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Heavy Gear: The Dragon’s Shadow & Battle for the Badlands (2001) – DVD Review

heavy gear volume 1 dvd cover
heavy gear volume 2 dvd cover


Written by: Brooks Wachtel
Character Design by: Fil Barlow
Developed by Richard Raynis
Starring the Voices of Lukas Haas, Greg Ellis, Charles Shaughnessy, Vanessa Williams, David DeLuise


  • Theatrical trailer
  • Technical Commentary
  • Conceptual Art Galleries

Released by: Sony Pictures
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: Yes. 1.78:1 widescreen

My Advice: Skip it.

[ad#longpost]Following up on the success of their Starship Troopers adaptation, the creators of Roughnecks bring us Heavy Gear, a new CGI-animated series based on the video game series of the same name. You heard me. Video games. And we all know what that means. You don’t have to go far to find more than ample evidence that video game-to-film translations have nearly universally sucked arse. While this series is no Super Mario Brothers, it still isn’t set to shatter everyone’s preconceptions about porting game hits to the screen, big or small.

The series follows (for the most part) the exploits of one Marcus Rover (Haas), a teen mechanic whiz living in the middle of a blasted wasteland on the planet of Terra Nova. His only real ambition: become a Gear pilot, and entertain millions in the Gear Arena in high-tech, high-firepower gladiatorial combat in immense mechanized armor battles. So, perhaps a bit predictably, he “accidentally” ends up strutting his Gear-driving stuff in a broadcast match, and becomes the de facto rookie of the squad after acquitting himself admirably. Big shock there.

The Shadow Dragons (good guys) are always looking for better pilots, in order to gain an edge over their arch-foes, the Vanguard of Justice (try not to snicker, please). The two sides are representative of a long-running civil war that seems to have petered out into little more than Monday Night Football with giant robots. A little perplexing, but whatever. So the Dragons are glad to have Marcus along, though there are the necessary prejudices against a kid joining the esteemed ranks. And he even gets his very own Gear, as his hero and idol conveniently retires about the time the first episode ends. Lucky Marcus. Someone please shoot the cheezy announcer guy in the face with a rocket launcher. Please.

heavy gear gladiator

While there are holes in this fictional world big enough to walk a mecha through, the most serious problem is in the individual episodes. Stories are virtually non-existent. Essentially, there’s some lame pretense at a plot that is nothing more than a (very) thinly-veiled excuse to throw some Gears at each other and have at it. This would be entertaining if all the Gear battles didn’t look EXACTLY THE SAME. Not that they’re re-using animation, nothing like that. Just nothing exciting going on. No new tricks, no new enemies. The same half-dozen Dragons fighting the same half-dozen members of the Vanguard over and over. And over. And over again. It gets pretty repetitive, if you hadn’t gathered.

heavy gear pilot

So Robotech it ain’t. Nor does it hold a candle to the aforementioned Roughnecks series brought to you by the same creative team. If you like big robots smashing the crap out of each other, you might enjoy it, but only if you have pretty low requirements for your robot-crushing entertainment. I’d love to see these guys turn their CGI talents loose on a mecha series with some depth, like a Gundam series. With the addition of characters that you can care about and a story that goes somewhere, the CGI giant robots would definitely be worth watching. Heavy Gear is pretty, but that’s about as far as it goes.

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