate for a feature film. I honestly wonder if the reason the films were so flat was because there was simply no time to animate more exciting material.
It's not as if everything is lifeless. The King of Eden's pacing is off and there's a metric ton of exposition, but once Takizawa shows up about a third of the way through, things once again hold promise. There are a couple of exciting bits revolving around a Selecao stalking Takizawa to make a movie. There's a missile attack that doesn't affect the world at large at all, but changes the game quite a bit. There are a few bits in The King of Eden that reminded me why I liked the TV series so much. Sadly, the best parts were recycled note for note -- everything from a movie theater date to a carousel ride. It was also woefully incomplete. However, the second half of the film held out hope. I was bored stiff for a good long while, but by the end, I could believe we might be heading somewhere more interesting.
And that's when Paradise Lost brought everything, including my good will, to a screeching halt. Nothing important happens of note. Our main characters barely appear together. There's a throwaway plot thread about Takizawa's mother who abandoned him years ago, and it goes on far too long. We get a lot of rambling about Japan's place in the world and what was lost and what could be regained. It was totally pointless. I was checking my watch maybe after twenty minutes. And still nothing happened. And nothing ever does. There's not a single entertaining thing in all of Paradise Lost.
What's worse is the mistakes they make that pour cold water over the good stuff. It's bad enough that they brought back in the ripoffs from The Bourne Identity without any of the excitement. But far worse, they wreck the romance between Saki and Takizawa. They make Takizawa into a well-meaning jerk. They leave Saki totally hanging. While they resolve some plot threads, the ones that mattered were trashed. I could have suffered through it all if they didn't take the one truly nice character in the whole thing and break her heart.
I could have even lived with that, maybe, if it all wasn't so mind-numbingly, sleep-inducingly, catastrophically dull.
Had they dropped all the unnecessary crap and been more clever, they could have finished the whole thing with a normal thirteen episode TV series instead of the eleven-episode run they had. I genuinely have no clue why they did things this way unless they thought they could make some more money off of a couple of films. What I do know is that I could have written a better, more satisfying ending to Eden of the East any day of the week. I'm not heralding my screenwriting ability or my natural creativity. It's just that bad.
It has been a very, very long time since I have reviewed two films together, even from the same franchise. I like to write about things as they unfold...and quite frankly, it gives me more material for reviewing. But after watching The King of Eden, I knew that it was an impossibility. You can't tell The King of Eden's worth without the second film. (My rating for the film reflects both how I felt immediately after watching it and how my opinion of it changed after watching Paradise Lost.) I had it in my mind that the second film would make the monotony of the first worthwhile. I was wrong. The King of Eden is like staring over the abyss, but instead of doing an Evel Knievel gracefully to the other side, Paradise Lost plunges straight into the inferno. I won't flunk it because it wasn't offensive or egregiously incompetent, but it's bad news.
Watch the Eden of the East TV series, enjoy the intrigue and romance, and as the finale occurs, let your mind imagine the possibilities. What your mind dreams up will be far better than what they tried to sell us.
P.S. The photo above illustrates how I felt after watching these two films. Just so you know.
Eden of the East: The King of Eden -- violence, boredom -- C-
Eden of the East: Paradise Lost -- deadly tedium, missed opportunities -- D