NYAF2010: Gundam 00 Movie: A Wakening of the Trailblazer is Flawed but Entertaining!
On the final day of NYAF 2010 the long awaited Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Movie: A wakening of the Trailblazer premiered with English subtitles just a mere month after the Japanese release. For Gundam fans this was quite the treat and judging from the line that formed, probably the most anticipated movie premiere during NYAF. Mobile Suit Gundam 00 previously had two 25 episode seasons that depicted an organization known as Celestial Being getting involved in armed interventions through the use of Gundams. Their intention was to stop fighting through fighting, and gradually get the world to a better place. At the end of season two, their conflicts with the series antagonist, Ribbons Almark, came to an end with Celestial Being winning. Since there was no overall conclusion to Celestial Being’s main goal, to stop war and fighting, the movie was made in an effort to give the series closure. This time however mankind is faced with an unknown alien threat, named the Extraterrestrial Livingmetal Shapeshifter (ELS). Their targets are those with the highest potential to become Innovators, mankind’s next step towards evolution and understanding one another.
Being so highly anticipated, the film had rather large shoes to fill and unfortunately falls short of those expectations. There are too many ideas being juggled around during the movie that don’t get expanded. The biggest case in point are the ELS. If you are going to introduce alien life forms as the antagonists, they have to be explained thoroughly or else they will just seem random. In A wakening of the Trailblazer this seems to be the case, with there being no available human antagonists for our heroes to fight against. The ELS do well in providing good battles and setting up the tension within the film, but story wise they fall short. Their origins and reasons behind attacking are rushed through at the end and leave the viewer confused and frustrated because it seems like a cop-out. The main plot ends up being a letdown because there is no substantial reason as to why the ELS would unite mankind and end fighting.
One of the major highlights in the 00 series were the characters and their growth. While the Gundam pilots were the focus of development, the secondary cast was given a good amount of screen time during its television run. This is not the case in the movie. In order to make room for the plot, a lot of characters are sidelined and ignored except for a clip here and there. In fact, many of the characters become pointless and disrupt the flow of the story. The biggest offender in this area is Marina, who does next to nothing substantial in the film. Saji, Louise, Marie, Kati, the Ptolemy Crew, and even Allelujah and Lockon are reduced to fodder by the end. Instead Setsuna takes away the spotlight, and my feelings on his character are mixed. His growth into an Innovator is interesting and drives the plot, but for majority of the movie he is angsty and walks around with a sad/confused look on his face. Feldt’s feelings for him come off as forced in the film and are cringe worthy whenever she interacts with him. Even new characters like Descartes Shaman, the first recognized Innovator, ends up being useless towards the story. Essentially he was brought in to show off an Innovator’s ability in combat. Graham is the stand out during all of this, actually redeeming himself. Saji also starts off strong in his attempts to help Louise, making it all the more frustrating when he is sidelined. In general, 00 let the message of the movie eclipse the characters that were supposed to drive it.
This might be redeemable if the message was presented in a decent way. This message of course is that humans can only stop fighting through understanding one another. While a positive (and truthful?) message, it becomes too preachy and burdens the film. How to obtain this understanding is never even fully explored, and confusing to the viewer. This yet again ties into the aliens and their purpose (aside from the battles) in this film, which I find myself questioning.
As a giant robot show, the movie provides a lot of entertainment value through the action sequences. They are fast paced, explosive and intense: a great combination for a battle between Mobile Suits. This is where the ELS shine the most, with their ability to take over missiles and ships and even change into them. Of course, this is also where the Gundams excel. The new suits—Zabanya, Harute, and Raphael—look great in action and all of their abilities are shown off to the fullest. Zabanya’s added shield and rifle bits are especially awesome to watch in battle and Trans-Am is in a league of its own. The battlefield is where Lockon, Allelujah and Tieria get their best moments, and that is more so because of their Gundam capabilities than anything else. The animation is top-notch in all areas of the film, but is especially nice during the combat scenes, even if things do get a little confusing with all of the bullets flying everywhere.
The music and humor are also positives in A wakening of the Trailblazer. The music easily sets the mood in every scene, whether it is the eerie opera-esque moments or the fast-paced action sequences. The music particularly stands out when the ELS land on Earth for the first time and start attacking potential innovators. The music easily adds to the mystery and creepiness of the ELS and their invasion. As for the humor, it is fantastic. The opening features Saji watching a film depicting the events that took place over the first two series, with Celestial Being as the good guys. It’s done in such an outrageous and ridiculous way that the viewer will easily find themselves bursting out into laughter. This humor carries on throughout the film and is placed at just the right time with the right characters.
At the end of the day, the movie needed another part. The crew was too ambitious for the timeframe they were given. The film is actually very entertaining for the first half, giving the right amount of mecha battles as well as building up suspense. This quickly changes when the staff realizes they have to reach a proper conclusion to the movie, which results in an abrupt end that was silly and rushed. There were a lot of items that still needed to be addressed/answered and they were done so in a sloppy fashion. The ending is by far the biggest letdown. Even the Easter egg at the end is dissatisfying. We are left wondering what happened to a lot of the characters (as it skips forward in time) and how the Hell Earth got to its current point. The storytelling at the end of the movie is not the best, and nearly ruins the entire flick. Still, despite the flaws, it was a good bit of fun to watch. A disappointment? Yes. But the entertainment aspect is certainly there with all of the fighting, humor, suspense and music. Mobile Suit Gundam 00 The Movie: A wakening of the Trailblazer is simply too ambitious for its own good.