Director: Kazuki Akane
It's important from the start to watch the movie for its own sake, not just because of the series. Rather than a sequel or prequel, Escaflowne the Movie is a darker, more angst-ridden retelling of the story. Rather than trying to cram the entire thirteen hours of story from the series into an hour and half, Kazuki Akane has taken the essence of the story and reshaped it into something new.
The story follows a much more depressed Hitome who is beckoned to Gaia by visions of Folken. Summoned by Folken, Hitome appears in Gaia inside the Escaflowne, as Vaughn steals it from a Black Dragon Clan airship. Vaughn and his allies, who include most of the main characters from the series in much reduced and modified roles recognize her as the Wing Goddess, the one who holds the fate of Gaia in her hands. Folken, upset than Hitome has appeared to Vaughn rather than him, sends Delandau and his men to capture her so than she may bring about the end of the world.
The mood and theme of the movie are very dark. In the beginning, Hitome is depressed and suicidal, she's ditching class, dropped out of the track team, and even written a suicide note. Her feelings are mirrored by Vaughn's suicidal urge for vengeance and Folken's desire to see the world die. Hitome must make a choice between living and dying, one that will shape Escaflowne's actions and form the difference between Vaughn's salvation and the world's end.
The movie doesn't focus on giant robot battles the way the series does, there's only one large battle and unfortunately much of it is too darkly colored to make out. On the plus side, there are some great sword fights involving Vaughn, which make up for the lack of Escaflowne action.
The art and animation is excellent, though it has a more natural, rounded style rather than the over-stylized pointy look of the series. The music is also excellent, with a score by Yoko Kanno. All in all, the movie is definitely worth seeing, and can easily stand on it's own. If you're a fan of the series, watch with an open mind, and don't get upset with the new look and feel of the characters.