The next quarter chunk of episodes is compressed into a ninety minute feature where it’s filled with more back and forth moments with little real progress.
What They Say
The Minerva docks at a ZAFT base, where they are met by Chairman Durandal. Over a quiet dinner, he talks with Athrun, Shinn and other members of the crew. This conversation leads Shinn to reflect on the past, and the events that brought them to where they are now.
But understanding does not bring peace, and after another argument with some of his shipmates, Shinn heads ashore to clear his head. There he meets a beautiful girl, and watches her fall into the ocean. He dives in to rescue her, and in turn then must wait to be rescued.
Meanwhile, the Alliance Forces gather, along with their Orb Allies, to launch an attack on ZAFT. The Minerva scrambles and prepares for battle. But unknown to either side, far beneath the waves, another group is going to try to put an end to the fighting.
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 a serious faced Athrun 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 reddish orange 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)
Going into the first movie of the series wasn’t a difficult thing as I had previously seen the first twelve or so episodes of Gundam Seed Destiny before. There were familiar events to be sure and my memory filled in some of the blanks which made the nature of the cuts easier to handle and figure out. Shifting down so many episodes to a ninety minute feature isn’t an easy thing and this volume makes that all the more apparent. Even worse is that this range of episodes, like most Gundam TV series, is usually the area where not a lot happens and it’s more placement than anything else.
Just about everything in this volume takes place on Earth as it revolves around the growing tensions between the various sides. The Chairman continues to try and find routes to peace, whether he’s really seeking it or not, but still cannot find a way to work with the Earth Forces since they won’t compromise on anything at all. That leaves them in the position of either simply defending themselves or putting their stamp down on things so that they aren’t attacked again in the future. With so many of the soldiers and pilots now being kids who have grown up knowing little but war, they’re more in line to follow the orders and do what needs to be done to protect those that they can. When you see so many of your own killed, often through very dramatic or crushing ways, it turns you a bit colder on the issue. Shinn’s views on everything represent one very strong side of the ZAFT mindset.
On the opposite of the fence, we don’t see too much of what’s going on through the Alliance side of things outside of Seiran’s mad attempts at keeping Orb safe. So much of his planning seems to revolve around the idea of simply taking a side and going at it with full force. With his wedding being handled awkwardly wherein his bride is actually stolen from him at the alter, it’s little surprise that he’s a bit more unhinged than he was before. Presiding over the attacks against ZAFT in the ocean, the distaste that his commanders have for him is palpable, and even more so after he sets things in motion to deal with the “fake” Cagalli that enters the picture. His use of Orb forces and weapons certainly lets the little nation show off its wares wonderfully, but it’s undermined everything that everyone had worked for up until then.
A good bit of time is spent with the Minverva crew as well, but again, it focuses on the ideas of what they should be doing. Athrun’s realization that Cagalli is there with them forces a meeting, one that’s fairly tense since it has also brought Kira out into battle once again in the Freedom. There is plenty of chastising to go around among all of them and they go at it for a little bit. What it reveals though is that there isn’t a really good cohesive and apparent storyline going on here. The most that this movie provides at one point is that everything that’s going on is because the big bad corporations are behind it, notably Logos. It’s certainly a story concept worth going after, but the offhand comment about it is pushed aside to deal with a group of characters spread out among many situations who are fighting for what seems to be little reason. Tensions rise and people have issues, but the larger narrative that this needs is lost. Perhaps it’s more apparent in the series itself and it’s lost when everything is cut down and compressed like this.
Without the TV series background this time, this particular feature comes across as even more problematic. I return to the idea that these kinds of movies can be done well, pointing back to the original Gundam TV trilogy of movies. A trilogy that many cite as being more engaging than the actual TV series itself (and yes Bandai, come on already, give us a proper bilingual release of that!). This particular franchise has different issues to work through, particularly being a sequel series, but at the core it’s one that doesn’t have a terribly engaging cast, too many characters and no real mention within these episodes as to why they’re all really fighting. The narrative is simply lost here and all we get is a lot of posturing, overwrought dramatic moments and lots of action. It’s certainly very pretty to watch at times and I enjoy the designs of the characters and mecha, but it’s missing the real substance that’s needed to make it work as a movie piece. And it’s even convincing me that it’s probably not worth checking out the TV series itself whenever that finally hits in collected form, unfortunately.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, 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.