Thursday, May 4, 2023

Knights of the Zodiac is an exactly acceptable fight movie

Many punches are exchanged by all

One doesn't go to watch a fight movie expecting great themes. One wants visually interesting choreography and physically believable acrobatics. By that standard, Knights of the Zodiac just about delivers.

The plot is the same you remember from the 1986 anime series: the Greek goddess Athena has reincarnated as a human girl, and a team of supernatural fighters is recruited to defend her from the other gods and their minions. Through the ensuing brawls, our protagonist, the Pegasus knight Seiya, exemplifies the virtues of tenacity, loyalty and courage. This setup is simple enough for any viewer to follow through the 114 episodes of the series. Seiya and his brothers-in-arms meet progressively stronger enemies, grow stronger in turn, and keep the world safe. There isn't much else to the story.

Where the anime stood out was in its art style. There are only so many ways you can draw ambiguously teenaged soldiers punch the guts out of each other, so these fights are colored with ethereal halos and the ocassional psychic attack. Of course, the most visually interesting part of the show was the way armors could rearrange their pieces around a knight's body; this detail was a small bit of Transformers-like appeal that kept the continuous punches from getting tiresome.

Unfortunately, this movie adaptation discards what made the show visually unique. Its armors look generic, lackluster, boring. This is not entirely the movie's fault; it is inherently hard to translate the stylized expressiveness of hand-drawn shōnen animation into the real faces of human actors. Compare these two images, supposed to represent the same character:

With obviously digital choreographies rendered in videogame quality, Knights of the Zodiac fails to provide the thrills of the cartoon. Seemingly aware of this shortcoming, what the movie lacks in artistry it attempts to compensate for with drama. The family dynamics of the girl destined to awaken as the goddess Athena hint toward themes of motherhood, abandonment, resentment, and broken trust, and their dramatic resolution is just adequate enough. We're not here to complicate the human experience; we're here to watch sparks fly.

However, we've watched these sparks before. It's bizarre that Famke Janssen was cast for this movie and put in a costume that calls back to her days as Jean Grey, when the heroic climax of Knights of the Zodiac retreads the ending of X-Men 3, only with less stabbing. This obvious reference is too distracting and detracts from the supposed seriousness of the moment.

On the whole, Knights of the Zodiac is a not-too-bad adaptation, with fight scenes that keep the eyes busy and the mind switched off. It leaves space open for sequels, because of course everything must now, but in its own right, it is just about OK.

Nerd Coefficient: 5/10.

POSTED BY: Arturo Serrano, multiclass Trekkie/Whovian/Moonie/Miraculer, accumulating experience points for still more obsessions.