Bandai // 1991 // 118 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // January 6th, 2005
A new generation, a new war, a new hero.
Here we go again.
The peaceful space colony Frontier IV is attacked by the mobile suit army of the Crossbone Vanguard, a fascist political faction bent on gaining control of the orbiting cities constructed by the Earth Federation. Young Seabook Arno, who lives with his family on Frontier IV, finds himself an unwilling participant in the conflict after he is bullied into piloting the Federation Forces' new prototype mobile suit, the Gundam F91. In order to save his family and friends, Seabrook is forced to combat the Vanguard threat, even it means fighting his friend Cecily Fairchild, who is destined to rule Cosmo Babylonia, the empire of the Crossbone Vanguard.
Sounds a little familiar, doesn't it? Familiar as it may be, though, Gundam F91 is an enjoyable, reasonably well-executed addition to the Gundam mythos. It's fast-paced, chockfull of good action and battle scenes, and doesn't take itself too seriously. That's not to say it's without it share of flaws, though. The story can be a little choppy at times (this was intended to be a year-long television series, but the story was cut down to feature film length), and things can get downright silly at times (the fight between Darth Va -- whoops, I mean Carozzo Ronah [the helmet threw me] and his daughter is a little ridiculous), but it's still pretty entertaining. Sure, there's never any doubt about the story's outcome, but the journey to that outcome isn't a bad one.
What is bad is the video quality of this release. The non-anamorphic (!) transfer is riddled with flaws. There's an overabundance of edge enhancement, stair-stepping, moiré patterns, and motion artifacts; the numerous pans across star fields look especially bad (the stars appear to be doing jumping jacks). This was obviously sourced from a theatrical print, as cigarette burns are visible in the corner of the frame; color balance and saturation are good, but these are the transfer's only redeeming qualities. The audio fares better, especially the 5.1 English mix (the film had a brief theatrical run in 2004, and I'm guessing this was mix was originally created for that run); I'm not a big fan of dubs, but this track is actually very well-produced, with better than average voice acting. Surround action is plentiful and enveloping, and there's enough deep bass activity to wake your neighbors. The two Dolby Surround mixes are okay, but the fidelity is a little dated, so, as much as it pains me to say it, you're better off with the dubbed 5.1 mix. Extras include some previews for other Bandai releases, background information on the characters and hardware, a Gundam universe timeline, and a commentary. The commentary, which features the ADR director and two members of the production team, is incredibly boring, and doesn't really seem to concern this film.
It's too bad Bandai didn't put more effort into this release. I was extremely disappointed, so I can only image how let down the Gundam faithful will be.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Trailer Collection
* Gundam Encyclopedia
* Character Files
* Gundam Timeline
* Image Gallery
* Official Site