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When it comes to Tomino, I can see that he has nice ideas, but the execution of those ideas almost always fall flat in his work for one reason or another. This movie is just another example of that.
With this movie it felt like I was watching a series of cobbled together clips rather than an actual movie. Scenes transitioned with little coherence and just gave a feeling of that huge chunks of it was missing.
As for the characters, while Ray and Bright felt like much better characters than in the past, the same can't be said for Char. There is one thing of a character going insane, and then there is this. The sheer stupidity of people even following him and never questioning his plan despite how obviously insane and illogical it is just becomes impossible to swallow. Especially when one considers what I'll mention bellow.
And then there is the ending, oh boy, the ending. Any Willing Suspension of Disbelief I might have had left from everything before completely shattered here. Not only did soldiers suddenly just decide to try and prevent the disaster they where busy causing just moments earlier, but when all hope seems lost a sudden burst of energy burst out and snags the two ends of Axis together and prevents a catastrophe. That would be considered Deus ex Machina bullshit even in a super robot show, and in a real robot show like this one? Do I even have to say it. And after all that it ends just like that without any form of proper conclusion to it all.
Like previously stated, I often can see a silver lining in Tomino's work but they never end up working as well as they could, or if at all.
In many ways, Char's Counterattack strikes me as the Star Trek: Generations of the Gundam franchise. It kills off one of the most memorable characters in anime history (two if you count Amuro), and never manages to seem more than a big-budget episode from the series it spawned from. Which is not to say that Char's Counterattack is a -bad- movie, just that it could have been much better.
Lets start with the bad: Quess. Quess manages to take the absolute worst qualities of Kamille Biden and turn them up to eleven thousand. She's clingy, a sociopath, annoying, a sociopath, stupid, a sociopath, vapid, a sociopath, shallow, and lest we forget; a sociopath. She adds nothing to the story, and her sortie in the Alpha adds nothing to the final battle aside from making Hathaway commit murder after she inevitably dies. The angst she causes Hanai puts me in mind of a woman worried her husband is getting too intimate with a blow-up sex doll, which would likely have made that sub-plot -less- annoying. The other Axis Ace Pilots (to use the term lightly...) exist entirely to be irritating, and their deaths are so sudden and abrupt it feels as if the writing staff were champing at the bit to get rid of them and move on as soon as physically possible.
So what is good about Char's Counterattack? Well, the fight scenes are pretty awesome. The animation is very slick, and only gets better as the movie progresses. Once all the supporting assholes are out of the way, Char and Amuro get an appropriately gritty no-holds-barred Battle Royale that proves beyond doubt which of the two is the superior soldier. The interaction between the two is also the highlight of the movie, perfectly showcasing what made the pair so famous in the first place. Char manages to be both a first-class bastard and inherently sympathetic person at the same time, and it is easy to see why he still has so many people rooting for his side to this day. The irony of the movie is that if he'd stuck to using his intense personal charisma as a weapon instead of sortieing in a mobile suit, he'd likely have charmed people off earth sooner or later anyway.
In conclusion, Char's Counterattack is much like other entries into the Gundam franchise, such as Destiny. If one can manage to look beyond the superficial annoyances, there are gems to be found. They just share a spotlight with the turds.
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