Knights of the Zodiac 2023 Movie Review
It is oddly dark, both in the art direction and in the color balance (be prepared for many, many pitch black scenes). Contrary to some criticisms I’ve read, the modern setting is in line with how Saint Seiya starts (with they literally fighting live on TV, and later on being shot by guns), but the show overdoes it by having futuristic aircraft that the main character jokingly refers as spaceship-looking. The main plot heavily relies on the use of technology derived from the armors, which could make for an interesting premise for a movie; instead, it ignores the magitech battle which is the forefront struggle of the movie and treats it as a background for character motivation. This is bad because the entire sequences of events in this movie have no weight in on themselves – we are shown an incredibly futuristic world powered by a mix of magic and technology, but since that’s not relevant for (presumably) the plot of the next movie and has no connection whatsoever with the series, we are exposed to a grimdark world that has nothing to do with the anime and does not take itself seriously as well.
This feels like the go-to artistic decision of lazy anime/game movie adaptations when the main concern is “at least it will look serious”. Everything is grey, dull, and joyless. Some scenes look like stills from Blade Runner or Dark City except there’s no plot and just as quickly as they’re shown, they’re gone.
There’s no soundtrack to speak of, in an adaptation of an anime with an incredible OST – at times, Pegasus’ original theme plays and that’s it. I know comparing this movie to John Wick is criminal, but since Knights of the Zodiac tries so hard to have martial arts mixed with a grimy underworld setting, the lack of music in this movie almost feels insecure. It feels like they don’t want to accidentally make a scene good. Some scenes have an odd slo-mo that could work with a surrealistic soundtrack like Dredd had, or Think by Kaleida like John Wick 1 had, but those things would add some flavor to this movie, and that is forbidden here.
The villain dresses like a caricature, down to wearing a black cloak. Given she sees herself as doing the right thing, it’s ironically cartoonish how the villain is coded as a ruthless rich psychopath, with an arc conclusion that is weak and disappointing.
For a movie that reduces the original’s plot in so many ways, there’s very little happening in 90 minutes. There are no emotional beats where there should be. Like I said, it’s almost like the moviemakers were scared of making good scenes by accident.
The Ugly: This is yet another horrible, failed adaptation of this manga, and it baffles me how everyone keeps failing at it instead of just following a very simple rule: Copy the original. It was successful, isn’t that why we’re making an adaptation? The argument that this is for a new target demographic doesn’t work here: Not only is Saint Seiya no Naruto in terms of still having appeal to younger demographics, pretty much everyone in Latin America who grew up with it wants to see, well, it. Not a weird simulacrum. There’s no target demographic for this movie other than the people who will watch it because of fans going to watch it because they’re fans, and the movie itself, taken as a self-contained movie, is poor to mediocre at best.
There’s no ensemble cast like the original (and movies with ensemble cast work just fine), time is dedicated to odd C-Plots including one of extreme poor taste that doesn’t go anywhere. The armors having closed helm is a nitpick but an extremely weird design choice. The story is clearly made to fit around three beats of the manga – the protagonist’s motivation, Athena, and setting up the villain of the first arc. If this movie was not about Saint Seiya, it could almost work, but it doesn’t. The movie treats itself as a prequel to a movie that might never be made.
Speaking of which, this movie covers an embarrassingly small amount of the source material, and if you know nothing about Saint Seiya, imagine if the first Lord of the Rings ended with Frodo finally leaving the Shire after many new shenanigans, and you wondering if they’ll ever even introduce Sam. Again, all of this would be easier to swallow if the movie took its plot seriously and gave it flavor and emotional beats, but it instead treats itself as a prequel, and it treats its plot and characters as disposable.
Ultimately the end result is sterile, the CGI looks terrible, the script is bad but not even funny bad, the fights are not entertaining (in fact, they’re easily the worst part of the movie). They have neither a good choreography nor a good emotional beat. While I praised this movie for at least being watchable if you’re forced to, it’s too boring and not even funny bad in an interesting way. There’s none of the weird choices that might entice one to watch, say, 2010’s The Last Airbender. Unless one’s nostalgia is so sky high or they just like everything from the franchise, this movie is, ultimately, not worth watching.