Reviewby Bamboo Dong,
The Movie DVD
Starting in 1979 with the introduction of Mobile Suit Gundam, a large franchise has been built around the Gundam name, ranging from hardened war stories to teenaged pretty boys all flying around in some of the most recognizable mechas ever designed. By the time twenty years had passed since the first appearance of Gundam, the series and its incarnations had a serious fan base on both sides of the Pacific, in fact, all over the world. To celebrate the anniversary, a collaboration of the entertainment industries of both coasts was set up in the "Gundam Bigbang Project," resulting in a movie medium that no Gundam series or film had ever encountered before-live action. Combining live-action actors and CG-rendered mobile suits, the G-Saviour movie is a pleasing mix of both science fiction and adventure. Set in UC 223, the movie takes place at a time when Earth is ruled by the Congress of Settlement Nations (CONSENT). Famine is ravaging the planet and the Side establishments, but fortunately, a biotechnical secret has been discovered that will save humanity. Enter Mark Curran, an ex-officer of CONSENT, who is unwillingly persuaded to help a group of rebels recover the biotechnical compound and bring an end to world hunger. Turns out, CONSENT is set on preventing them from doing just that, but luckily, the rebels have a powerful weapon that will undoubtedly give them the leading edge-the G-Saviour.
G-Saviour is one of the coolest movies I've seen in a while. It's not so much that it's good (it has its deficiencies, of more later), it's just that I've never seen Gundams and real actors in the seem film before, and it makes the fantasy of having mobile suits all the more real. Distributed by Bandai, the disc includes the 95 minute movie, including an art gallery containing a few CG shots, as well as some production sketches. Also included in the packaging is a timeline of the Gundam world, which was extremely cool. It's nice to be able to see how each Gundam installment relates to the others chronologically, and it helps clear up some confusion as to what happened when. G-Saviour was done by an English-speaking cast, so interestingly enough, there's a bonus Japanese-dub track on the disc as well. There's no close captioning available though, so in scenes that are hard to hear, the viewer has to rely on the context of the characters' surroundings.
The movie is highly enjoyable in the one sense that its live-action/CGI mix makes the Gundam world more realistic. Mecha enthusiasts can now carry the ideal that mobile suits and real people really do go together. On the downside, the story line is extremely confusing. It wasn't until halfway through the movie that I figured out what was going on. In addition, the scenes are so dark that the viewer can hardly see what's going on most of the time. Coupled with the quiet and often blurred voices, I had a hard time discerning the plot. The story line had the workings of a solid science fiction movie, but as far as the Gundam angle went, it fell short. Interjected randomly into the movie, the entire Gundam concept seemed as though the writers were trying too hard to make it a Gundam-oriented film where there was no room for any of it to begin with. There are plot-holes galore and if it weren't for the fact that the main target audience is Gundam fans, the movie probably wouldn't have been able to stay alive.
One of the best things about this movie is the soundtrack. Right from the beginning, it has the sweeping orchestrations that are saturated throughout science fiction films and space sagas. The theme was lyrical and majestic, and throughout the movie, the pieces presented a nostalgic air reminiscent of some of the films made in the Golden Age of s.f. (not to be confused with sci-fi, which was tripe that was glamorized by Hollywood to rhyme with Hi-Fi). In fact, in light of the grandiose music and the (mediocre, but passable) story line, G-Saviour can only be described as science fiction, without any of the fantastical holds of anime upon it. Quite honestly, the only tie the movie even has with anime is the random Gundam elements jammed into it, seemingly against will.
When I first heard about a live-action Gundam movie, I expected the actors to be low-budget hacks in need of rent cash. I was wrong. The actors did a remarkable job, loading their characters with distinct personalities, which is impressive considering the character development in the story was jagged and hardly existent. Also, I don't know how they did it, or if it's even actually possible beyond the scope of my imagination, but the cast made the characters seem genuinely "Gundam-ish." While I can't explain how I came to arrive at that conclusion, but there was the impression that these characters belonged in a Gundam movie. If the script had been better, and the Mobile Suits had been tied in with the story and not just randomly inserted, G-Saviour would have been a Gundam film of high achievement. As it stands, it can be seen as either a good science fiction flick (minus the Mobile Suits), or a bad Gundam feature (plus everything else about it). Also, for the first time in my life as reviewer, I found myself criticizing the Japanese track. The actors were all right, but the voices just seemed listless. Subtle inflections of the voice were gone, and at times it sounded as though the cast was just reading off a script, high school drama club style. Then again, I suppose it's the nature of all dubs. It's as much unnatural for a Japanese cast to dub an English script as it is for Americans to rattle off a dub for a Japanese script.
The CG work is definitely worth discussing, though. I got an immense kick out of the mere fact that the Gundams looked almost realistic. For a second it was believable that Mobile Suits were as natural to a military as assault rifles, and that they could be piloted by real people. The negative aspect, however, was that they moved rather awkwardly and unnaturally, which was highly unlike the smooth, graceful maneuvers of the 2D animated Suits that Gundam fans have grown so fond of. Somehow, I just can't get past the feeling that Gundams just shouldn't have been in the film (which is where the Gundam Project fell short). Their presence was unexplained, their mechanisms were taken for granted, and well, they just didn't belong. Honestly, the only Gundam aspect of the movie I liked was the portrayal of the Sides. They fit in just fine with the rest of the movie, and the CG work done on them was amazing. As the camera followed the ships into each Side, the viewer slid through beautifully rendered clouds and breathtaking cityscapes, which makes one nearly certain that that's how the Sides looked like in the minds of the original creators.
Despite its shortcomings, G-Saviour is definitely worth watching for Gundam fans. They are perhaps the only people that could even begin to understand the presence of the Mobile Suits in the first place. If others were to ignore the large robots flying around killing enemy robots that look virtually the same, then perhaps they too might want to check out this movie. Even with the initial thought that an American-bred Gundam feature would be abominable beyond comprehension, I actually enjoyed it, finding it relaxing to not have to read subtitles and avoid dubs like a death trap. It's a nice movie though, and worth at least a rental. After all, even while part of me realized that the movie would have been much better off without Gundams, another part of me saw the mix of mediums as a faint glimmer of hope that maybe someday, humans really could pilot Mobile Suits.
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : A
+ Gundams with real people in them? Nice!