(Basic) Synopsis (Spoiler Free): It's Universal Century year 0097. A year after the "Laplace Incident", there are once again calls for autonomy for Spacenoids, but little being done about it. As if to break the stagnation, the third Gundam Unicorn model, the Phenex, thought to have been lost years previous, reappears. Both the Earth Federation and the Neo-Zeon remnants are determined to capture it for its Newtype capabilities, but they seem to be chasing a literal ghost in the form of its pilot, Rita Bernal. What did she, a Miracle Child, see so many years before that brought these events in alignment? And can either side prevent the bizarre Zoltan Akkenan from igniting a tragedy worse than anything seen before? The Pheonix Hunt will test the limits of all parties!
So, yeah... Newtypes. I love Newtypes. I love the Psychommu, the Psycho-Frame, the silly "we only use x% of our brains" nonsense, the ghost parties (that's when a bunch of characters appear as spirits), the sparkly ending to Char's Counterattack, that awesome sound effect when somebody has a Newtype reaction, etc. Mr. Tomino, evolution doesn't work that way (something the villain in this points out in his insane, yet somewhat insightful ramblings), but I love Newtypes, regardless. So I'm willing to put up with a lot of rainbow fairy dust and giant glowing apparitions. In fact, if you're not cool with this stuff, stop watching Gundam.
However, there's still a limit, Sunrise. And maybe a movie whose major plot point is that human spirits can live forever if their souls are absorbed by Psycho-Frames is maybe taking it a skosh too far. That's traveling into a realm that, while boldly pushing the limits of the Newtype phenomenon, comes off incredibly silly when said two or three times by characters who don't even pretend it sounds batty. Why, what do you mean it sounds crazy that our spirits can live inside giant robots forever?! I'm not the crazy one, you are!
My threshold for Newtype magic can only take me so far, and Gundam Narrative took a baseball bat covered in barbed wire to it. Newtypes have always been a part of the "greater humanity as we expand our perceptions in space" science fiction/new age trope, putting it in the transcendental "ghost in the machine" catagory makes it almost seem like from a different franchise.
Still, I have to admit, I enjoyed Gundam Narrative, for the most part, even if it is ridiculous.
For one, I found the Jona-Michelle-Rita relationship, with its hopes, failures, betrayals, and tragedies to be, at least divorced from some of the zany Newtype tropes, compelling. Jona's desire to reunite with his lost friend, Michelle's guilt over her past wrongs driving her to desperately pursue a phantom, and Rita's lost hope for her friends to believe that there's more than just the material world. You can see how the terrible tragedies of the Universal Century, from Operation British, the Titans' Newtype Labs, and the Neo-Zeon wars have shaped these three people who just want to recapture some measure of youthful innocence that was so easily snatched away from them.
I even found Crazy Char Aznable Clone #2(0383489-B)'s fractured psyche interesting in his terrible inferiority complex and how it causes him to lash out in a despairing scramble to prove he isn't just a failed product. His speech on how even though Oldtypes can see and even feel the warmth of the Psycho-Frames' resonating, they still just repeat their same mistakes is reminiscent of both Char's lament in Char's Counterattack and Full Frontal's in Gundam Unicorn.
If only they hadn't waited until the final act to let him be more than an axe-crazy sociopath. They introduce him as this big, showy ham, and show him gleefully slaughtering innocent people, which doesn't really fit his sudden clarity about how chasing the idea of a true Newtype is a fruitless endeavor. He ends up as just a tantruming child, whereas at least Full Frontal believed he was the vessel of people's hopes and Char was a control freak who wanted to prove he was better than Amuro. He doesn't really live up to the potential of his character.
The visuals can be pretty stunning, at least, especially when the Phenex is in action, a blue trail of Newtype aura following it. While a few scenes of character art are uneven, I always felt like the action moved with a speed and intensity to it, reflecting the mad dash to contain the power of the golden Unicorn. Much of the scenes of carnage were also well done, particularly the shock of the colony drop and the chaos in the college colony, which is much like the horrifying bit in the first episode of Gundam Unicorn when the teacher bites it. Scenes of people's futile escapes, horrifying, frozen faces as a wall of light envelopes them, and buildings crumbling, are all lovingly rendered in disturbing detail. The visuals in this movie really feel like there's an impact and weight to them.
The visuals, more than just the action scenes, but also scenery and character designs, are also supported by the indomitable Hiroyuki Sawano, who provides the musical score to this much as he did for Unicorn, with a mix of traditional orchestral sounds and electronica, like a Hans Zimmer for anime. Punctuating this, at least twice, is a vocal track called "Vigilante" that keeps time with the pace of the action. He does end up covering some of the same ground in the soundtrack as in Unicorn, though as this is a sequel, it's likely an intentional callback.
Maybe if this movie didn't breathlessly cascade the audience with one plot element after another as if trying to justify itself through sheer volume of ideas, and gave itself (and us) the time to breathe, it wouldn't feel like such a cramped Newtype masturbation session. As it is, while it wasn't a waste of my time, nor am I intensely anticipating its disc release. I'll get it, sure, like I said, I liked this. But I wish that I loved it.
It doesn't take a Newtype to see that Gundam is usually better in installments over a longer period. Well, at least Hathaway's Flash is in installments.
Oh shit, that's right, they're actually doing Hathaway's Flash. Poor Bright.