Friday, October 4, 2013

Fantastic Fest 2013 Review: GATCHAMAN - Javi's Take

Directed by: Toya Sato
Written by: Yusuke Watanabe, with characters by Tasudo Yoshida
Starring: Tori Matsuzaka, Ryohei Suziki, Go Ayano, Ayane Goriki, and Tatsuomi Hanada
Synopsis:  When Earth is invaded by the evil Galactors, it's up to Science Ninja Team Gatchaman to stop them. 

Most cartoon-to-live-action films seem to be an afterthought after the source material has left the zeitgeist, or the film completely loses the spirit of the original source material. GATCHAMAN, named after the anime of the same name, might be better known as G-FORCE, or BATTLE OF THE PLANETS for most Americans. On a personal note, this was a show that I used to watch as a little kid but had very little actual recollection of, and going off this, I was not too picky in the liberties that the movie took with the GATCHAMAN lore. What we do have is a fun origin story with great action scenes that is unfortunately marred with too many flashbacks.

In the story, Earth has been invaded  by the Galactors, who are the super humans with superior technology. In the beginning, we see that they basically defeat all of the world's army's with relative ease since their armor has a force field we can't penetrate. Due to this, the governments created the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, a special team of ninjas with special connections to a crystals called Receptors. The team is composed of Ken, Jun, George, Ryu, and Jinpei. The Galactors are led by Berg Katze, a hilariously costumed villain, and when the movie starts, the Galactors are planning on attacking the main military leaders of the world.

When looking at adaptions, it's always important to consider a couple of things: 1) how good of a stand-alone story is it and 2) how well does it use the pre-established elements of the original story. GATCHAMAN does a good enough job of using the mythos of the anime to tell a very OK story. The movie has a lot of action sequences that have very superhuman moves and choreography. The CGI does look a little cheap at times, yet it didn't look bad enough to take you out of the picture. And honestly, the fight scenes are the best part of the movie. It's almost like literally seeing a cartoon come to life without any shred of realism.

Between the action, the aspect that sells the film is the team and their chemistry. Between all five members, they have some good chemistry going, especially with a certain budding romance and some lighthearted humor. The movie's plot and the source of the majority of the flashbacks is Ken and George's past when they were young Receptors and a third character

There were a lot of flashbacks in this film. By no means is this a scientifically backed fact, but the flashbacks take up at least 25% of the running time. While they might be used to set up a lot of the stakes in the movie, they could have definitely cut out a little more. Unfortunately, the flashbacks ended up detracting from the action scenes. The main villain's, Berg Katze, costume is slavishly very faithful to the original cartoon costume almost to the point of making him look cartoony, but all the while, the Gatchaman team is actually more "realistic" looking. There is a bit of a missed opportunity where the cartoon Katze was an hermaphrodite-type of character, and here they chose to not depict about that aspect of his character. But that's more of the fact that there are rarely any transgender characters much less villains.

GATCHAMAN unfortunately downplays its best assets in favor of some clumsy story telling devices but at the same time, they definitely set up a cool enough world that has potential if the sequels fix a lot of the script issues. It's not a bad movie, but unfortunately it's nothing that's really memorable. If you're a fan of the show, then you might as well check it out, but to those not familiar with the material, it might just look like a weird action movie.

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