The 1970’s anime heroes that would spawn into the popular US cartoon Battle of the Planets comes to life with a film that may seem somewhat slow-paced but makes it up when it comes to the action.
In the year 2050, a deadly faction known as Galactor has occupied half of the Earth. Their mission is to exterminate all of human kind. Learning of the threat, the International Science Organization have decided to use their greatest weapon, or rather, weapons. Five young heroes who have been entrusted with the powers of mysterious stones that gives them unbelievable powers. They are known as Gatchaman.
Led by Ken Washio, whom many years ago learned to harness his power when he witnessed the first of the attacks as a kid, the team saves Tokyo from total destruction. Dr. Nambu, the scientist who discovered the stones, informs the team that there is a defector from Galactor willing to provide intel in exchange for his protection. Despite the team’s reluctance, they eventually agree to meet Iriya, the defector. Of course, this only fuels the fire in Gatchaman team member Joe, who wants nothing more than revenge for the death of his beloved, Naomi. However, when the leader of the Galactor, Berg Katse, finally appears, the team will soon be in for the biggest shock of a lifetime.
In 1972, Japanese anime fans were introduced to the bird-like team Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Squadron Gatchaman), which was a huge hit amongst its viewers. Six years later, U.S. producer Sandy Frank, influenced by the hit Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, took Gatchaman and added a new character of a robot, introducing the series as Battle of the Planets. Forty years after its inception, a live-action film finally came about after a 2007 attempt with CGI animation failed to arrive due to the animation company (Imagi) being shut down. So how does this live action attempt fare?
Well, while it starts and ends quite well, the middle is more dramatics and not enough with action. Usually in this genre of film, there is a steady balance between the drama and action. However, this film, written by Yûsuke Watanabe brings more of an emo-like invocation in the film. The film can’t seem to focus on what’s at stake: the mission or the character of Joe, who is seething with vengeance against Galactor for the death of his girlfriend Naomi. The film also brings in the frenemy relationship between Ken and Joe. While these two have respect for each other, both of them fell for Naomi as children and as the trio grew up, it causes a bit of a rift that just gets bigger when Ken is more focused on the mission at hand and Joe on his quest for vengeance. It pretty much causes the other three Gatchaman members to be more a throwaway rather than a cohesive unit as seen in the anime.
Despite this setback, the cast of heroes make the most of what they have to work with. Tori Matsuzaka, who is best known for playing Takeru Shiba, the leader of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, shows why he did a good job as Ken, the leader of the Gatchaman team. He tries to bring the team together but it is clear that Joe’s action threatens to rip the team apart. As Joe, Gô Ayano brings that anger much like the anime, but adds a bit of an emo-riff into the fray. While they are more background to these two, Ryôhei Suzuki, Ayame Gôriki, and Tatsuomi Hamada make the most of their roles as Ryu and siblings Jun and Jinpei respectively.
As mentioned, there are some pretty good action sequences. While the costumes are different from their bird-like anime counterparts, the costumes here look pretty decent for a live-action film. Back to the action, the film’s highlights are truly the film’s first action scene, which clocks in at about ten minutes. Tatsuro Koike of the Alpha Stunts team does a great job as well as the film’s VFX team to make these heroes look great with their weapons and style of flying and jumping at great lengths. The climactic battle, set inside a cave, is quite nicely handled as well and brings one hell of a twist into the story. Predictable, yet still, one hell of a twist.
Overall, the live action adaptation of Gatchaman is a middle of the road film. The cast makes the most of what they have to work with. However, a film like this should have a steady mix of action and drama, but focuses more of the latter and that could pose a problem for fans of the anime series.
WFG RATING: C
Toho Company,Nippon Television Network, and Nikkatsu presents a Tatsunoko Productions film in association with YTV, VAP, TakaraTomy, FBS, HTV, CTV, Shizuoka Daiichi Television, Sapporo Television Broadcasting Company, and Miyagi Television Broadcasting. Director: Tôya Satô. Producers: Naoto Fujimura, Tadashi Tanaka, and Akira Yamamoto. Writer: Yûsuke Watanabe; based on the anime series “Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman” created by Tatsuo Yoshida. Cinematography: Takahiro Tsutai. Editing: Yôichi Shibuya.
Cast: Tori Matsuzaka, Gô Ayano, Ayame Gôriki, Tatsuomi Hamada, Ryôhei Suzuki, Eriko Hatsune, Gorô Kishitani, Shidô Nakamura, Ken Mitsuishi, Gregory Pekar.