These days it seems you can’t move for remakes of old stuff. Hollywood hasn’t had an original idea in years, relying on a constant stream of rehashes and adaptations of old properties, which, more often than not, just don’t hold a candle to the old ones. The anime industry is also guilty of running down this slippery slope head-first, and this live-action adaptation of the original giant robot series is the latest addition to the pile.
With any remake, the first thing you look at is how faithful it is to the original. In this respect, Tetsujin 28 fares rather well. The basic premise of a boy inheriting a giant remote-controlled robot to fight crime and such hasn’t changed (in this case it’s a mad scientist bent on tearing down Tokyo with his own giant robot and building a new utopia in its place), Tetsujin’s design has barely been touched, and some of the characters look exactly as you’d expect them to (Shotaro wears the right school uniform, and Chief Otsuka has the right hat, hair and mustache). Of course, concessions have been made here and there – the setting has been moved to modern-day Tokyo, the remote-control has been redesigned and looks a bit more practical, and there are a few additions to the cast roster to even things out a bit – but it still very much captures the Tetsujin spirit.
As with the other recent remake of Tetsujin, the focus here is on the drama. Characters talk dramatically, act dramatically, and look dramatically at each other. There’re long dramatic shots of the characters, dramatic pauses in action and speech. Even the weather is dramatic. The movie takes itself very seriously, and wants you to too. Which is fine – until the giant robots start fighting.
You see, despite both Tetsujin 28 and evil robot Black Ox possessing the strength to knock down large buildings with ease, all this power disappears when it comes to actually using it on each other. A typical example; Tetusjin punches Black Ox, the camera shakes a bit, Black Ox sways back an inch. Black Ox punches Tetsujin, the camera shakes a bit, Tetsujin sways back an inch. That’s it. The fights are laughable, little more than gargantuan shoving matches that are stripped of any of the power these machines are supposedly capable of, with Shotaro’s ineptness for the controls hardly helping matters. The fights in Power Rangers are more convincing.
Even despite its faults, it does make for an enjoyable movie – provided you realise that this is very much a family film, intended to be watched by youngsters as well as Tetusjin veterans. Sure, it’s cheesy and predictable as hell, and sometimes the story can drag on a bit, but it’s fine for a bit of harmless fun. Although the other recent remake -the anime version- is better, this is certainly worth a look for new converts.