Hollywood! Adapt This: MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM

by     Posted 1 year, 278 days ago


I have suggested some goofy properties for Hollywood! Adapt This, I’ll admit that. Some of them probably have no business being adapted at all besides my own personal desire to see them realized in live action. It’s even difficult to justify rebooting an old movie or series because the remakes rarely come close to matching or exceeding the original. One case where this isn’t true? Battlestar Galactica. It’s not the spaceships and Cylons and exploration of far-off worlds that make the show so great, it’s the quality of the relationships between the characters. This is necessary to any good story, but is often overlooked in order to bring “cool” things to life on screen; Transformers, for example. So how can we combine the awesome visual experience of giant robots duking it out with the rich character relationships and plots that make a movie worthwhile? Hit the jump to find out. Hollywood! Adapt this: Mobile Suit Gundam

mobile-suit-gundamWhile all of my suggestions for Hollywood! Adapt This come from a place of love and nostalgia, I have a special fondness for Mobile Suit Gundam. Though the franchise has been around in many different iterations since the original’s inception in 1979, I was first introduced to it via Mobile Suit Gundam Wing when Cartoon Network aired it in the early  2000s. Not only did it set off a particularly strong bit of fanaticism in me (confession: Yes, I built Gundam models and yes, I joined a text-based Gundam RPG with my high school friends), but it showed me that an animated series could have strong characters who deal with serious, real-world issues, but still look cool doing it. Plus: giant fighting robots!

What It’s About: 

The original Mobile Suit Gundam created by Yoshiyuki Tomino took place in a fictional universe in which the Earth Federation united not only the world’s continents, but space colonies and lunar settlements as well. One nation, the Principality of Zeon, declared independence from the Federation and launched an all-out war. Their superior military technology, in the form of giant humanoid mobile suits, allowed them to sway the fight in their favor, until the Federation responded with a creation of their own. Series protagonist Amuro Ray, a citizen  who stumbles upon the Federation’s mobile suit, the RX-78 Gundam, manages to pilot the MS and defend the Federation base and its inhabitants from the Zeon separatists.

Originally called Gunboy, Mobile Suit Gundam was actually not all that popular when it came out of the gates. It wasn’t until the Japanese toy company Bandai picked up the rights to Gundam’s mechas that the show really took off. Since its initial series, Gundam has grown into a major franchise that has spawned numerous series spin-offs, animated movies and video games, along with toys, models, comics, mangas and novels. Believe it or not, there actually was a live-action adaptation attempted back in 2000, with director Graeme Campbell’s G-Saviour. The Canadian/Japanese production was reportedly not well-received by creator Tomino, who was not involved with the film. So when I say this property should be adapted, let me stress that it should be adapted well. 

gundam-statueOne of the coolest things about Gundam is that the series has always incorporated existing or theoretically possible science into its writing, including Lagrange points, O’Neill colonies and nuclear thermal rockets. It’s also credited with being the first story to move from the “super robots” genre to the “real robots” genre, because it portrayed the mecha as military vehicles and weapons of war, rather than autonomous robotic beings or indestructible machines of limitless power. The mobile suits were piloted into battle, but they were also repaired in hangars, overhauled by mechanics and upgraded by their pilots. This aspect not only let viewers become more attached to the pilots and their mecha (especially when either/both were injured in combat), but it lent a sense of reality and possibility to the series. The fact that a 1:1 scale model of the RX-78 Gundam was actually built (as a non-functional statute, unfortunately) is a clear testament to the level of cultural significance that Gundam has achieved.

How Could / Why Should It Be Adapted?

Although Gundam has seen its fair share of animated movies (with more on the way), few technical hurdles exist to keep the mobile suits from appearing in a live-action film. The Transformers franchise has been wildly successful at bringing larger-than-life fighting robots to the screen, but lacks the depth of plot or character development that many fans crave. Shawn Levy’s Real Steel brought a bit more of a human element into the mix, featuring the original robot boxing creations controlled by their flesh-and-blood partners. Perhaps the most exciting development for mecha fans is Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim which will put pilots in control of massive battle suits called Jaegers in order to defend the world from the monstrous creatures known as Kaiju. But while Pacific Rim sounds like a fun film, I don’t yet have a great sense of the characters who are piloting these behemoths.

The Gundam franchise seems to have a lot in common with Transformers, Voltron, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Robotech, etc, but I’ve always found the political conflicts and personal character struggles to be a fascinating backdrop against which these mobile suit battles play out. Take Mobile Suit Gundam Wing for instance. Rather than focus on a heroic defender of the Federation in a lone Gundam against rogue separatists, Gundam Wing featured five pilots (all with great names: Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Quatre Raberba Winner and Chang Wufei) who each had their own customized Gundam mobile suit and were unaware of each other initially. Their missions were to seek and destroy the legions of mobile suits under the command of the tyrannical Alliance and thereby free the colonies from oppression.

gundam-wingThis conflict sets up an incredibly complex weaving of plots, backstories and character motivations, along with real-world political maneuvering, betrayals, shifting allegiances and aspects of guerilla/terrorist warfare seen from both sides of the equation. And since the series happens to focus on the young pilots, it also has “coming of age” elements at the core of each character, who matures with each and every decision he makes, both in and out of the cockpit of his mobile suit. Gundam explores the stark realities of war, oppression and tyranny in a very serious way. It just happens to do it with giant fighting robots as weapons of war, in the place of more conventional tanks, jet fighters or battleships.

