REVIEW: Zero to Hero: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection Is an Exhilarating Ride

It’s been a while since the last time I thought about Code Geass in any depth – the series ended ten years ago, and I’ve watched a number of other top-tier anime since. Then I attended the Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection premiere, and now I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Code Geass. The movie sucked me in and has since refused to let me go, and I for one am enjoying it.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection picks up about a year after the Code Geass series leaves off, with the world peace engineered by Lelouch threatened by a terrorist attack that leaves Nunally and Suzaku the hostages of an unknown power. At the same time, C.C. is on a quest of her own: to revive Lelouch and return him to the man he used to be. From there, it becomes a political thriller that’s half metaphysics and half mecha battles and entirely a reminder of just how skilled Lelouch is at Xanatos Speed Chess. I hesitate to give much more of a plot summary than that, as the less you know about the specifics of Re;surrection going in, the more effective the twists and turns of the plot will be.

Re;surrection begins at a breakneck pace and never really slows down to explain the finer points of Code Geass to the audience – or even introduce some of the characters – fully assuming that the audience has already seen Code Geass in its entirety and remembers the broad strokes of the story and setting. If you haven’t seen the series, this probably isn’t the movie for you; you should be able to follow the progression of the story just fine, but a lot of the reasoning and the deeper emotional moments will be lost to you. If you haven’t watched Code Geass since its second season ended ten years ago, now is the perfect time for a rewatch.

As complicated as Re;surrection can be – especially if you don’t remember large swathes of Code Geass – I highly enjoyed it. The quick pace of the plot barely leaves the audience time to breathe, making the audience just as swept along in the sequence of events as Lelouch’s followers and enemies are. Empathy created via pacing alone is rare, but Re;surrection pulls it off. On top of that, when the story slows down for a beat or two in order to give an emotional moment more prominence, that empathy amplifies the moment in the audience’s minds – like the characters, we know to treasure the moment, as we’ll soon be swept up in the action again.

And the action is fantastic. Re;surrection brings back classic Knightmare designs and throws a number of new ones at us as well, blending fond nostalgia with surprise in battles with exquisite choreography and animation. Fights benefit from that same quick pacing without feeling rushed, and the animation and cinematography work in unison with the fight choreography to make sure that the audience never misses a beat. These are the mecha battles that Bay’s Transformers franchises wish they’d had: clear-cut, focused, and still exciting. The ground and hand-to-hand fights are every bit as impressive as the giant mech battles, which is no easy feat to pull off.

Re;surrection intersperses its action throughout its plot, a political thriller encompassing terrorist attacks, kidnapping, high-stakes battles, and the use of the metaphysical side of the world in an attempt to reshape the physical side. The story truly stands above the crowd in its third-act twist. In movies based on shonen anime, the third act twist often comes as a powerup or a hidden power during the final climactic battle, which raises the stakes and extends the battle but doesn’t really change the overarching movie. By contrast, Re;surrection’s twist flips the entire movie on its head in the best way possible, forcing characters and audience alike to reassess literally everything that had happened earlier in the movie and resolve the conflict through an entirely different and previously unconsidered angle. It sets Re;surrection apart from most shonen anime based movies and elevates the story from good to great.

Overall, Re;surrection was a fantastic moviegoing experience, and I would absolutely recommend seeing it in theaters with other Code Geass fans. Kojiro Taniguchi, the film’s producer, said in the post-movie Q&A that there’s a ten-year plan for Code Geass that starts with Re;surrection, and if the rest of the plan is anything like this movie, then I cannot wait to see where it goes.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection is in theaters May 5 (sub) and May 7-8 (dub).

— Katie Cullen

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