I’m a fan of Saint Seiya (known in LATAM as Los Caballeros del Zodiaco and in the US as Knights of the Zodiac) and, as such, I went to see the latest CGI movie, Legends of the Sanctuary, against all advice.
Because the movie wanted to target a pretty dense storyline (basically 32 half-hour chapters), I knew things were going to be simplified, overlooked or even skimmed; a day or so prior to watching it, I also learned that there were some heavy changes to the original story. Regarding the art direction, I found it interesting and actually was eager to see more of it.
This is an analysis of what’s wrong with this movie.
First of all, the scope. The movie is an hour-and-a-half long, so the story received critical changes in order to fit right in. It skips the first 40 chapters and crams all the initial info in about half an hour. Characters were removed and scenes were altered, but I didn’t find it bothering: I respected (most) of the decisions the development team took (as it was basically their creation, with some advice from the original author). But, while the original series was most of the times a snorefest (fights were stretched to increase running time), the movie just couldn’t find enough time to give each scene the importance it originally had. There’s no character development.
The second, and main, problem is that while it may look like Saint Seiya, it isn’t. One of the common problems when adapting a work from one medium to another is that there’s some loss of fidelity because of the difference between each medium; for example, that’s why most of the times movies based on videogames just don’t cut it. A good adaptation keeps the original essence. You may have a movie that looks just like a Resident Evil game, but if it doesn’t transmits the same feeling or ideas from the original source then it’s nothing more than a failed experiment. An example of a good adaptation (sort of) is what BioShock did with Atlas Shrugged.
Throughout the movie I kept thinking what was the core theme of the series. Saint Seiya is a story about growing stronger because of adversities, friendship and loyalty. Sadly, the movie only portrayed the last one. Due to the restricted time limit, it’s impossible to portray the bonds that fortify the main characters; a bond that requires time to be forged, just like getting stronger through training and obstacles.
With the new origin story, characters only have like a day of knowing each other (and those who did haven’t seen each other since kids). There’s no bond. Also, they just finished their training and were already fighting the mighty gold saints, the best of the best; something that took at least 2 story arcs in the original series and a lot more of time and work.
Regarding loyalty, even though it still power the characters, it’s just void. They were loyal because their creed said so. Loyalty needs time, just like friendship.
You just can’t rewrite the origin story and expect it to be rock-solid. A smarter move would have been to keep the canon; fans could have at least have used their existent bond to fill the gaps and I think the general public is smart enough to understand there was a previous connection between the characters (maybe not with the same effectiveness, but at least it would be better than what we got).
Two scenes that are worth to mention are: the fight against the Cancer saint and the final fight with the Gemini saint.
The first one was a Disney musical with a character that resembled Jack Sparrow and goofed around like Dante (from Devil May Cry); it’s important to highlight that the original Cancer saint was a sadistic killer and not a Mad Hatter.
And the ending was just… wow. It was a mix of the final stage of a Final Fantasy and Resident Evil endboss. Totally unrelated, by a longshot, to anything from the canon.
However all the crapload it may be, I did like some things as a longtime fan. For example, it was modernized; special effects and the setting looked gorgeous (the floating Sanctuary was very cool). I also loved the new design of the characters, specially the gold saints. Perhaps my only disagreement was how the new bronze armors didn’t really reflected their guardian constellations. If the old movies left us with an awesome soundtrack, I think the legacy of this movie is its new fresh air.
I don’t know if the movie is very ambitious or just developed by the wrong people, but it ultimately falls under its own weight. In my opinion, it would have worked better with a remixed story and not a whole new one. Picture it, a great collage of fights whose core theme was the development of why the bonds between the main characters gave them their strength.
The result is that Saint Seiya: Legend of the Sanctuary is a movie that manages to alienate both its fan base and any newcomers or bystanders. What a shame.