Director: Toya Sato
Starring: Tori Matsuzaka, Ayame Gouriki, Go Ayano, Tatsuomi Hamada, Ryuhei Suzuki, Goro Kishitani, Ken Mitsuishi, Eriko Hatsune, and Nakamura Shidou
The planet has been invaded by Galactors, mutated humans who have unimaginable power and a defensive shield that negates all conventional weaponry by mankind. Things seem hopeless until the appearance of the Science Ninja Team, Gatchaman! With powers that negate the Galactors’ defensive capabilities, Ken (Matsuzaka), Joe (Go), Jun, (Gouriki), Ryu (Hamada), and Junpei (Suzuki) take on the bird themed costumed of one of the most storied anime and manga franchises in the history of Japan.
Playing with the original source material quite a bit, the feature film adaptation arrives with top notch special effects, a cast of young stars, and a peppering of established actors to round it out. Unfortunately, the film suffers from a real lack of focus; both in the storytelling and the very frustrating lack of world-building. Attempting to play off the hugely successful Avengers films, albeit with a more recognizable homegrown property, Gatchaman attempts to make a Hollywood style action film, but in doing so, forgets what made the original works great.
The film does do a number of things quite well; the opening action sequence featuring a giant wheel drill tearing through the city while the team is introduced is both exciting and gave a great start to those who grew up watching the animated series. The action is good throughout with higher level fights about the quality of the typical Japanese scifi pictures like Kamen Rider and the Super Sentai franchise. Visual effects are generally well done though the age of the film and time between my review screening hasn’t left the effects in as good a state as in my memory. Music is epic with the classic theme a recurring audio cue while side references to other TatsuPro work is fun for eagle-eyed (and in one instance, not so eagle-eyed) fans.
The cast tends towards the over dramatic with Matsuzaka’s Ken taking the cake. He’s brooding and strong but rarely acts as the leader despite his ‘by the book’ nature. Joe, oddly written as George in the film, is pretty much a spot on characterization by Ayano; he’s a wild card which puts him at odds with Ken but is loyal almost to a fault. Gouriki’s Jun is as cute as she typically is but it infuses an overly girlish nature to the character as opposed to the strong female I remember from the show. Suzuki and Hamada’s Junpei and Ryu, respectively, are fairly accurate but are generally underutilized aside from some light comic relief and and throwaway lines of exposition. Goro Kishitani’s Dr. Nambu looks like he stepped right of the page but he lacks the fatherly persona that was so important to the original material. Nakamura Shidou is terrific as always and though his role is minor, he always makes a good impression. Eriko Hatsune is fairly unknown to me but her appearance wasn’t bad despite being on the unmemorable side.
In the end, Gatchaman tends to be overlong in scenes and the film in general. It meanders more than necessary which isn’t uncommon in big budget Japanese actioners but despite all this the action is pretty solid. Unable to keep up the momentum of the pretty entertaining opening scene, it nonetheless offers some very cool moments. While it isn’t the Gatchaman film I had hoped, at least the image of the Science Ninja Team flying, flipping, and soaring on screen looked cool.