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by Kalai Chik,

Knights of the Zodiac (live-action movie)

Knights of the Zodiac (live-action movie)
Seiya, an orphan who's been drifting through life, finds himself thrusted into the wild world of mythical gods after awakening a power within him. After one of his usual underground fights, he's roped into protecting Sienna, the reincarnation of Athena, by her adopted father. Although he initially rejects the task at hand, he comes to accept his destiny as one of her knights.

Toei and Sony's answer to the ceaseless cynical question of "Why" is "Why not?" After all, Knights of the Zodiac is only the latest installment in Saint Seiya's vast media universe of manga spin-offs, TV series, and films. It's more surprising that a live-action adaptation didn't come sooner. In light of Netflix's Death Note and Paramount's Ghost in the Shell, however, Hollywood screenwriters and directors are faced with the arduous task of winning over fans whose metaphorical wells have been repeatedly poisoned. Despite its flashy visuals and charming cast, this version of Knights of the Zodiac fails to win over skeptics.

Given the nearly four-decade-long history of the original material, the movie serves as an appetizer to whet the audience's appetite for a franchise. However, it quickly delves into exposition, explaining Athena's origins and the importance of protecting her within the first five minutes. The perspective then shifts to Seiya, who dreams of his sister's kidnapping and the awakening of his Cosmos. An exciting Act 1 transition to a cluttered and rushed Act 2 that's desperate to fit as much as it can through weak dialogue. Yet the film still finds the time to overplay the same visions and flashbacks, as if the viewers forgot what was shown 10 minutes earlier.

The film runs through volumes of content at breakneck speed, but it tries to tiptoe around addressing character arcs for most of the movie. However, when Seiya and Sienna's journey ends, the characters undergo sudden changes without proper development, leaving their successes feeling unearned. Guraad's eventual heel-face turn is arguably the most believable, yet it still feels rushed. While her introduction initially suggests that her homicidal motivations stem from a personal grudge, they are revealed to be an attempt to prevent the Earth's destruction caused by a god's unbridled power. Surprisingly, Alman ends up being the man with the world's worst moral compass. Like the other characters played by Sean Bean, he doesn't make it far enough in the story to make up for his wrongs.

The movie may lack plot cohesion and character development, but it compensates with plenty of visual eye candy and exciting fight choreography, making the ticket price worth it. Whenever the characters engage in hand-to-hand combat, Andy Cheng's staging shines through. His prowess and eye for stunts guide Mackenyu into showing off impressive wuxia-style martial arts for Seiya's fights. These go hand in hand with Tomasz Naumiuk's direction, emulating the zoom-ins, pans, and quick cuts reminiscent of anime battle scenes. Yoshihiro Ike's keen ear for heroic music heightens the fights; he never overdramatizes a scene or leaves it feeling stale.

The charisma among the cast and crew makes the on-screen chemistry and tension feel organic. Mylock, an unmemorable character in the original material, is given new life by Mark Dacascos as he takes down black-armored henchmen with high-powered sharpshooting. Eagle-eyed fans will also appreciate the references and Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film, including Nero's Nebula Chain earring.

Overall, despite presenting an action-packed retelling that modernizes the characters, broadens the lore for newcomers, and reimagines the story to engage long-time fans, the plot spreads itself too thin and fails to appease its detractors. Although this adaptation presents plenty of interesting ideas—such as Sienna's relationship with Guraad, and Seiya's childhood trauma—they are glossed over in favor of bringing the tale to a close. Knights of the Zodiac attempts to condense years of material into an introduction for the series, resulting in the worst of both worlds.

Overall : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : B+

+ Great hand-to-hand combat that leans into the action genre coupled with a memorable original track
A rushed plot that fails to provide a proper character journey for any of its leads

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Production Info:
Music: Yoshihiro Ike
Original creator: Masami Kurumada
Executive producer:
Jeffrey Chan
Kozo Morishita
Rick Nathanson
Katsuhiro Takagi
Joseph Chou
Yoshi Ikezawa
Tim Kwok

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Knights of the Zodiac (live-action movie)

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