Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Feb 17th 2012
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 the Movie: Awakening of the Trailblazer
Two years have passed since Celestial Being, a military interventionist faction, has defeated Ribbons Almark and the Innovade, a group of pseudo-humans whose purpose was to rule over mankind. In the aftermath, humanity has learnt the value of understanding one another and a pacifist government has formed and the military has been reduced in prominence. While rebuilding goes on, an old probe that was sent to Jupiter many years ago was spotted on a collision course with Earth. The military succeeded in destroying most of the probe but a few fragments managed to crash to surface. Strange events soon started taking place all around the world and people with high quantum brainwaves became targets of attacks for which no one knew why. Celestial Being once more returns from the shadows as humanity discovers the aliens causing havoc. Setsuna will be called on to pilot the newest Gundam in the hopes of preparing humanity for the “dialogues to come” as predicted by Aeolia Schenberg but what that will entail, only he can decide.
To put it simply, I'm a Gundam fan boy. I don't profess to have seen every version released over the decades that this franchise has existed, but I've seen enough to tell you that I like seeing giant robots fight. The Gundam 00 TV series epitomised just exactly why that is. Here you have four Gundams unlike any other machine in existence intervening in military conflicts all around the world. They have the ironic goal of bringing about peace by fighting everyone else and in the process attracting the ire of every nation on the planet. Once everyone in the world united to fight them, they believed their job was done as hopefully everyone now understood each other.
After two years from where the series ended, the world has finally seen what the point of all this was. Peace of a sort was achieved. Many-a-Gundam series end in similarly pacifistic conclusions. So what then can you do to continue the story when you make a movie out of it? Most have introduced new factions or brought back disheartened groups that did not get a satisfactory end to restart wars, but Gundam 00 The Awakening of the Trailblazer is different. It introduces aliens. That's right, aliens. Cue sound of Gundam fan boys around the world slapping their foreheads.
Perhaps we can wonder why it was that in almost every Gundam show, there's typically a division between normal humans and a more evolved kind more suited for space travel. Perhaps we can make the assumptions that all along, the idea behind humans fighting each other and eventually finding peace in understanding is because we needed to be prepared for the future. Perhaps inevitably, that future corresponds to interstellar travel and yes, in the long run, meeting with aliens. In the grand scheme of the Gundam ideals, one might be able to conclude that the concept of aliens shouldn't really surprise or be a source of contention among fans, but nothing has caused fans to go rabid in recent times as quickly as this revelation has. Even Kira Yamato surviving a nuclear explosion from Gundam Seed was easier to digest than ahem, aliens.
Aliens aside, the movie is exactly what you'd expect from a big Sunrise production. The animation is fantastic and choreography is heart stopping. Mecha designs are as gorgeous as I've come to expect from the Gundam 00 universe. The design for Gundam Raphael and its subsequent Seravee back up unit comes a bit out of left field however which was why it was surprising when it transformed; in that regard I guess you can call it a successful design. There is a tendency for the screen to become overloaded with laser beams when the action really heats up and by the time it reaches the climax it might actually take someone with quantum brainwaves to decode the mess that's unfolding on screen.
Character development is patchy at best with Feldt, one of the operators on the bridge of the Ptolemaios, being the only one to make you care about her plight. Setsuna himself had a very bland outlook for the most part as he tries to figure out what his true purpose was; ala Neo from The Matrix. If you've seen the series prior, you'd probably surmise that the rest of the other characters behaved much like they always have and with the large number of them making an appearance, it's easy to see that if any time was devoted to developing them further, the movie could easily have been three hours long.
Music has ever been a big component of most Gundam productions and this is no exception. Big names like Chiaki Ishikawa (of the See-Saw fame) and UVERworld lend their musical prowess to give the movie a blockbuster sheen. The musical score itself was also very well done though the jazzy intonations brought upon by the big use of brass instruments doesn't quite elevate the feel of it to a “space opera”; a full orchestral treatment filled with lots of strings might have been better.
Movies based on the Gundam universes haven't always rated highly for me. The dominant reason for this is that part of what makes the series' compelling viewing is the slow realisation of the character's conviction. Political and sociological revelations behind the story lines need to be simmered rather than thrown at the frying pan at maximum heat; it's the best way to build up intrigue. A movie with its limited time frame cannot achieve what 50 episodes would, so despite awesome animation and a fantastic soundtrack, Gundam 00 The Awakening of the Trailblazer just couldn't cut it. Not even with aliens.
© SOTSU, SUNRISE, MBS
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C-
Animation : A
Art : B
Music : A
+ Lots of pretty explosions.
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