Gatchaman: Fantasia Review

Live-action sci-fi will play best with ardent fans of the anime series.

Popular anime series "Battle of the Planets" finally gets a live-action movie adaptation.

MONTREAL — The anime series best known here under the title Battle of the Planets finally gets the live-action treatment in Toya Sato's Gatchaman, a film that creates a simplified origin story for a narrative that has, in many adaptations and translations, grown confusing over the years. The project follows a big-screen effort in the 2000s that was started by Hong Kong/L.A.-based Imagi but never completed, and Gatchaman's producers clearly hope to have an ongoing franchise on their hands. Reception in Asia may sustain that, but the picture's sluggish storytelling and sometimes unconvincing effects will limit Stateside appeal to pre-existing fans who'll see it as they have its source, on TV and video.

The exposition-heavy script envisions an Earth that is half-conquered by Galactors, who are invincible to all humans but Receptors, who have powers derived from mysterious ancient crystals. (Insert science talk about "G Particles," "X Virus" and so on here.) Five teen Receptors combine to form the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, who work for the International Science Organization to keep the alien invaders at bay.

The team is new, but its two oldest boys have history: They once worked with a young woman they both loved, who was killed in action. When the Gatchaman crew is assigned to protect a Galactor turncoat who has secret info about a new war plan, and that informant turns out to be the villain who killed their partner, the film sinks into long, mildly dull conversations about revenge, duty and loyalty.

The picture fares best when it has all five Gatchas together, either ribbing each other at home or whizzing through the air in combat. The FX work is not state-of-the-art: The CGI look of urban destruction and the bouncy movement of our heroes through the sky wouldn't pass muster in a contemporary Hollywood superhero film. But other tech elements -- costuming and creature design in particular -- contribute to a shiny, colorful look that is pleasing in a Saturday-morning TV sort of way. A theater full of fanboys here may have snickered at occasional moments of overheated melodrama, but they applauded heartily at the end.

Production Company: Nikkatsu

Cast: Tori Matsuzaka, Ryohei Suzuki, Go Ayano, Ayame Goriki, Tatsuomi Hamada, Eriko Hatsune, Shido Nakamura, Ken Mitsuishi, Goro Kishitani

Director: Toya Sato

Screenwriters: Tatsuo Yoshida, Yusuke Watanabe

Producers: Naoto Fujimura, Tadashi Tanaka, Akiria Yamamoto

Executive producers: Hiroyuki Fujikado, Suzuko Fujimoto, Minami Ichikaw, Kazuaki Ito, Tomoko Jo, Seiji Okuda, Naoki Sato, Shuichiro Tanaka, Kantaro Tomiyama, Keizo Yuri

Director of photography: Takahiro Tsutai

Production designer: Yasuaki Harada

Music: Nima Fakhrara

Costume designer: Daisuke Iga

Editor: Yoichi Shibuya

No rating, 109 minutes