Zone of the Enders: Idolo
Sci-fi has long been a realm that we use to reflect on the state of the real world, with the potential to hold a mirror to political, religious, or social situations and explore the realm of 'what if'. ZotE: Idolo is a portrayal of a future society that has become segregated between the main human population left on Earth, and the growing colonial presence on a Mars that we've reshaped for our own habitation.
By the time the story opens, we can see that tensions have already risen to the brink of war, and Earth maintains a military presence on its colony to head off the potential recurrence of a revolution. What follows is the consequence of a secret bitter struggle for independence and a trek through the motivations of those at its front lines.
Spite, hatred, jealousy, and vengeance have always been prime motivators for human progress, and in Idolo they result in military technological advances that are compared to the 20th century discovery of atomic energy. We follow Radium, the pilot of the titular Idolo: the first of a new generation of mech with a mysterious and poorly understood power source that apparently has the potential to tear through fleets of the forces that have come before.
This awesome power is not to be taken lightly, and we see the day-to-day interaction with this device gradually take their toll on his psyche and relationships, before it all comes to a head. Without spoiling, I will mention that the story takes an interesting bent on the old adage of responsibility and spirals through some unexpected twists to a satisfying, effective ending. It is a story that is self-contained, but also prepares the setting for the television (or video game) sequel.
For the vast majority of the film the music falls heavily on the generic side. Whenever I focused on that instead of the onscreen action I felt myself suppressing the urge to yawn. As an accompaniment to the tense action scenes it's effective, but still leaves a lot to be desired. There's also a quieter track that plays right towards the end that almost managed to give me goosebumps and made me wonder why they didn't just have that composer just score the whole thing.
Sound effects are not outstanding, but they do their job. Gunfire feels appropriately weighty, which is good because there's a lot of it to go around. One oddment is that when energy weapons are used there seems to be some sort of intentional absence of sound (this may be a setting quirk, and if so effectively distinguishes ZotE from most sci fi shows). There is, unfortunately, sound in space, but there's worse things to complain about.
Voice acting is very good. Particularly from the lead. He delivers a wide range of emotion, up to and including sheer insanity, and manages to make it believable and not hammy in the least.
On the whole, stylish and effective. Interesting and expressive faces. Ah, shall we say... 'unique' mecha designs. The action flows logically except at a couple of points, and looks smooth most of the time.
The desolation of Mars is really accentuated with the way backgrounds are drawn in bleak fashion, despite the obvious evidence of terraforming and colonization. The evidently hazardous exteriors contrast well with the sleek and cold military interiors. This world is not a place you want to live in if you have the choice, and it comes across well in the art.
Radium is a well-wrought 'knight in sour armour' and the story plies him mercilessly, leading us through a short but potent character arc for the 50 minute running time. The supporting cast doesn't occupy much space in the story and are mostly forgettable.
The relationship with his wife Dolores is understated, probably too subtle to elicit much empathy from most viewers. She never really gets developed past a shoulder for Radium to cry on, which is somewhat disappointing. We do, however see traces of our lead's philosohy rub off on his protege Viola, who is subsequently groomed as a pilot of the next generation.
Despite suffering in pacing by trying to fit too many individual moments into the small space here created, the overall product is enjoyable, being successfully boueyed by fast paced action and an overall sense of awe at both the set pieces and the Idolo mech itself.