Call me Siskel to ghostlightning’s Ebert but I greatly enjoyed this movie and only searching for the time to write about it has kept me from making this post. It’s been almost 4 years now since the franchise first kicked off as only the second Gundam TV series of the decade (unless you count Seed Destiny as separate from Seed and I tend to think many people do) and now it all ended with A Wakening of The Trailblazer, quite possibly the best example of a Gundam work to make so many people so upset since the last one. Well anyway, with a hint of nervousness, but passion nonetheless it’s time to talk about the movie:
I have to say that this movie like so many Sunrise products of late grabbed me right from the beginning. The reason being that the start with Ian and Linda overlooking the 00-Qant and how it was revealed to the showing of the credits was very reminiscent of the start of Char’s Counterattack and no doubt that’s what they were going for. It pays to have a tribute to the Gundam movie that started it all for the first Gundam movie in over 19 years.The tributes didn’t stop there though since after the opening credits we are immediately introduced to the Celestial Being movie where clear as day the Axis asteroid from Zeta and ZZ Gundam and the dog Chonishiki from one of Sunrise’s earliest shows Zambot 3 make cameos without seeming forced into the movies plot out of the blue. I prefer this method of paying tribute to outright just having something from a separate universe end up in another one and overall it was a nice little unexpected treat for mecha fans of old like me.
Of course it was just a movie and it was amusing to see how Saji who was actually there doesn’t buy it and wishes the real story was better known. He’s still with Louise who seems to be getting better after basically losing her mind, getting it back and then having her consciousness overtaken, merged and then ripped apart by Ribbons near the end of the second season, however she’s still bed ridden and Saji is again shown to be a good guy for looking after her and taking responsibility What a crappy life that girl has had, frankly nobody has had it worse than Louise with the possible exception of Setsuna who has seen so much bloodshed and suffering in his life .
Anyway enough depressing stuff, the brighter side of things now. First I was surprised to see him being used to give a quick recap of the first two seasons and reflect on how much things have improved since the A-Laws reign of terror. It’s been 2 years and he did an adequate job of expressing how the Earth Federation government had transitioned from one built on maintaining peace through force to one that attempts to maintain peace based on public support and mutual cooperation with everybody from Innovado’s who are now becoming a part of normal society that is vital for tapping into Veda which Celestial Being seems to have handed over to the EF and of course Celestial Being themselves who we soon learn has transitioned into the role of a soft power that does what it can to help the EF but doesn’t want to use the Gundams and upset the balance of things. More Gundam Wing comparisons to come…..
Anyway of course as always there are elements within the Earth Federation like industrialists that are still in it for themselves and the Federation is still far from perfect, which will be a continuing theme throughout the movie. The first example of the imperfection of the EF is how their colony construction and immigration policy is getting off to about as good a start as the EF from U.C did. It was unfortunate to see that the working conditions for the colony construction team in space hadn’t improved much since the time of A-Laws oppression and that while Marina who is an ambassador for the EF is on the level in trying to negotiate and get them some time off, the big bosses won’t have it and try to assassinate like she’s Relena Peacecraft in Endless Waltz. The colony construction company seems to fill the role of Anaheim Electronics from UC in the A.D continuity, perhaps even a little more sinister. Of course it’s Setsuna to the rescue as he’s reintroduced piloting a custom flag to basically pull a Heero Yuy. Of course we also have Lockon reintroduced during this scene doing what he does best, which is gunslinging and in short order we are reintroduced to the Ptolemy crew who are still in their respective positions. It was here that the movie first established what I think was among it’s biggest strengths and points of engagement for me. Showing the characters we’ve come to know fulfilling their roles to the best of their ability in one last mission to see Aeolia’s plan through to it’s end.Things start to pick up pretty quickly when the long awaited Chekhov’s Gun of a Jupiter Probe from way back in the first season makes it’s way into the Earth Sphere under mysterious circumstances and we start to see the unfolding of what will become the conclusion of the loose thread I continued to gripe about after the second season finished. Here we round out some of the early reintroductions quite nicely with a look at what Patrick and Katie have been up to as a married couple/military dynamic duo. Apparently Patrick is still as happy go lucky as ever and refuses to lose the “TAISA!” line from the TV series while Katie gives him a hard time for it. I’m not sure what to make of them becoming something of a Mansai comedy duo, but they get the job done throughout the movie, and get the ball rolling by paying a visit to the Earth Federation’s first confirmed Innovator in Descartes Shaman who is all kinds of ready to sortie and prove himself.
