Gundam 00 The Movie: At Least Frontier Has Pop Music

Gundam 00 -A wakening of the Trailblazer- (sic) is the first original Gundam theatrical feature in 19 years. On one hand, I was really glad that I actually got to watch a new Gundam movie in a cinema here in Singapore at the same time it opened in Japan. On the other hand, it was a Gundam 00 movie, and I’m not sure it’s something I really ought to support. I went anyway, hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

The movie isn’t a complete disaster, but it’s pretty bad.

This is a poorly directed movie first and foremost, but it’s also a particularly poor Gundam movie. I can’t really imagine any long time Gundam fan being satisfied with this as a theatrical Gundam experience, but then again I can’t really imagine Gundam SEED Destiny being the best selling Gundam series of all time, and yet it is. I guess much of the fanbase these days are interested in seeing other things from Gundam than I am.

The primary problem with the movie is, much like the second season of Gundam 00, it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. The director and writer clearly have very interesting ideas on what to do with Gundam as a brand, to both please the old fanbase, and also try new things never before attempted in the franchise. Unfortunately, while their intentions are good, their execution is middling and disappointing.

The first half of the movie focuses on introducing an alien threat to humanity, and I actually enjoyed the direction the story was heading. There was much more focus on building an atmosphere of a credible threat against mankind, instead of just showing off robots in space. There was also quite a bit of attention to detail, subtly showing the progression of the world and the characters since the end of the TV series. It was looking good for a while, even though the animation remained largely “TV quality,” and would be a disappointment on visual terms regardless of the story.

Then halfway through the film, they throw away pretty much all the tone and pacing they had carefully built up, electing to just go for the “robots fighting in space” method of tying up the plot threads. As expected, this resulted in boring, beam-spamming battles a la the climax of the second season, at the expense of any solid payoff for character development and a proper narrative. The Gundam 00 production staff doesn’t seem to understand that it is not entertaining to watch twenty things happening on the screen at a once when no one cares about any of those disparate elements. Showing explosions all over space while beams fly everywhere and identical-looking generic robots fly around is not “epic,” it is dumb.

Descartes Shaman is a new character who was heavily promoted in the teasers and trailers. He is actually an interesting addition to the first half of the movie, and like all other interesting aspects of the film, he is removed from the movie in an awful action sequence which serves no purpose other than to remind the audience that the movie has to move along and there’s no room for interesting personalities or actual depth in characterization.

Which brings me to another annoying point. The other major new character in the film is a female scientist named Mena. She looks identical to Nena from the TV series, and shares the same voice actress. This similarity is never explained to the audience, nor is it even a plot point. Instead, the character seems to only serve the purpose of being Billy’s new sex friend, while pandering to fans of the voice actress who will no doubt be delighted to hear her recite terrible lines with the same annoying mannerisms as her very dead counterpart from the series. Everyone else is probably left confused and a little disgusted.

As it goes on, the movie makes it clear that it chooses to abandon any meaningful storytelling for a poor attempt at toy advertising. The climatic battle is disappointing and mundane, mostly because the enemy in the film is a faceless adversary made up of an infinite horde of generic shapes which can morph into generic ships and robots copied from the human army.

As fans, we have certain expectations of a Gundam film, and I would say it is fair to expect at least some battles occur between ace pilots. After all, Gundam is built on the principle that the people fighting the war are more interesting than the robots themselves. Here we have none of that, a two hour Gundam feature film without a single one-on-one pilot battle. Every member of humanity is on the same side, and it is a beam-spam battle in space with no hope for survival. To add insult to injury, the solution to this hopeless battle is to fly the new main Gundam design into the enemy mothership’s core and talk to it.

The main Gundam in this feature does not fight — it is made to communicate. Sure, it has lots of new equipment, and it looks pretty cool, but you’re not going to see this in action. It flashes some minor defenses, shoots a single generic enemy ship, and then flies into the core. That’s about all the action you will see from the 00 Quan[T], which is already getting a Master Grade model release. I guess the point is that you can buy the model kit and imagine how cool the final battle could have been, because the movie sure isn’t going to provide any satisfaction in that aspect.

To add insult to injury, ultimately the title of the movie doesn’t even make sense. Ignoring for a moment the fact that it isn’t even proper English, there is no reference to a “Trailblazer” in the movie whatsoever. I can only imagine that it is meant to refer to Setsuna, who at one point in the movie suffers severe brain damage (but it’s okay; as explained by another character, his brain cells will regenerate) and is in a coma before he “awakens” for the final act. Unlike a True Innovator though, the audience will never regain the brain cells lost during the course of the film.

