G-Saviour: The Movie

Type: Movie
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 1999
Date of Review: April 19, 2016

Food shortages are becoming a serious problem across the Earth sphere, and the ruling Congress of Settlement Nations (CONSENT) isn’t doing much to help. A group of rogue scientists discover a new kind of bioluminescence that could solve the agricultural crisis, but they’re quickly targeted by shadowy organizations on Earth and the space colonies alike. Former CONSENT military pilot Mark Curran teams up with them to protect their research and expose the conspiracy.

If you thought that Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Gundam Build Fighters, or Gundam Reconguista in G were controversial…then what about a Gundam project that everybody hates? Right off the bat, three things about G-Saviour rubbed the fanbase the wrong way:

  • It’s live-action.
  • It’s in English.
  • The word “Gundam” isn’t used anywhere in the film; not even in the title!

That unholy trio of terrors (especially the last one) drove fanboys batshit. But beyond those barebones descriptors…what’s G-Saviour all about?

The film was created as part of the “Big Bang Project” to celebrate Gundam’s twentieth anniversary (another piece of which was the vastly superior Turn A Gundam), and the powers-that-be felt that the time was right to properly bring Gundam to life with a brand-new story designed for live action. G-Saviour was a joint production between Sunrise and American studio Polestar Entertainment; as such, the actors are all English-speaking (most are Canadian). The film was released direct-to-video, and felt like something you might see on the Sci-Fi Channel at the time, as it wasn’t even presented in widescreen format.

G-Saviour flings us rather far forward in the Universal Century, as it takes place in UC 223 (seventy years after Mobile Suit Victory Gundam). The flick’s place in proper Gundam canon is hotly debated, as for every official claim that it’s officially part of the Universal Century, there’s seemingly a contradictory statement from the powers-that-be. For the purposes of this review, however, we’re going to assume that it is canon; there’s nothing in here that “breaks” any older properties, anyway.

As you might expect, the live action is mixed with computer-generated imagery (CGI) for the mobile suits, spacecraft, and various special effects. When there’s nothing onscreen but the computer-generated effects, things look okay, like you’re watching an old video game. Once the CGI is composited with actors and sets, though, it really shows its age.

Most of the acting is decent, though the characters aren’t all that memorable. Curran just doesn’t stack up against Gundam protagonists of yore. Fun fact: Enuka Okuma, the actress who played Dr. Cynthia Graves, also provided the voice of Lady Une for the English dub of New Mobile Report Gundam Wing. (Other Gundam series’ English voice actors make appearances later on, as well.) Unfortunately, the instances of bad acting in G-Saviour stick out like a sore thumb. Many of the supplementary characters just phone it in, and Curran’s nemesis Jack Halle has moments of cackling villainy towards the end that are just painful to watch.

However, the biggest flaw in G-Saviour is that the core plot doesnt make any sense: how would bioluminesce solve a food shortage? It’s hinted that it could be used to help with underwater crops, but beyond that, the subject’s not explained any further. It should be, considering it sets the stage for a damned war! In the movie’s defense, though, other Gundam series have had serious plot issues, as well. So perhaps it’s par for the course?

G-Saviour‘s not a total loss. For one, it had some good mobile suit designs; the G-SAVIOUR itself is love-it-or-hate-it, but the Bugu and Guppy are great. The battle scenes during the finale look pretty good despite the relatively primitive CGI, especially when the G-SAVIOUR’s fighting the MS-Rai. The art direction and costumes were well done, too; the CONSENT military uniforms are clearly reminiscent of Zeon, which is a nice touch. Since most of the actors wore normal contemporary clothing (due to budget constraints, of course), the flick feels a bit more “grounded” than other Gundam series, with all of their fancy space duds and whatnot. The downside is that is that the clear late-1990s stylings are yet another way that G-Saviour feels dated.

As a direct-to-video science fiction film, G-Saviour is decent, even though it falls flat as a Gundam movie. In its defense, it was up against impossible odds: the film Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack was a masterpiece, plenty of OVAs and serious had been compiled into fine movies (like the original Mobile Suit Gundam and New Mobile Report Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz), and even the rushed Mobile Suit Gundam F91 was impressive. Also, the state of CGI technology in 1999 just wasn’t up to snuff.

As time wears on, G-Saviour feels more and more dated, and most Gundam fans agree that it’s better off forgotten. (Though the titular mobile suit did make a brief appearance in Gundam Build Fighters.) But given the wide tastes of the fandom when it comes to the legion of series — who can forget the endless Universal Century versus Cosmic Era debates? — I’d wager there’s a few others who are willing to G-Saviour a shot. I don’t regret watching it…maybe you won’t, either.

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