This is about where I felt the exposition of the plot ended and things started to ramp up a bit and I have to say it did a pretty effective job of reintroducing the cast and catching us up on what has happened with them and the world since the end of Season 2. We get political scenes, a bit of espionage and subterfuge and the reintroduction of a loose end to get the movie officially started. It doesn’t try to reintroduce every major character during this point either which is good cause that would seem cliche and forced. Rather it gives us just enough exposition to get the ball rolling for what is to become one of the boldest steps in the Gundam franchise to date in more than a few ways.Descartes to me was one of the more interesting characters in the movie who has a surprisingly big impact in spite of his eventual demise. It’s interesting to see that while Innovado are generally excepted in human society despite being test tube babies and science experiments of long dead people that it’s the Innovator’s borne of humans that are shunned and treated like lab rats. I think it’s no small wonder that Descartes has become arrogant and resentful of people that fail to appreciate what is basically a miracle in his existence and it was unsurprising to see that Katie who had seen the same kind of treatment of people like Soma Peries and those of the former super soldier program does not like this one bit. I’ve always felt Katie represents tough love but fair justice in the 00 Universe and there’s no better character at seeing areas where the EF still needs to improve than the former revolutionary who helped to overthrow the A-Laws and the previous corrupt Earth Federation government.
Of course as we soon learn when we are reintroduced to Billy and Graham the probe didn’t completely break up and they are sending a team to investigate the wreckage. Graham is still manly as ever and basically has his new team of Flag Fighters in the Sol-Braves who he seems to think of as an equivalent family. I’m a little disappointed that their was no mention made of Darryl and Howard who were his two wingmen and arguably best friends from his original team whose deaths at the hands of the Gundams was arguably what sent him over the edge from the end of the first season to the end of the second. However another surprise character from the first season in Kinue Crossroad’s former partner makes an appearance instead as the leader of the news crew going to investigate the crash. I can safely say I never expected to see that guy again, but no mention of Kinue from Saji at any point? No Ali either now that I think of it. Hmmm…..we’ll get to hear about some of the fallen later on though at least.
Anyway it certainly didn’t take long for shit to get weird in this movie with all of those gruesome accidents and the ELS’ Ribbons first victim in Amia lee in what can only be described as like something out of a horror film. The manner in which the ELS consumed her, the bloody hands, all of it was frankly very terrifying and arguably contributed a lot to the EF’s decision to label the life form as an enemy combatant. Of course some people don’t seem really concerned about all the bad stuff going on, like for example Mina Carmine who gets my vote for the what is this character doing in the movie award. Simple answer, sex appeal. The way she flirts around with Billy and basically acts like a tramp at the same time she’s supposed to be a scientist seemed a little out of place, but she arguably contributes a little more later on. Her introduction scene however may have been the only part of the movie where I was legitimately displeased at what I was witnessing. On the bright side she and Billy start to forge their role as the science exposition duo of the film in describing the potential Innovator database and the fact that the ELS seems to be going after people who exhibit the ability to use Quantum Brain Waves on some level and that Amia Lee was in fact in that database. This is helpful since the ELS can’t actual communicate and it will become a trend for the human cast to speculate on and relay for us what they seem to be up to.
