The shift to more and more action helps smooth out the narrative issues as we simply watch giant robots slug it out across land, sea, air and space.
What They Say
Gathering their forces in the Mediterranean Sea, the Earth Alliance and Orb Union fleets launch a second attack on the Minerva, and this time not even the Archangel's intervention can halt the fighting. While Shinn unleashes his anger against the Orb fleet, Kira and Athrun confront each another in battle, and one of these lifelong friends falls in defeat.
Back in the PLANT homeland, Chairman Durandal thinks back on his past and considers his plans for the future... plans which will require the removal of disruptive elements like Lacus and the Archangel crew.
In the aftermath of the battle, Shinn reaches a fateful decision. Stella, the enemy pilot he once promised to protect, is now a captive aboard the Minerva. Stella's physical condition is rapidly deteriorating, and Shinn will have to betray everything he believes in order to save her life.
The bilingual presentation for this film is essentially the same as the TV series in that we get a pair of 256kbps stereo mixes that convey the show well but without a huge amount of impact to it. The series has a grand and sweeping feeling when it comes to the music and that’s done well but dialogue is for the most part something of a center channel affair outside of some notable scenes. This isn’t a bad thing since it’s all very well done but at the same time it feels like it should be more. In listening to both language tracks, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
The transfer for the movie versions of this TV series are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are enhanced for anamorphic playback, even though the original series aired in full screen. The Japanese have done this several times, and it’s not something I particularly care for as it changes the feel of many scenes, but it’s certainly better that it’s done under their direction rather than that of a US company altering it. The visual design of the show is much like what we saw with the full screen release in that it’s very bright, vibrant and colorful which has it practically oozing off the screen at times. There are moments of noise to be found in the background throughout the feature, but by and large this is a very clean and appealing looking show that takes the best of the series and puts it to good use. Outside of the very mild noise and a bit of aliasing during some panning sequences, there’s nothing to really complain about here at all.
The front cover artwork for this release is another strong entry as it features the always somber and serious Rey in his pilot uniform standing above his mobile suit. Though he colors are a bit awkward since they blend together just a little bit in some ways, the combination of the two set against the purple hued star filled background helps push the serious nature of it all. The back cover is somewhat traditional in design as it runs through the basic plot summary along the left while to the right we get more mecha artwork. Underneath is a breakdown of the discs features and extras along with a few small shots from the film itself. Add in the production credits and a decent breakdown of the technical specs and you get a good looking cover. No insert is included nor is there a reverse side cover.
Gundam has had some awkward menus over the years but this feature does things nicely as it has a fairly sci-fi feel to the silvery grey borders which has some artwork along the right with the navigation. The left and center areas features clips from the feature itself along with a brief bit of music looping to it all. The design is one that sets up the mood nicely and it’s easy to navigate. Access times are nice and fast and submenus load quickly and without issue. As seems to be the case, it’s hit or miss with Bandai as to whether player presets will be read and this one unfortunately did not as it defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.
The only extra included is a clean version of the extended ending sequence which is quite nicely done.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The third movie, “Flames of Destiny,” takes us through the third quarter of the series in movie form and compresses another big chunk of episodes down to a ninety minute runtime. Unlike the two previous films, this one doesn’t seem to have to deal with as much back story and motivation pieces so it’s able to flow a bit better and keep itself mostly to the action. A lot of this is setup and maneuvering for the final arc from the series itself, so it’s able to play it big and epic and appeal to some rather basic ideas.
The compression still has its issues of course in that with so many characters running around and the situations all over the map, not everyone gets enough time to tell a proper story. Some of the stories here simply feel like they’re cut off mid stream rather than fleshed out properly. At the same time, this does give it a real life feeling, especially for a show taking place in the midst of a massive war of this scale across space. I suspect that some of these stories, and some of the secondary characters, get shafted pretty well within the series itself so if it happens here it’s only natural as well. The core characters still garner the most attention however and even Lacus makes out really well because of her presence and that of her double, Meer.
The opening storyline that works towards exposing Shinn to more realities of the world continues as he finds himself unable to let Stella be so potentially abused by the military. With her skills and her condition, he knows that she’s simply dying before him and that they’ll dissect her in order to figure out how an Extended like her works. With the time he’s spent with her, it’s little surprise that he’s very much into the idea of rescuing her and returning her to her people so she can be free. His intent to get her away and to some place peaceful doesn’t go as planned on a couple of fronts, some of which he’s not even aware of.
That Stella is drawn right back into the fray after being returned is a true shock to him, as is the way she reacts. But what was the most interesting about it is that his returning her should put him into a real pickle with the military. But with a little help from high above, he’s able to retain everything he’s worked for and still serve alongside everyone else that he essentially betrayed. This puts him in an awkward position with everyone, but also makes him very pliant when it comes to Durandal who has made all of this possible. And this is what starts to come into play more as the situation that all the sides are in become clearer. The manipulation that Durandal is running is starting to bear fruit and he’s picking and choosing the pawns he needs to further cement his own power under a guise of freeing everyone.
Having the war turn because of the events that he manipulated, Durandal is able to refocus everyone on the idea of taking down Logos, the real power behind the wars that plague humanity. It’s certainly a populist message that can appeal to a world that’s fallen on such harsh times. Of course, in telling everyone that they must find peace through violence against those that have set them on a path of violence is overlooked, it’s almost amusing to watch the general citizenry rise up as they do with the weapons given to them by those they have to now kill. It’s a fun little strange full circle moment, especially as you have the central visual of those behind Logos falling prey to all of it through their monitors and connections with each other.
This change in the dynamic of the war starts to affect a lot of people and works through them in different ways. The most notable is that Athrun finds that he can no longer trust Durandal and now seeks to get away because of how he’s become marked. This starts a ripple effect among others on the ZAFT side who start to wonder what’s going on because of what happens to Athrun, but others are turning a blind eye to it such as Meer as they simply want to protect themselves. Not unlike past experiences in the Gundam world, it’s these moments where alliances and beliefs don’t exactly change, but rather grow and evolve with what’s going on around them. It’s all rather streamlined here because of the compressed nature but it works to its advantage.
As the movie series progresses forward, I do admit that I find myself less and less interested in seeing the actual series itself. There may be a bit more depth to the main series itself, but it’s not showing itself all that much here and it’s still relatively filled with characters I don’t much care for. The secondary cast and the newcomers for this particular series have left me rather underwhelmed while the main characters aren’t getting the attention they deserve. The small amount of time that’s passed between the two series hasn’t helped either as it didn’t give anyone a chance to truly grown and change. This movie is to me the better of the three I’ve seen so far, but that’s mostly because it has the least real story to deal with as it is a pivot point more than anything else. It’s light and empty fun and that’s about all that can be said about it in the end.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Languge, English Subtitles, Extended Clean Ending
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.