Newcomers and longtime fans alike will scratch their heads at what exactly the conflict is in Gundam: Hathaway, or why they should care.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway, which now airs exclusively on Netflix.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway has finally returned attention to both the universal century timeline and the Gundam franchise as a whole. Surpassing the box office success of the best-known film in the series, Hathaway has found a home in the West thanks to Netflix. Unfortunately, he is not as successful in the storytelling department.
Gundam: Hathaway You struggle to establish your main conflict, which makes it a confusing affair, to say the least. Although it features the franchise’s trademark focus on philosophical and political ideas and ideals, the failure to explain exactly what they’re concerned about makes the movie feel empty.
Based on the Hathaway Flash novels from the 1980s, Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway is the sequel to the legendary anime movie Char’s counterattack. Picking up several years after that movie, it focuses on the now-grown Hathaway Noa, posing as Navue Erin, the leader of the terrorist organization Mafty. This anti-Federation group shares many of the same ideals as Char, seeking to destroy much of humanity for its perceived evils.
This change of mind for Hathaway is likely due to the death of Quess Paraya, just as Char’s return to villainy was the result of the loss of various friends and allies after having done it with Lalah Sune. Where the turning of Char’s heel was already somewhat questionable and left unexplained to some extent, despite being such an important narrative event, Hathaway’s role as Mafty’s leader is even worse explained.
Outside of the one tragedy in Hathaway’s life, why he founded Mafty is never explained. The presence of a beautiful girl who is apparently a Newtype leads him to question his crusade, but this only goes to show how little his convictions are explained in advance. This makes Hathaway seem extremely mean at times, not unlike the worst parts of Kylo Ren.
It’s bad enough that the main character’s motivations are so ill-defined, but the film apparently hopes that viewers will only learn about the core conflicts in the world of Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway. One of the main reasons in the books for Mafty’s opposition to the Federation has to do with his treatment of the former space colony and members of Zeon. Now living on Earth, these characters were marginalized and treated like second-class citizens, constantly harassed and even deported by the police.
The movie gives an idea of this, but it never emphasizes it properly. Hearing the plight of an ordinary Filipino man has an effect on Hathaway, but the movie should have had more moments like this to show that this is why Mafty fights the Federation. All of this results in a movie where CGI Gundam battles have nothing at stake because no one really knows what the characters are fighting for. This lack of explanation and substance is remarkable even to the most staunch. Gundam fans, so those without much knowledge of the franchise will be completely lost.
Even those who have looked Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy and Char’s counterattack it will be lost a bit as there is simply too much critical material missing from the film. Hopefully, the next two entries in the planned movie trilogy will fix these issues for stronger storytelling.
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