Speaking of what they might be up to, the fact that they are trapped on Earth kind of limits the targets they can go after and the Ptolemaios crew, sharp as always is on the case and we are bound for a reunification of the Gundam team and where the action really starts to ramp up. First we get one of my favourite action scenes in the movie in the truck chasing after Allelujah and Soma who we saw in the credits but really get their proper reintroduction here along with Hallelujah. Hal and Soma’s super soldier training was never really shown outside of the cockpit before, but we sure as hell see it now in how they are able to outrun a sentient moving vehicle, run up walls and just generally do superhuman things in general. Also just to fuck with people’s minds a bit, Soma Peries VA Arisa Ogawara is the voice of Panty from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, how’s that for some range. Of course this movie has it’s cliche’s and the last second save is one of them which is demonstrated when the truck finally corners the duo only to have Lockon appear out of nowhere in Dynames to save the day and start them back to space.
And as it turns out Louise is also under attack now by the creepy as fuck ELS-Ribbons and it’s up to Saji to protect her. Have I mentioned ELS-Ribbons is incredibly creepy and menacing yet with that smile and hug that while I should know it means he is trying to communicate just sort of comes off as unsettling when we remember the corrupted Ribbons that terrorized Louise in the second season. This whole scene reminds me of when Sarah Connor first saw the T-180 Terminator in T2 and without realizing he’s on her side now just completely loses it and starts to mentally breakdown in terror. Louise is kind of like the Sarah Conner of 00 now that I think of it. All girly girl in the first season, a battle hardened badass in the sequel because of her traumatic experiences in the first, and not doing to well by the third entry (or in Sarah’s case flat out dead). Saji sure has come a long way since his Celestial Being experience and I was amazed that he not only didn’t duck and cover over, but actually threw a bloody chair at the ELS-Ribbons. Of course that was ineffective and it’s up to Setsuna who shows up out of nowhere to save the day with some Plastique in another sequence that reminds me of Terminator where the ELS-Ribbons starts walking around without a torso and just implodes.
So here I noticed we’re three for three now and almost done reintroducing all the characters when the Jupiter Probe shows up again and we “learn” what I always sort of suspected, that the Jupiter Probe was where the Innovado’s first started construction of the GN-Drives and that a Ribbons type was also present and the template for the ELS-Ribbons. A whole shitload of things start happening now as we gear up for the climax and I admit I got a little bit of whiplash. First the Gundam’s sortie again as a team for the first time and Setsuna ends up getting overwhelmed, then there’s the third out of nowhere save which this time comes courtesy of Tieria who has reconstructed his body and has a new Gundam in Rapheal to boot, which is apparently the only one prepped for Trans-Am at the time. Mina makes another appearance, but this time I actually found her kind of sexy rather than annoying. She’s like Nena without the psycho and I’m kind of happy that Sunrise in particular has always refused to just simply typecast Rie Kugimiya as a tsundere loli cause we see here she can also be pretty sly and seductive. This was sort of the point where I began to become okay with the character being around to share the science exposition role with Billy.
And so the second act closes with that bang of an action scene and Tieria’s reveal that from all the time he’s spent in Veda he’s sure that this is the dialogues to come that Aeolia had been planning for. We also got another scene I liked where we get to see the characters we’ve come to know react accordingly to the news. Brash as always Lockon wants to attack because he feels the ELS are starting a war, Soma of course thinks that’s unfair as does Allelujah since they’re generally the cool-hooded ones and Tieria and Sumeragi think that they should try and communicate with the ELS and ask Setsuna his opinion. And I knew Setsuna wasn’t going to know because as always he’s conflicted and unsure of what he himself even is. I felt this was a nice scene to complete the final reintroduction of the team before we headed to the climax. I know who these characters are by now, I know what they think and want to do and I have every bit of faith that they can bring it home and finish the mission like Aeolia felt they could in his final message at the end of season 1 (clairvoyant bastard knew just what to say to these guys)….it’s just going to take some time and planning.
