While there is a lot to recommend about Maetel Legend both in concept and finished product, it's ultimately a poor film. Plot wise it's a retelling of Maetel's early life, which is usually unclear; at the same time the writers take the opportunity to tell the story of the Machine Empire. And since Leiji Matsumoto has trouble not including his other work we get a starting point for Emeraldas her sister, Her mother: the Queen of La Metalle and a bit of Galaxy Express 999 to flesh out the film.
In short Maetel is a princess on the planet La Metalle, a planet with an irregular orbit, thus meaning its cycle around the nearest sun is reaching a cold stage and it's artificial Sun is dying. The Planet grows increasingly colder throughout the story, thus increasing the sense of doom. In order to protect her subjects and family the Queen decides that mechanisation is the only way to ensure survival of La Metalle's people. Enter Lord Hardgear, a robot / cyborg who provides the means for the job. Through the film, the characters are left to question mechanisation, will they still be human? Can Hardgear be trusted? Do souls and hearts remain? So for a fan of Matsumoto's work, there's lots to enjoy, questions to be answered, themes continued, except it's obvious that the film is meant to be an introduction, as well as a fan curiosity. The negatives, foremost the animation, while Galaxy Express 999, a TV series from over 20 years ago has shoddy mouth animation and at times sketchy character design, Maetel Legend has all the worst traits of modern animation and thus earns an air of respectability to Galaxy Express 999. The design is well detailed but unfortunately the animation has suffered leaving well drawn characters that 'slide', as in the backgrounds move or the camera zooms, a quick way of animating. However the few, yes few well animated scenes are re used over and over in dream sequences, repetition and in extra scenes. Anyone who's seem the film will wonder how many times Lord Hardgear can drink the same glass of wine.
Next the story, While in concept everything sounds great, the finished product is in fact a series of conversations of plot which are repeated over and over to little effect, the number of times the characters encounter the same problems and learn the same things is practically insulting to the audience and the characters, which are seemingly much more articulate in former incarnations. Add to all of that some terrible character design, that seem lifeless, over exaggerated, and the audience is left with a movie so miss handled it might as well have been rewritten as a different film, at least the newcomers wouldn't be left baffled.
And yet, it really has its moments, the ending at least is surprising. The plight of the citizens of La Metalle was quite affecting and rightly disturbing; I guess I find that whole man-machine theme distressing. It's hard know who to recommend Maetel Legend to, since it's not well animated, written or executed, plus confusing once Leiji Matsumoto's mandatory cross-referencing is introduced. However I can't help but brighten up when the magnificent entrance of Three-Nine occurs, now that's good cinema.
1/5 stars out of 5, 2 if you're a fan.
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