Origin: Spirits of the Past Reviews
First impression is that the film's co-existence message is almost a direct copy of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and the similarities end there - where Miyazaki delivered a gut-wrenching experience of monumental wonder, sadness, fragility and ferocious anger, Origin achieved none of that even with better animation techniques.
The film begins on a strong footing with lush animations of two carefree protagonists parkouring across the post-apocalyptic landscape, and this is the only time the film utilised its rich setting to its fullest potential, the decaying landscape bought to life by the running youths' unbridled energy. This view is contrasted by that of the female protagonist, a girl who awakens horrified and uncomfortable with the alien land she witnesses.
A lot of potential could be had by exploring the conflicting views between them, as an analogy of our present relationship with technology and the environment. But the film goes down the hill of clichés of trying to establish clear right & wrongs - technology here being wrong and the environment right.
It would make sense if the apocalypse was bought about by the technologies of war, but it wasn't - it was bought about by the genetically modified plants, who were the initial aggressors. I found myself sympathising with the lost advanced civilisation as opposed to the primitive post-apocalyptic world, which the film insists I root for.
And there's the characters themselves who are far from likeable - the main male protagonist appears almost infantile and naive in his devotion to the trees, which we established were the original aggressors. The trees, or nature, is here portrayed as militaristic and manipulative as the human military, in fact the humans had a stronger argument for recouping civilisation that was lost to them.
The female protagonist abruptly changes her mind at the climax for no apparent reason whatsoever - if she stopped destroying the trees out of compassion for the human dwellers, the film failed to establish chemistry between the girl and what is essentially an alien hostile world to her.
Lastly the male protagonist's voice acting is usually flat, cardboard-like, with little emotion to the loss of his father, and especially so after being "powered up" by the trees acting as their servant. His out-of-nowhere outbursts of violence does nothing but further illustrate the trees as the oppressing antagonists.
Overall great animation, as in the craft, that unfortunately lends to a shoddy script that throws fragmented cliché plot twists that neither contributes to a strong narrative, nor use its copious slow moments to flesh out characters and establish a coherent reason for their actions.
So in a sense the film is like the boy controlled by the forest - no reason for doing what he does except that he had to do it, without much thought given in at all.
The music score is amazing, though.
This movie also tries very hard to be Miyazaki's "Naussica," and doesn't quite make it.
But on the positive side, the animation is great, and it has some great ideas (though it doesn't develop them enough).
it is the only thing that keeps me from making it a five star. I suggest you rent or stream it first before buying it.