Space Ninja Team Gatchaman might have been the first actual Japanese anime series I ever saw. I had been watching Sandy Frank’s Battle of the Planets with the sound down because the Americanization was so awful but the animation was great. I had a friend from Japan who took pity on me and brought over a bunch of the original Gatchaman, in Japanese, and translated it for me on the fly. He’s also the one who introduced me to the C/FO back in the late 70s. So I have a special place in my heart for Gatchaman and when I saw that they were making a live action version, I couldn’t wait. Except I forgot about it until recently. So let’s see if it was worth the wait.
By the year 2050, the mysterious aliens called Galactor had taken over the world. They are virtually impervious to human weapons, except for those called Receptors, who can harness the power of special stones and achieve great powers. Can this team of five young people working for the International Science Organization save the day?
So immediately, what this made me think of was the 2005 live action version of Space Battleship Yamato and what an amazing film that was. And not only was it amazing, but it was accurate to the anime in just about every way. Gatchaman simply wasn’t all that faithful to the anime.
Unfortunately, if you are at all familiar with the original series, you know exactly what you’re getting. The second I saw them get into the God Phoenix, I knew how they were going to save the day. It was blatantly obvious. And the movie is chock full of cliches too, things you have literally seen in every single movie, ever. I know this is a homage to a 70s TV series, but that doesn’t mean it has to look like a 70s TV series. The story is boilerplate, the effects really aren’t that good, and considering they spent a reported $200,000 on the costumes, maybe some of that should have been spent on effects.
And after a really fantastic opening, the movie goes on to get downright boring. There’s a nearly 15-minute scene where the characters sit around in a room and talk. It’s just long, boring exposition with no action at all.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some good parts. Heck, the second they were firing bird missiles, I was cheering, that was such a big part of the original series, to the point of being a running gag, having them do it, even for a moment in the movie was great. But just a few great parts couldn’t save the whole. I don’t regret seeing it, but unlike Yamato, it isn’t something I’m likely to revisit any time soon. It was a little bit nostalgic, it had some great moments, but mostly, it was just dull. If a superhero movie can’t keep you entertained, something is seriously wrong, no matter how much you love the source material.