|Screenplay By||Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Kiel Murray|
|Based On||“Saint Seiya” manga|
|Date Released (In Theaters)||May 12, 2023|
|Genre(s)||Action, Adventure, Fantasy|
|Duration||1 hr, 52 mins|
|Sienna / Athena||Madison Iseman|
|Nero the Phoenix Knight||Diego Tinoco|
|Alman Kiddo||Sean Bean|
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Saint Seiya is huge in Japan and much of Latin America. The manga and anime series follow knights with special powers as they swear to protect the reincarnation of the goddess Athena and where there’s an audience for anime, there’s a movie studio ready to butcher it for profit.
I watched this movie knowing only what I wrote above. Live-action adaptations of anime are in the difficult position of pleasing their loyal fanbase while introducing the premise to newcomers, all while transitioning the visual language to a live-action format. Anime adaptations rarely succeed, and “Knights of the Zodiac” is no exception.
The movie, “Knights of the Zodiac,” has the same concept as the series: a street orphan named Seiya (Mackenyu) fights his way through life while searching for his sister. Seiya discovers he must also protect Sienna (Madison Iseman), a young woman who’s the reincarnation of Athena.
Seiya trains for a long portion of the movie, where Alman (Sean Bean) attempts to guide him and explains his nemesis, Guraad (Famke Janssen), attempts to use him. Both believe the goddess Athena can be a terrifying weapon and foe.
By the end, the movie falls victim to a headache-stirring swirl of CGI as Sienna becomes drunk with power and threatens to destroy life as we know it. Yet Seiya calms her through the power of love, and the two unite to potentially continue the search for Seiya’s sister.
“Knights of the Zodiac” feels strangely dated, like an early 2000s music video or the ill-fated “Dragonball” adaptation. Its production seemed strained and laborious, and based on the fact that it took five years to make from its initial greenlight, I suspect studio meddling in the story. By trying to set up a franchise, “Knights of the Zodiac” fails to tell a simple story or why the viewer should invest in it.
Things To Note
Why Is “Knights of the Zodiac” Rated PG-13
- Dialogue: Little profanity
- Violence: Bone-crunching fights with apocalyptic peril. Violence is the main reason for its PG-13 rating.
- Sexual Content: A shirtless Mackenyu is sure to please fans, but it’s harmless
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
A street-savvy orphan whose one mission is to find his sister. Unfortunately for Seiya, he learns he embodies an ancient “Cosmo” power and falls in love along the way.
An antagonist with powerful forces who wishes to take Sienna away.
Sienna’s father and protector, who believes Seiya has the capability to watch over his daughter.
Nero the Phoenix Knight
A parallel to Seiya’s Pegasus Knight and a more brutal and disillusioned soldier of Guraad’s.
A young woman who feels trapped and is fighting for her own body as the goddess Athena threatens to overpower her.
Our Rating: Negative (Acquired Taste)
Cool Colors and Great Fight Choreography Make a Refreshing Action Movie
“Knights of the Zodiac” is at its most exciting and agile in the first 30 minutes. The fight scenes and city landscape glow in neon colors with camera movements that flip, spin, and swing between the fighters as if we’re there too. Mackenyu reportedly did much of his own stunts, and the difference shows compared to most CGI blockbuster movies.
Characters Used to Say Clunky Exposition
Most actors in “Knights of the Zodiac” don’t get a chance to act and instead merely serve as plot exposition. Guraad, Alman, and Sienna patiently explain to Seiya the terminology and mythology of the universe without taking time to develop their relationships. Worse yet, they’re being thrown into a CGI fight when they’re not explaining some mythical force.
CGI Headache as a Finale
Unfortunately, while the initial fight choreography and training provide glimpses of a more interesting action movie, the movie dooms itself to a muddled special effects fight at the end. While the beginning veered away from a Marvel movie, the end feels like a pale imitation of one.
Exposition Never Explains the Why of a Situation
Why does Athena embody Sienna? What does Athena want? How did Seiya become so skilled? While some questions can understandably remain a mystery, the film seems to rely heavily on the magical “cosmo” to answer any question, but by refusing to answer the “why” of it all, the viewer never feels anything is truly at peril.