The Final Word:

A well-planned adaptation of Gundam for a live-action TV series or feature film would be a welcome addition in my book. A television series, much like Battlestar Galactica, would allow the characters room to breathe, grow and establish themselves while providing great episodic action with mobile suit battles and intrigue via political maneuverings. I’d also love to see Gundam as either stand-alone or companion films to the TV series, which would allow the budget for some spectacular battles and the exploration of the various colonies.

The series provides a rich environment for solid storytelling across the board. Gundam combines the rebellious freedom-fighter aspects of Star Wars with the brash military personas of Battlestar Galactica. It incorporates real-world political conflicts and uses  battles between characters to make commentary on the nature of war, the costs and benefits of pacifism and the evolution of humanity by natural or technological means. It’s an incredibly mature series that deserves equal maturity in the creative development process. But with the gritty and realistic tone that’s commonplace in today’s films, along with the precedent set by Transformers and the hopeful success of Pacific Rim, I think it’s not a question of if Gundam live-action adaptation will be produced, but rather when. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the look and tone of the series, here’s a fight clip from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing which shows the mobile suits, the way they fight and the philosophical debate that rages between the combatants:

Make sure to get caught up on our previous installments of Hollywood! Adapt This and tune in next week when we follow the military commandos Bill “Mad Dog” Rizer and Lance “Scorpion” Bean as they attempt to save the world from the evil Red Falcon Organization!


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  • M-2

    I love the Gundam series! Sense the first Transformers came out i have wanted to see a Gundam film! My initial entry into this series came from Gundam Seed… It\’s still the one I want to see adapted first…

    But I\’m a little worried that if it gets adapted that it all the intrigue, depth, and the political conflicts might get lost in the film as the director or some Hollywood exec wants more explosions then a real story…

    I love your TV series idea, although I would want a mini-series, that would be aired a few months after each film, expanding in characters and the political threads as such, while setting the stage for the next film.

    I would definitely would want a team of directors, producers and such come together similar to what we seen with Game of Thrones, where David Benioff and D.B. Weiss along with Alan Taylor and the rest have created that magnificent world, while they have made some changes from the books, they still managed to keep true to the books.

    And if they decide to do 3 Films and 3 mini-series I would want similar creative team that would keep the true to the Gundam series otherwise we might end up with something like the Transformers franchise with A director that doesn\’t truly get the characters and just keeps producing crap…

    • Dave Trumbore

      Yeah this is definitely a case where there’s only one way to do it right and a million ways to get it wrong. I’d be happy starting with a TV mini-series to see if people were interested and then moving forward with full series and film plans from there. Maybe SyFy could even reclaim the Battlestar Galactica crowd!

  • brNdon

    Two Words: Pacific Rim

    • Dave Trumbore

      True, Pacific Rim will be fun and I love GDT. Hopefully it’s a successful film and it paves the way for a Gundam film. It ain’t “Gundam” without a Gundam.

  • !_!

    just wait till pacific rim then hollywood is going to go digging up all the mecha anime they can get their hands on :D

    • Dave Trumbore

      I’m all for it! I’m thinking/hoping/dreading that Hollywood will next turn to making live-action adaptations of anime properties after the comic book adaptations have proved so successful in recent and coming years. There are so many quality properties to choose from!

  • daviid seth

    Adapt Escaflowne!! Just think… lord of the rings… with dragons and mechs! And a catchy theme! Who’s with me?!

    • Dave Trumbore

      I loved Escaflowne, but I think it’s beyond most people’s understanding/interest, even more so than Gundam. Let’s get Gundam off the ground and then we’ll let Escaflowne take it to the Zaibach Empire!

  • daviid seth

    Adapt Escaflowne!! (YouTube it) Just think… lord of the rings… with dragons and mechs! And a catchy theme! Who’s with me?!

  • daviid seth

    Adapt Escaflowne!! (YouTube it) Just think… lord of the rings… with dragons and mechs! And a catchy theme! Who\’s with me?!

  • Pchan

    Why ask Hollywood to adapt anything when we know their track record has sucked? Just NO on this.

    • Dave Trumbore

      The last thing we need as fans is another TRANSFORMERS franchise or a G-SAVIOUR repeat, agreed. But for all its faults, Hollywood has the best shot at attaching quality filmmakers to a project like GUNDAM and can provide the necessary financial backing to satisfy the blockbuster demand.