One thing that didn’t surprise me at all with this movie is when the ELS ended up breaking down the moons of Jupiter and part of Jupiter itself in order to build a fleet to send to Earth for a final assimilation after the attempts to communicate with humanity initially failed. It’s almost cliche for Jupiter to be destroyed in mecha shows so nothing out of the order happened here. Of course the EF political body is portrayed as being in a state of shock, which is no surprise since what looks to be an invasion fleet suddenly appeared in their solar system. What I found interesting is that like in actual politics there were those who were looking to profit from the potential for another war and the rolling out of the next generation of Mobile Suits. Obviously Celestial Being hadn’t completely wiped from humanity the tendency to look towards war as a means for advancement, that would be impossible, and it shows during the political discussion scene. Also during the political discussion scene we find that the Earth Federation wants to use Shaman as a decoy to draw the ELS away from Earth as if they were channeling the government of UN Spacy. Kind of callous when you think about it and again it’s no small wonder why this guy seems to hate humanity to be so bitter.I must admit I got a little lost at the point when they sent Shaman and Katie’s fleet to Mars because they had just finished stating that the ELS would take more than a month to reach Earth and all of a sudden they go from Jupiter to Mars in a single scene with no time skip apparent. Kind of sloppy, especially considering they do have a time skip caption later on in the movie. Search me. Anyway apparently Kim is there and of course he’s got to talk about The Wild Bear of Russia himself Sergei Smirnov, whose name apparently still inspired military cadets to this day. Again though I have to wonder why some characters like Ali are forgotten about entirely. Maybe it’s the passing of the relevance of the human who is a warrior and little else, who knows, he just doesn’t come up at all.
Of course the Federation fleet that is sent to deal with the ELS is no match for it’s shape shifting capabilities and the ability to adapt on the fly and this eventually leads to Shaman’s death which is equally as grim as the previous ELS attacks we’ve seen. I have to say that Shaman’s death kind of speaks for humanity still has a long way to go if that’s how they view the Innovators. The way they sacrifice the guy and use him as a tool reminds me a lot of the way newtypes were treated in Universal Century. One day a hero, the next feared, shunned and cast aside as if they are a disposable weapon.
This is also the part where the space battles really take off as well and the way they have beam lines and explosions going off in the background kind of reminded me of the type of large space battle we’d see in Universal Century, only this time the Gundam’s have an insane amount of firepower that they pretty much need against the massive swarm of ELS that they encounter. In fact I was surprised to see that even with all that firepower it was still not enough and that it all went into them retreating as Tieria sacrifice his life yet again to save Setsuna from assimilation and get the Ptolemy crew out of there. Also appearing were Graham’s Sol Braves for the first time who go about the same way as the flag fighter crew but manage to get Celestial Being the heck away from that mess.
With Setsuna down and out after using Trans-Am Burst to try and communicate with the ELS (only to have their consciousness prove to be too much) and the Gundam team basically down to three people and two barely functioning units we reach the obvious low point of the movie as it’s basically left to the Earth Federation to try and prepare one last defense against the oncoming ELS fleet in the hope that Setsuna can regain consciousness and be the hero once again. Interesting, but I have seen this scenario before in Macross Seven so it wasn’t exactly anything truly engaging at this point.
What was engaging though was the part where all of the non-combatant characters start trying to do their part as best they can to protect the people from what very well could be the end of civilization as they know it. Saji again showed he was now a man by volunteering to go to the colonies to help with the protection of the orbital elevator, vowing once again to protect Louise. Marina who I like to call the Mother Theresa of Gundam ends up opening the palace as a shelter and says she’ll stay above ground to supervise it all. I think it was here where I saw that she’d come along way as a leader. She seems more confident, like she knows exactly what she has to do and how best to do it and Shirin seemed to think so too.
