Hey kids, guess what time it is? FINALS SEAAASOOON! And guess what that means? I haven’t had time to watch anything new or relevaaaant! And guess what THAT means? SELF INDULGEEEENCE!
So yeah, I’m reviewing another Japanese superhero movie, kay?
Except Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie has put me in something of a bind, partly because it’s total arse (oh who am I kidding, it’s done me a favor by being total arse) but mostly because it isn’t a damn movie in anything other than length. But more on that later. First some prep for those of you in my audience who’ve kissed a girl recently, and therefore have no idea what a Space Sherif Gavan is.
Gavan was originally a daytime superhero tv show back in the 80s, part of the Metal Heroes series that didn’t live to see the new millennium beyond the occasional nostalgia-infused revival like this. The character first came back on the scene last year for a crossover movie with Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. I wasn’t insanely impressed by that particular offering but apparently enough people were for a Gavan quasi-reboot movie to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the series.
The basic gist is that some dupe gets recruited into the “space sheriffs” and given an incredibly dorky looking spaceship and a suit of armor to become Space Sheriff Gavan, kind of a cross between Green Lantern, Robocop and maybe Bravestarr if you took out the sense that someone desperately thinks having a native guy star in a Saturday morning cartoon show can make up for all that business with the massacres and the small-pox blankets.
The dupe du jour is Geki Jumongi, an astronaut who gets rescued by the original Gavan and trained to be his replacement and returns to Earth to fight a group of monsters called the, and I’m not making this us, Space Mafia Maku. Along the way he reunites with a childhood friend, gets in a lot of fights in empty rock quarries and generic buildings and learns “what it really means to be a man”. Movie’s words, not mine.
So getting back to that whole not really a movie thing, the thing that makes the “movie” plummet to the depths of mediocrity is that it feels less like a movie than four or five episodes of a particularly lackluster tv show. There’s absolutely nothing creative, original or visually or thematically interesting about it. The action set-pieces, while well choreographed, don’t have anything memorable or unique about them, like the dynamic camera work of, say Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie or even the scale of Kamen Rider x Super Sentai.
When I was a young-un, the word “movie” meant something. It meant you had to go a cut above what was on tv, you had to add something, anything, be it creativity, scope or even just scale. The most impressive thing Gavan does in the movie is zap a bunch of bad cgi space ships from on top of his bad CGI robot dragon, and for fuck’s sake the first episode of Gokaiger had a more impressive space battle and that was two fucking years ago.
The whole movie just feels cheap overall. What actual sets there are are just sound stages with minimal set dressing, and I hate to toot this particular horn again, but at least Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie had the courtesy to green-screen its characters onto an interesting background or hire a set designer with a bit of creativity. The costumes aren’t really anything worth noting either. The monster suits are fairly well assembled, but nothing particularly memorable.
The actual Gavan suit is identical to the one from the original series aside from a new decal here and there, and are you really telling me you could think of NO WAY to update a costume from thirty godamn years ago? I mean there’s being true to the spirit of the original and then there’s sitting down and refusing to move forward or advance in any way shape or form. It’s not like it was even that good a costume to begin with, he looks like a bargain basement Cylon.
But hey, maybe I’m being unfair, maybe they didn’t have the budget to make it all shiny and glitzy and had to work with what they got. Maybe they had to find other ways to innovate, like interesting camera work or well-crafted, original story.
The camera work is as dull, lifeless, paint by numbers as you can get. Nothing is shot any any kind of interesting or dynamic way. It’s competent, sure, you never see the boom mic wander into the shot, but it feels like the the director was asleep at the wheel as it does that he was in a fucking coma. The image is bland and perfectly clean, with flat, bog-standard lighting and all the atmosphere of a hospital room. Hell, Kamen Rider The First felt more cinematic than this, and that movie was boring as shit!
The story is more of the same, a step by step retread of the usual hero’s journey archetype to the point that the cast almost start shouting out all the steps like some kind of demented mantra. “The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Supernatural Aid, Belly of the Whale, The Road of Trials, can we have our paychecks please??”
Nothing about the movie on any front is fresh or interesting or original in any way, and before anyone chirps in with “what do you want, it’s a Japanese superhero movie” even the most esoteric of genre fare has to at least give HALF a shit if it expects me to give one.
And NO, you’re not going to trick me into liking your movie because Hiroaki Iwanaga is in it, especially if he has like two lines of dialogue and ISN’T playing Date Akira.