WARNING: contains spoilers
I watched Expelled from Paradise on Netflix last night. It is set in a future where the Earth has suffered a calamity that is never depicted in detail. We know only that it has destroyed much of civilization.
Most of the population of Earth left their bodies behind to be uploaded into a virtual world on a space platform, which is where the film begins. It launches into action pretty quick when the virtual world is "hacked" and our absurdly-proportioned protagonist, Angela Balzac, responds to the threat but unsuccessfully. She is sent to Earth to hunt down the hacker and end the threat.
She is provided a body which is generated from a record (and possibly a stored sample) of her own genetic code and she shortens the development of the body so that she gets a head start on her fellow security officers. They are also her competition for achievement.
She lands on Earth and shortly rendezvous with her guide, a cowboy-bebop-esque paragon of Japanese masculine cool named Dingo. When he makes his appearance, he is in an all-terrain roadster, complete with roll cage, coming at her at maximum speed and he is being chased by a huge swarm of sandworms. Angela assists him to neutralize the threat. It turns out to be a calculated opportunistic play by Dingo to sell bulk sandworm meat to his customers who are not far behind. This is our introduction to Earth.
The earth of Expelled from Paradise is a light-heartedly malevolent might-makes-right post-poc world. On the heels of watching a few seasons of AMCs "The Living Dead", it feels like Dingo and Angela have it a bit too easy of a time for most of the film. I would expect a mean-hearted world to suffocate under the rule of an organized gang of thugs or a warlord or some such. I would expect the world to be much more lonely and the pockets of civilization to be less populated and civilized.
This anime avoids those archetypes completely and presents a world of autonomy with the vague threat of violence.
An interesting conversation takes place between our protagonists when Angela gets sick. Angela observes that Dingo has the opportunity to become a citizen of Deva and he lays out some of his reasons for why he'd rather take his chances on Earth with a meat body. He all but says that the governing council from Deva is a dictatorship and she begins to look at the world with new eyes.
This discussion will feel familiar if you've been around people who like economics and talking about pie. Deva has a very top-down model with a fixed-pie size where it's brute competition for who gets more of the pie (memory and compute resources). Indeed this is part of what drives Angela to want to best her fellow citizens and improve her station. The Earth, though desolate, seems to have an unknown pie size and what you get is governed by luck but ultimately seems less constrained than Deva. Dingo deems Earth more virtuous because it doesn't discard those deemed useless by "society". The movie flirts with exploring the nature of human rights.
We get a very personal demonstration of what rights a person has in Deva when Angela returns to report that the AI named "Frontier Setter" is not a threat. She is ordered to return and destroy it to "complete her mission". She refuses, acting on her moral principles, which directly challenge the desire of the council to control what they can and destroy what they cannot. They put her in a box. She is rescued shortly thereafter and the movie plods with over-the-top action toward denouement.
Overall, I enjoyed three main characters: Angela, Dingo, and Frontier Setter. They were all very attractive and were fun/intersting to get to know for a bit. And the setting was desolate enough to create interest without being overbearing. I love that the writer(s) examined fascinating questions about the future of human consciousness and what it means to be fundamentally free.
The movie falls a bit short of being serious though. There aren't huge points of moral conflict at the limit of where a principle runs out of gas and crashes into nuance. Instead we fly between different perspectives, moving from deeply flawed premises to obviously "good" ones. It makes this movie feel a bit candy-coated, especially when you add in the robot battles and gratuitous objectification of the female body.
But, the film is well balanced and does well as a summer action flick... hell, even the objectification managed not to be as overbearing as it could have been.
I gave it 4 Stars.