Directed by Toya Sato
Sci-Fi / Action
It has taken decades, but through the creative re-interpretation of Japanese director Toya Sato, the beloved 1970s anime series ‘Gatchaman‘ known to western audiences as ‘G-Force’ or ‘Battle of the Planets’ finally receives a modern makeover in the form of a big budget live-action sci-fi film with a host of talented performances coming from Tori Matsuzaka, Gou Ayano, Ayame Gouriki, Tatsuomi Hamada, Ryohei Suzuki, Eriko Hatsune, Shido Nakamura and Goro Kishitani.
The film is set in Japan during the futuristic times of 2050 AD where the earth is being occupied by the mysterious organization “Galactor” who have already taken over half the planet with plans to further eradicate the rest of the human race through a further stage of invasion.
However, the International Science Organisation (ISO) are able to counter this after the discovery of mysterious crystals which bear unusual powers. Knowing that only one out of every eight million people known as “Receptors” have the capabilities to harness those powers, Dr. Kozaburo from the ISO trains a team of 5 chosen receptors referred to as “Gatchaman” in hope of defending the earth against future threats. Their ultimate mission is to defeat the evil “Galactor” organisation for good.
The film starts with a quick timeline of the alien invasion, however it does not try to focus on each Gatchaman’s back story, instead referring to their first combat mission together as a team fighting the aliens and the developments of their personal relationships after this experience.
Perhaps the strategy was to aim the film at audiences that are already familiar with the series and its characters, however the use of occasional flashbacks on certain characters’ pasts does help to develop the story where needed.
In comparison to the original anime series, there are additional twists and turns involving the relationship in-between the heroes and the chief villain which do add an element of depth to the source material, with lofty themes of revenge and redemption driving the narrative forward.
Toya used a lot of genre clichés in an attempt to modernise ‘Gatchaman’ with scenes such as infiltrating a party to meet with the villain (Iriya) and then being captured on purpose to be interrogated – humour; the brainwashed hero turned to villain (Naomi) – betrayal; the hero having to choose sides between his team or his former love (George); the love triangle relationship between Ken, George & Naomi; having only a little time to save the planet and lastly the hero’s journeys.
The special effects are worth praising for a big budget film having the right combination of strong CGI with live action sequences (e.g. fight scenes), cool machinery and ships with personal gadgets, great creature designs, as well as clever use of slow motion cinematography meaning that the film is more engaging for the audience.
Originally created by Tatsuo Yoshida in 1972 with the simple concept of having five superhero ninjas with specific talents wearing colour coded costumes (Ken-the leader; George-the weapons expert; Jun-the girl; Jinpei-the techy; Ryu-the muscle) against evil (Berg Katse), it is admirable that director Toya has not tried to break away from the themes and characterisations of the original series; instead ‘Gatchaman’ represents both a tribute to hardcore fans and an introduction to the characters for a new generation of audience. A film definitely worth watching!