So the final battle starts as Tieria hatches a plan to use Veda as a relay for all the ELS information once Setsuna finally wakes up and can take control of the 00-Qant. Meanwhile the Earth Federation fleet complete with Kati, Paddy, Andrei (ugh) and the remaining SOL-Braves are going to try and hold down the fort with the flagship Celestial Being which was captured at the end of the second season by Kati and in a nice bit of continuity is now command central for her fleet. Again it was nice to see everybody fulfilling the roles we’ve come to know them for one last time. It could be argued they might be doing something knew, but would you really want the finest in a role other than what they are best at during a crisis such as the one unfolding?
The ELS mothership and Celestial Being ship exchanging blows almost gave me flashbacks to the showdown between Geiersburg and Iserlohn Fortress in how a massive cannon blast apparently only scratches adaptive liquid metal shielding. I say almost because while Kati is awesome she’s not quite at the level of Yang-Wen Li and the 13th fleet. It’s when the ELS start copying mobile suit forms and all but completely adapting to beam weaponry though that shit really started to go bad and following that we get one of the most interesting scenes of the movie in my book.
Setsuna is having a nightmare about all the horrible things that have happened to him in his life, from the warfare as a child to losing his comrades and he seems to be completely lost to despair when
Another great scene was Andrei
Here’s where things got really weird for me. When they go inside the ELS there are these weird jellyfish creatures that I assume are the true form of the ELS. Thing is, I had a dream around the time season two was wrapping up where the Gundam’s were being attack by these unknown entities that looked like Jellyfish and they were adapting to and utterly dominating the Gundam’s. Apparently somehow I saw into the future to when the Gundam’s would be fighting the ELS and it was about this point upon seeing this that I felt I needed to sit down for a while.
After I resumed in five Setsuna used the Qant-Burst with Tieria and Veda acting as an anchor for the mass of information and I got what I still call the most mindblowing sequence of the movie. I love the way they conveyed the birth, rise and eventual fate of the ELS homeworld with merely a sequence of stunning images of a very foreign world. With that we got the event that the title of the movie was based on, the Awakening of The Trailblazer who will forge relations with other races and start the chain of events that will eventually lead humanity to the stars. The third phase of Aeolia’s plan began here and ends with the epilogue where 50 years late humanity has started to innovate en masse and are ready to make the trip to outer space on a colony ship. I dream of the day when such a prospect will become a reality and for now I can only see it here in Gundam 00.
One last thing I want to mention before I get to closing things out is that Aeolia’s words in the epilogue really hit home with a part of my philosophy on society. “I hate when knowledge gets misused and when people who are taken in by perceptions and prejudices lose sight of reality. That is the source of misunderstanding, ignorance and conflict, I want us to understand each other.” Me too Aeolia, me too.
So in the end I expected a big dumb action movie and got a pretty smart action movie that challenged me one last time to ponder the potential future of humanity as Gundam 00 always had. It was pretty good for a start to the idea of aliens in a Gundam series and when matched with the TV series that comes before it completes the crux of the series ideal in Aeolia’s plan. The first season united humanity, the second put an end to human on human warfare, the third had humanity making first contact with aliens (and almost made it feel natural even though it was a first for Gundam) and travelling to the stars by the end. Idealistic? Yes. Kind of reminds of Star Trek actually, and quite possibly you can argue that 00 completes the idea of Gundam being the Star Trek of Japan. I like to dream of ideal worlds sometimes though so seeing one depicted was not that much of a let down and I can just go back to seeing a Gundam that flirts with gritty reality in Unicorn in short order. The visuals I have to say were gorgeous, but the music by Kenji Kawai was not his best work. The pacing, other than a few speed bumps it kept me engaged all the way throughout waiting to see how the saga ended. Altogether a fairly fitting end for what the series has built up to for so long and one last chance to see the cast in the roles I’ve come to know them for. Unlike ghostlightning I will be sad when I think of what I now leave behind.