Thursday 14 March 2013

Movie REVIEW: Space Sheriff Gavan the Movie

Metal Heroes Space Sheriff Gavan Type-G

While these days the likes of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai are main-stayers in the world of tokusatsu, there's one Toei franchise that seemed all but forgotten. However the last few years have proved to be something of a Metal Heroes revival, with the original Space Sheriff Gavan teaming up with the Gokaigers before a whole new Gavan film was announced. To further promote the film, this new Gavan made a guest appearance on Go-Busters, and he (alongside other past Metal Heroes characters) will star in Super Hero Taisen Z alongside both Sentai and Riders later this year. Could this indeed be a new beginning for Metal Heroes? That depends just how well Gavan Type-G's cinematic debut went down...

Metal Heroes Space Sheriff Gavan Type-G Geki Shelly Itsuki
Geki, along with Itsuki and his alien partner Shelly

When friends Geki Jumonji and Toya Okuma are lost on a space mission to Mars, they leave their third friend Itsuki alone on Earth, the only person who believes the two to still be alive. A year later, Itsuki is attacked by a monster and protected by a silvery hero - the legendary space sheriff Gavan. Revealing himself to be Geki, Itsuki learns of what happened to their spacecraft and the fate of Toya. Geki explains that he has returned to Earth to prevent the mysterious Master Brighton from resurrecting Don Horror and his Maku Space Mafia. When the sinister plot takes an unexpected turn and Itsuki is kidnapped, Geki must rely on help from the original Gavan Retsu Ichijouji to defeat the Maku and save the universe, earning his title as a space sheriff.

Metal Heroes Space Sheriff Gavan Master Brighton
Master Brighton - but just who is he behind the mask?

With little in the way of fansubs available for Metal Heroes series, a lot of people will probably be going into this film in the dark about the history of Gavan (save the two recent Sentai team ups). Thankfully you won't need any background knowledge, as while this does continue on somewhat from the original Gavan series it is very much a relaunch. The characters are all brand new save for a few veterans, and the story very much focusses on Geki earning his place as the new Gavan (known as Gavan Type-G). Despite it's 83 minute run time its a fairly fast paced film, with an extremely predictable plot twist midway in. It's heavy on character since this is an all-new cast, but unfortunately it results in a sad shortage of the Gavan suit in action. What little there is is fantastic (and there are plenty of untransformed fight sequences too), but for a film named Space Sheriff Gavan, Gavan appears very little outside of the final battle.

Metal Heroes Space Sheriff Gavan Retsu Ichijouji Kenji Ohba
The legend himself, Kenji Ohba returns as Retsu Ichijouji

The film may be about the arrival of a new Gavan, but it wouldn't be right without a proper send off the original Gavan, played by legendary tokusatsu actor Kenji Ohba. If Gokaiger vs. Gavan didn't convince you the this guy still had it when it came to playing Retsu, this film certainly will. But despite very much having the ability to, Kenji doesn't completely steal the show and only enforces its greatness, making it the perfect in terms of passing the torch from the old to the new.

Space Sheriff Gavan Retsu Geki Team Up
Old and New: The Gavans team up

Though Gavan is the first Metal Hero and seemingly one of the most popular in Japan (Western audiences will be more familiar with Metalder, Spielban and the B-Fighters due to the likes of VR Troopers and Big Bad Beetleborgs), there are in fact three Space Sheriff series. His predecessors Sharivan and Shaider also make an appearance in the film, again played by all new actors. Geki Violet/Gou actor Riku Miura plays the new Sharivan Kai Hyuga while Kamen Rider Birth/Date actor Hiroaki Iwanaga is the new Shaider Shu Karasuma. While this would have been an excellent chance to see all three Space Sheriffs onscreen together for a glorious revival, sadly their role is reduced to little more than a cameo - appearing untransformed near the beginning and then enjoying a brief fight sequence at the movie's climax. Arguably giving equal focus to all 3 would have made the movie suffer (and after all it is called Space Sheriff Gavan), it would have been nice to see their role be a bit more crucial to the film. One can hope that if a new Metal Heroes series does come of this, we'll be seeing a lot more of both Sharivan and Shaider.

Metal Heroes Space Sheriff Gavan Shaider Sharivan
Type-G with Shaider (Blue) and Sharivan (Red)

While Space Sheriff Gavan is clearly a pilot for what will hopefully be a new Metal Heroes series, that doesn't stop it from being a pretty enjoyable standalone movie. Yes the plot twists are predictable and the transformed fight scenes minimal, but this slick retro sci-fi slice of tokusatsu proves a great alternative to the usual Super Sentai and Kamen Rider outings. If Metal Heroes were to make a return to Japanese television screens, I for one would welcome it.

1 comment:

Prema said...

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