Overall, the movie is a messy attempt to tell a story of first contact with an alien machine race, except with Gundams. It’s a bold attempt, I’ll grant it that, but a risk only pays off when you succeed. A wakening of the Trailblazer fails pretty miserably, and there’s very little to be positive about. The movie is not all bad; there were creative and fun parts; like the super robot reenactment of the TV series’ climax in the form a movie-within-the-movie, or some of the character interaction scenes between the supporting characters. Unfortunately, none of these parts contribute to making up for the fact that the movie is a total waste of potential and there’s nothing here for anyone other than the most hardcore Gundam 00 supporters.


  1. Hey, I expected an angrier review. Color me ever so slightly surprised.

    I don’t know if the director is bad overall (haven’t seen enough of his works for that) but it sure sounds like there’s a lot of bad directing here. That’s a pity if such is actually the case. I didn’t hate the second season but did find it a lot less interesting than what it could have been.

    Added to that, I guess the movie was indeed aiming for a different demographic and thus it’s likely going to disappoint a lot of those who fall outside of its main target audience. Though I can only wonder if subsequent groups of viewers -including any Gundam 00 fanboys in the room but also other people who come in knowing what to expect- won’t be a little more forgiving.

    Dumb action flicks will remain dumb, but they can be enjoyed if you don’t ask too many questions and go along for the ride. Who knows? It should be easy enough to prove when the time comes.

  2. Gundam as C-3P0? Interesting concept, but it’s a whole other show. You can make a fighter into a lover, but why try and make it into a negotiator?

  3. It’s sad that Gundam decided to delve into the territory of extra terrestrials long after the animation industry deemed humanoid aliens to be nothing more than fetish fuel for doujin and lemon authors, because now it’s the same dumb cycle of non-entity creatures who only wants to exchange dating tips but can only do so through methods conveniently fatal to human kind.

    It was pointless in Star Trek the Motion Picture, stupid in Fafner, really dumb in Macross Frontier and it certainly wasn’t gonna work in a franchise built around selling model kits.

  4. Saw this on opening week. While Im a UC fan first and foremost, the chance to see big robots on the big screen proved too
    The re-enactment of the climactic battle from the series – the movie-within-a-movie – had me fooled for the first few seconds.
    Surely they havent lost touch with Gundam this much, I thought. It boarded on super robot self parody.
    The sad thing is that the final battle of the movie itself was almost just as ludicrous.
    Some good ideas in there, totally buried by bad direction and the need to sell new models.
    At least us UC fans still have Unicorn to look forward to for the forseable future.

  5. I honestly had been waiting to see this movie for a long time only to finally get a Blu-Ray copy of it and be saddened by what could of been. I really do understand how passionate it would be for a Gundam to communicate rather than destroy, its an attempt for people to create understanding rather than the use of force. The director should of made this a 3 phase movie where 00Qunata would go through a journey in an effort to convey the movie title and for enough screen time to build a well dialoged atmosphere between a specific set of characters and the main plot. If anything this movie only inspires me to write a better story of my own. You can throw money at anything but it only encourages incompetence.

  6. I completely agree with everything you’ve said here. I didn’t mind the beam spamming so much, because it’s sort of become a status quo of any giant robot animu of the twenty-first century. Kids don’t watch these things to reflect upon the reckless and precarious state of global affairs; they watch it to see giant robots explode in purple clouds of green fairy dust, you know? Even with all that, though, the film just crashed in the last five minutes. Something was going to happen, and it just didn’t. So Setsuna just learns that the metal ball is a shape-shifting race that escaped the destruction of its solar system, and they perceive and understand things through assimilation. Okay, so that means Setsuna will draw a truce and more Newtypes wi— Giant space flower. Cut to the credits. Inadequately brief epilogue of some stupid space exploration that’s not really explained at all and metal Setsuna admits his ideology of just killing everything that wants a piece of him epic failed to blind Princess and more flowers. That ending made no sense in a lot of ways. There was no conclusion, literally; what happened to the metal things? Did they leave? Did they stay? Did they attempt to communicate and integrate with humans or did they just say “screw it” and went omnomnoming the rest of the universe? That aside, flowers are not something the target demographic gives a crap about. Little boys want to see robots fight and the good guys win. You can’t suddenly break into grey-and-grey morality ten minutes before the reel stops when the whole film was black-and-white the entire time. Critiques will crap on it because it has no continuity and the little boys to toss it to play with… Whatever little boys play with nowadays. The film was effectively a complete failure, and it does even less justice to the entire 00 arc than Season 2 did for Season 1. Maybe Sunrise didn’t care any more and just wanted to move on to the next project, but you can bet Bandai is pissed, because this film isn’t going to sell anything that the products aren’t already selling for themselves.

  7. Lol finally saw this movie and it was pretty shit. The Awakening of the Trailblazer has to be in reference to the Silver Surfer aka ELS Setsuna who is trailblazing peace between different alien species’ we can assume since he did that with humans and ELS

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