Trending in China
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more

The makers of Gundam say their hero won’t be a typical Hollywood muscle guy like The Rock

Fans worry that the live-action Mobile Suit Gundam film will be Americanized

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

It feels like Dwayne Johnson is in every film nowadays. But there’s one movie The Rock can’t star in.

The makers of Mobile Suit Gundam, Sunrise, came out to reassure concerned fans that the upcoming live-action movie wouldn’t be led by some “typical Hollywood muscle guy” or bastardized to serve an American audience.


Let’s take a step back here. Earlier this month, Legendary -- the studio that made Pacific Rim -- dropped a bomb by saying that a live-action Gundam movie is in the works.  
If you don’t know what Gundam is, it’s a 39-year-old Japanese anime, which is basically the Star Wars of the East. Forget the X-Wing or USS Enterprise, boys in Asia grow up wanting to pilot a Gundam, a lightsaber-wielding, samurai-looking robot that stands 65 feet tall.
A life-size statue of the classic Gundam RX78-2 debuted in Tokyo in 2012. (Picture: AFP)
But Legendary’s announcement quickly sparked both excitement and fear. The concern was obvious -- Hollywood has a track record of whitewashing anime hits, and the movies all end up in shambles.
Remember the white Goku from the Dragon Ball Z movie? Or Scarlett Johansson playing an Asian robot in Ghost in the Shell last year? Or the Netflix adaptation of Death Note this year?

Marvel, watch out: A Captain China movie might be on the way

To dispel those raging concerns, Sunrise came out and said this Gundam movie won’t be Americanized… because that would disrespect the creator of the franchise.  

“We are collaborating with Legendary in making this movie rather than simply licensing them for the production,” said Yasuo Miyagawa, president of Sunrise.

Miyagawa then promised that the lead actor for the movie wouldn’t be some clichéd Hollywood jock.

“If the main character becomes some muscle guy, even if he pilots a Gundam, the movie will no longer resemble the plot of a legitimate Gundam story,” he said. “We want to keep it as close to the original as possible.”

Gundam stories often feature some whiny teenager as the protagonist. (Picture: Sunrise)
Though to be fair, Gundam has one advantage with its Hollywood adaptation. Given that the protagonists of many existing Gundam titles are white or mixed-race, the casting of Gundam is unlikely to attract as much racial controversy as with other anime.
A live-action Gundam movie felt inevitable ever since China’s Wanda acquired Legendary back in 2016. The two Pacific Rim movies both scored big in China, and fans have been asking for a Gundam movie since the acquisition.
And if you haven’t already guessed... I’m one of those fans. When Gundam made an epic cameo appearance in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One in March, I sat on the edge of my seat and literally screamed in the theatre, along with many other moviegoers here in Hong Kong.

China reinvents the King of Fighters


For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.