  • Falldog

    Really? How about making suggestions based on the need for adaption or something Hollywood might actually be decent at doing. Granted, the article wouldn’t be as easy to write as randomly picking a childhood memory and trying to shoehorn in a desire for live action treatment.

    • Dave Trumbore

      We’re always open to suggestions! A little specificity goes a long way. Let us know what you’d like to see on the big screen and we’ll add it to the list!

  • Falldog

    Really? How about making suggestions based on the need for adaption or something Hollywood might actually be decent at doing. Granted, the article wouldn\’t be as easy to write as randomly picking a childhood memory and trying to shoehorn in a desire for live action treatment.

  • Someone

    These “Hollywood! Adapt This” articles are atrocious, none of these things should be adapted to film, NONE.

  • Lawton

    Either ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ which has had some work done by the Weta Workshop (people who worked on Lord of the Rings) or ‘RahXephon’. Those are great animes that would look good if done.

    • Dave Trumbore

      Just a personal preference, but I always enjoyed the “Gundams fighting other Mobile Suits” aspect to “Mecha fighting aliens/creatures/angels.” It made it seem a little more realistic (which is silly, I know). But if PACIFIC RIM does well, hopefully it’ll open up the world of Mecha to more adaptations! Nice call on RahXephon by the way!

  • Matt

    For those of you wrongly claiming Pacific Rim as a comparison…that’s an adaptation of Neon Genesis: Evangelion, just cause it has giant robots doesn’t mean its Gundam

    • Dave Trumbore

      Agreed, just like TRANSFORMERS wasn’t GUNDAM. But hey, anything to convince the financial backers that big fighting robots make for a good investment!

  • aaronsullivan

    That description of Gundam Wing was intriguing enough for me to check out. I was always a Robotech fan, but, in general, I think the mecha thing is much more interesting to bring to live action than the Tranformers have turned out to be.

    • Dave Trumbore

      That’s funny because in further researching this, I became more interested in Robotech. It’s on my list of shows to check out now. And yes, there is so much more to Mecha than what the Transformers films have given us.

  • nyckage

    as long as michael bay doesnt direct it, im cool

    • Dave Trumbore


  • Saber008

    +1 I have always said a live-action Gundam movie could work with top notch animation and acting, balanced in a realistic world driven story about peace and war. I think this movie would be best (and most likely will) be of the Universal Century timeline. Although Wing would be okay, I DO NOT want to see any remakes.

    That being said, I think Gundam should not be adapted as a TV show yet. I still believe the story and CGI would suffer too much because of a low budget. A week ago I saw ‘Pacific Rim’, during the film me and a friend could not stop comparing it with ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’. This movie had great CGI and confirms we are capable of making Gundam in Live-action. Like the author said, it did not establish a strong connection with the characters, by the end of the movie I could barely name two. Which brings me to my next point.

    Story. Without a magnificent story, this will be a failure in my book. Perhaps there are some books that have yet to be adapted into an anime that take place in the UC timeline. The UC timeline is very long, and we could place the movie anywhere we want, and have sequels at any point as well. I even thought it would be cool to have the first film named “Universal Century”, that takes place before the year 0079, possibly on 0000 UC; when man first moved to space. I believe this would be before Mobile Suits, so it would be very interesting.

    If this movie is a success in the UC timeline, we could see many more to come. I think most other Gundam timelines with the exception of Gundam Wing, would be HORRIBLE if made live action. Only time will tell.

    EDIT: And for those who say Hollywon’t would ruin this movie, let me give you guys hope, where it is usually not found.

    EA Games, which could be compared with ‘Hollywood’, makes too much money, and will ruin a series if it means making money. Yet EA Games has some great studios under them. Lets say that Gundam is Star Wars: Battlefront. Well EA announced it will be producing the new Battlefront game, OH NO right? Well they picked DICE, (known for Battlefield), to make it, OH YEAH. So horrible production companies can make good with awesome studios, and directors. There is always hope.

  • mathias

    I could not agree more with this article… After seeing the legend of daiku maryu a while ago, I remembered watching Gundam Wing when I was little. This prompted me in searching all gundam series I could find… so far I made it through gundam seed and gundam seed destiny and they do hold great storylines and you get attached to the characters really easy… last night I watched pacific rim and I could only come to the same conclusion that after transformers, real steel and pacific rim, a gundam movie would be great, if kept true to the nature of the gundam animation series…

  • sieg zeon

    Do the first gundam. show both sides of the one year war.


    I think if they did adapt Gundam Wing into a live action film I might just kill myself. Just from sheer fangasim. Gundam Wing was my first Gundam and I’ve seen just about everyone of them, even SD Gundam, who could resist tiny death machines? It would be awesome and Pacific Rim, it was good but trust me, throw those poor boys into some real Gundams and you may just have a franchise or a one hit wonder. They made Dragon Ball and Speed Racer Movies, and Salior Moon has already been turned into a show, so why not Gundam? Believe me, if it became a movie, the world would know.

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