Hello, my friends, and welcome to the long-awaited (?) second edition of Animasterpiece Theatre, where I look at live-action adaptations of anime and manga! This time around, however, I am writing not about an adaptation, but about a full-fledged new entry into a long-running franchise: G-Saviour.
G-Saviour has some interesting things going for it, at least on the production side. It was, along with Turn A Gundam, intended to be the centerpiece of the 20th anniversary celebration of the Gundam series. Curiously, though, it is a predominantly Canadian creation: The director and vast majority of the actors (and the crew, as well, I assume) are from Canada, and the movie’s language of origin is English. It was later dubbed into Japanese, of course, but I wonder what led to this being made in Canada in the first place. (Well, if there’s any reason other than financial considerations, anyway.)
But how is the movie? It’s . . . a made-for-TV movie. I could easily see this showing up late at night in the middle of the week on SyFy or something. Take that how you will.
(By the way, there will be spoilers in this post for those who care about that sort of thing.)
The look of the movie is very much like one of those random science-fiction TV movies, or the rich man’s version of something that would show up on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is not an inherently bad thing. It’s corny and silly, but Gundam itself is often corny and silly. Here it is perhaps proper to make a confession: For the vast majority of G-Saviour I was enjoying myself. I have a certain fondness for this silly TV sci-fi aesthetic that has been cultivated by MST3K for many years. I like pew-pew lasers. I like lots of meaningless flashing lights. I like “expert” computer technicians who bash a few keys to get everything done. I like random orders shouted in all directions. There’s a certain goofy, earnest charm to G-Saviour, like the whole cast knows they’re in a silly B-level sci-fi flick and don’t care. Remember the “Space Mutiny” episode of MST3K? G-Saviour has that sort of feel to it, except it has 1) money and 2) a certain level of competence to the filmmaking.
So you can imagine my excitement upon watching this silly story play out. Maybe now, though, would be a good time to address the elephant in the room: How, exactly, does this relate to Gundam? The answer: There are some Gundam things in this movie, but it could really be a generic sci-fi movie with generic giant robots and nobody would really know the difference. The Gundam aspects of G-Saviour are window dressing; it doesn’t build on the world in any meaningful way, nor does it particularly feel as if it takes place in the same universe, even though it ostensibly happens in the Universal Century era.
The basic story is that in U.C. 0223, the Earth Federation is kaput and its territories have autonomy. The colonies eventually form into a couple of alliances: The Congress of Settlement Nations (which, somehow, forms the acronym CONSENT) and the Settlement Freedom League. The CONSENT nations are in the throes of a food shortage crisis; they lack the agricultural capabilities to feed all their people. G-Saviour‘s plot revolves around a plan to retrieve an experimental sample of bioluminescent material that can generate light and heat and would apparently allow for underwater agriculture. Some Evil Guys in CONSENT want to put a stop to this because they like power and like making people starve, I guess. There are giant robot fights along the way.
So, yeah, it’s a story that’s nominally Gundam. There are recognizable mecha (including Zakus at one point), though they don’t move quite as well as I hoped they would since the CG is 12 years old and kind of chunky. Credit where it’s due, though: It looks a LOT better than I expected. A lot CG in TV anime today doesn’t look as good as the CG in G-Saviour, which is kind of sad, but whatever. Even though the Earth Federation has apparently been blown up, some of the CONSENT higher-ups wear Feddie uniforms. The colony design is the usual from Gundam, too, which I was happy to see because it’s pretty cool. There may be a couple of other things I am forgetting. These bits of window dressing are the main connection to Gundam. Honestly, though, it’s probably for the best. Live-action Newtypes in this movie? I am shuddering just thinking about it.
The movie’s not all fun and games, unfortunately. The villains are definitely silly, but never really interesting. To me they’re like C-grade Code Geass villains in a live action setting. The military dude who is the rival to the protagonist, Mark Curran (kind of a Gundam name there), is especially goofy. He’s like a recreation of Yazan Gable from Zeta Gundam but even more hammed up and in a bad way. He’s the cold-hearted military dude who always makes the mission the top priority over human lives and shoots first and asks questions later and yada yada yada. At one point he’s talking to Mark, who he thinks has defected, and when Mark reaches into his pocket his immediate reaction is to shout, “HE’S GOT A GUN!!!!!!” and order his men to open fire. It’s not so much whether the action is realistic as the absurd, cartoony execution of the scene. As the movie progresses, he becomes more ridiculous and unhinged. The rivalry never feels real enough to justify, though, so it’s mostly campy.
And the love triangle development . . . oh my god. I can’t fathom why this even exists. It’s clear from the start that the creators want Mark and the female protagonist, Cynthia Graves, to hook up. Their chemistry is kind of awkward, but the romance is kind of silly, and it’s an interracial couple, so it’s interesting from that standpoint. (Cynthia is played by Canadian-Nigerian actress Enuka Okuma, who also voiced Lady Une in the English dub of Gundam Wing.) Problem is, Mark is already married (or at least has a girlfriend — I can’t remember if they say she’s his wife), and it’s not like this woman is some horrible shrew lady or something. Maybe the worst thing she does is demand a shower at some point. I dunno. But she catches Mark making out with Cynthia and then FLIPS THE FUCK OUT and betrays everyone to the Evil Faux Feddies. So basically she exists to provide a convoluted way to initiate the movie’s climactic conflict. This is so dumb that it pretty much destroyed all the good will I had toward the movie.
This just . . . does not need to exist. The love triangle really adds nothing that couldn’t already be achieved by having both Mark and Cynthia be single and falling in love over the course of this goofiness. That would be fine. But, really, this whole thing makes Mark look like a douche. You might see this sort of thing in Gundam because it would be Yoshiyuki Tomino showing everyone what dickholes humans could be. However, it doesn’t fit the tone of G-Saviour at all. Mark is clearly supposed to be someone the audience roots for. He risks his life to save people, he refuses to stay on the sideline when something clearly corrupt is going on, and so on. I mean, I didn’t root for him because he’s such a smarmy, annoying fuck, but clearly we’re supposed to be on his side. But Mark just ditches his wife/girlfriend and doesn’t feel bad about it, and then the movie goes on to paint him as morally superior after it provides a stupid, convoluted reason to hate the woman. Argh. So dumb. Poor Cynthia Graves doesn’t deserve to be involved in this nonsense.
I don’t want to close this post out with negativity, though, so let’s end on something I liked quite a bit: The multiethnic cast. It makes sense, too — the whole crux of Gundam, after all, is that a good chunk of humanity has moved to space colonies, so of course you’d have a good mix of people interacting on a day-to-day basis. There are all different types of people in different positions of power, and it ain’t no thing here. That’s pretty cool. Whatever I dislike about the direction G-Saviour rolls in, I can respect for not going All Space Whitey All the Time.
So, yeah, final verdict is that G-Saviour is a generic made-for-TV sci-fi movie with occasional giant robots. I enjoyed it more than expected even when the plot took a hard left turn into Dumbtown at the end.