Gatchaman (2013 live-action film)

In the not-so-distant future of a timeline where the Earth has been taken over by the mysterious “Galactor” organization, five people come together in an effort to defeat them and restore the planet’s freedom.

That’s the premise of the 2013 live-action movie “Gatchaman”. I’d heard some rumors shortly after the release of this movie, that it wasn’t actually all that good. Despite that, I wanted to see for myself and pass my own judgment. Admittedly, I didn’t remember much from the original animated series besides the design of the team’s fighting suits, so the cast ended up being the main draw. Most notably featured was Tori Matsuzaka as Ken, the team’s leader. There had been some concern that he was being type-cast in first position, since he’s probably best known for his role as Takeru Shiba in “Samurai Sentai Shinkenger”. And there were a lot of echoes of Takeru in his portrayal of Ken. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The rest of the team was rounded out by Ryohei Suzuki as Ryu, Ayame Gouriki as Jun, Tatsuomi Hamada as Jinpei, and Go Ayano as Joe, each of whom also has an impressive resume of his or her own.

The great thing about a story like this, is that since it’s a five-person team, it’s basically a sentai, and is able to pick up on some of the typical tokusatsu tropes. Even though there’s no visual assignment of colors, per se, it’s easy to see where the basic color theory would lie – Ken as red and Jun as pink, and then probably Joe as blue (no associations with Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger intended since these names were chosen in the early 1970’s), and Ryu and Junpei as yellow and green. Plus, the heroes all survive, if a little worse for wear. Also: borrowed from Kamen Rider is the idea that the good guys and bad guys both effectively use the same power source. This allowed me to predict one twist in the plot, unfortunately, although it was followed up by one I very much did not anticipate (but probably should have).

One thing that rubbed me the wrong way a little bit was how much it felt like I was watching a western-style super hero movie, ala something out of Marvel or DC. A Japanese film should feel Japanese, right? Upon doing a little research into the original series, I discovered that this was actually kind of the point. “Gatchaman” was intended to have a more western feel to it. Okay, so where does that leave it, then? There were a lot of explosions, and the animation was pretty, and the fight scenes were pretty. But it didn’t really feel any different than if I was watching “The Avengers” or “Harry Potter”.

The result of all this is that it probably did take itself a little too seriously. It was fun to watch at home on a quiet afternoon, but I’m not upset that I was unable to see it in the theater. As a warning to people looking for the nostalgia factor: I don’t know how it stands up to the original story.

Rating: 4th Gear

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