G-Saviour (1999)

In 1999, Sunrise decided to celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of their Gundam franchise by making their first live action movie…

For American television.

In which the word Gundam is never mentioned.

And the film only had minimal connections to the rest of the franchise.


I guess it made sense to someone.

Now I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for giant robots in live action Science Fiction films.

We tend to forget, in our digital age, that there hadn’t been a lot of live action Giant Robot movies by the late Nineties — and Toho and Empire Films/Full Moon Features made most of them.

Of course they were common in Anime for decades — and Shinji Aramaki’s Computer Animated Appleseed was just a few years away.

But I have to admit it is still a bit of a thrill when the main characters, while trying to escape from their latest threat, are forced to duck for cover as a pair of Gundams make an unexpected Beauty Shot landing.  While we’d seen a damaged Gundam before, this is their first big entrance, complete with dramatic night time lighting.

It all starts with a hefty chunk of narration and some glimpses of the larger universe in which this film takes place, before we got to a research lab at the bottom of the sea.  Our hero, Mark Curran, performs a bravura rescue of the pilot of a crashed Gundam, then saves the life of a rebel who broke into the lab while he was gone — although there seems to be no connection between the two incidents and we never hear from the pilot he saved again.

It turns out that the rebels are after a major, Earth-shattering discovery which will save the world.  And, of course, there’s a big government conspiracy to keep it secret.

The next thing you know, Mark is on the run with the rebel girl he rescued and he’s forced to fight to save the best hope for all of humanity.

Now I’ll admit that I was a bit amused because every time Mark is asked to fight he refuses — then changes his mind moments later while everyone is busy saying they knew he would come around.

From what I’ve been able to learn, this reluctance is common for the heroes in the Gundam Universe (although they are typically a lot younger than Mark Curran).  It’s not exactly uncommon in B-Movies and TV movies made for the American Market, either, although most films keep it to one important reluctant moment.

The impression G-Saviour gives is of a vigorous effects driven TV science fiction film.  The sets tend to be small and we only occasionally get glimpses of larger spaces.

But the story is complex, even if relatively straightforward, with a pair of transparently villainous bad guys (well…except for a moment at the beginning  which doesn’t make much sense, not unless it were part of some sort of evil scheme to ensnare our hero) ; a female character with an admirably complicated set of motivations; and a perfunctory “because we said so” romance.

Considered as what it is, a late-Nineties TV Science Fiction movie, I found it quite acceptable, despite the usual sets of flaws.  The CGI, for example, is quite variable.  The big space colonies are almost completely without detail except when we get closer, while the major space battle at the end is fairly weak on the longshots, if better when it moves in closer.

The robots look quite good when we see them up close, whether in their hangers or the beauty shots.

Now most of the Gundam fans are indifferent to hostile towards this one.  I’ve had little to no exposure to the franchise so I’m not burdened down with any expectations.  As a result I consider it a reasonably good TV movie which would have been far more impressive at the time.

I don’t think I’d have been in  any hurry to watch more Gundam Films if I’d seen this at the time (assuming I had any idea this was a Gundam film), but it is interesting to imagine what Sunshine would have done next had G-Saviour been a success.

As it is, it is left as an intriguing footnote to a long and successful franchise.

Whether the rumors of a new live action Gundam will ever come to pass is another question altogether…

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