Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway review – big-robot action on a human scale
This review of Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway is spoiler-free.
Based on a series of novels nearly three decades old, which were themselves sequels to the climactic Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack from 1988, which was itself the ostensible culmination of the densely convoluted and longstanding Gundam franchise, Shûkô Murase’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway, now streaming on Netflix, is not what you’d call accessible. Which isn’t as much of a problem as you might think. Anyone who is checking out a Gundam film at this point, on a streaming platform or anywhere else, will likely have at least a cursory knowledge of the lore and worldbuilding that informs the first part of this planned trilogy. Anyone who stumbles in unawares will likely find themselves too lost and confused to continue and won’t be looking up a review anyway.
Set 12-or-so years after Char’s Counterattack, this latest film finds the Federation having become a complacent entity allowing poor people to shipped off to the colonies and the wealthy elites to buy up property and resources on Earth. That massive wealth disparity has incensed the populace and led to the emergence of a terrorist organization known as Mafty, whose primary MO is assassinating high-ranking, supposedly corrupt Federation officials.
This all feels oddly topical given the age of the source material. The titular Hathaway Noa, son of Bright Noa, is introduced while thwarting one of Mafty’s attacks on a flight from space to Hong Kong and being gussied up by the Federation in thanks. But Hathaway is dealing with a complicated past and a more complex relationship with Mafty than it first appears, so he’s drawn into an escalating conflict between the organization and the Federation, who’re determined to find its leader, Mafty Erin.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway keeps a surprisingly human scale in its approach. In its early going, the overlooked civilian population are all but trampled by the activated mobile suits, and it’s from that ground-level-looking-up perspective that a lot of this action takes place. It’s a smart idea, that, and works towards getting across how utterly gargantuan and deadly these machines are supposed to be. Of course, this being a Gundam story, there is a battle between towering mobile suits, this time the experimental prototype Penelope and Mafty’s Xi Gundam, but it comes late enough that it really feels earned.
Naturally, visual and sound design are both top-notch. The action has obvious weight and kineticism, and nothing seems to have been lost after several delays. Nothing looks or sounds dated, and even the plot retains a nice topicality, despite the first part adhering closely to the source material. Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway will be a treat for fans, no doubt, and it’s highly likely that fans will be the only people watching it.