NOW IN THEATERS! Based on the manga Saint Seiya by Masami Kurumada, director Tomasz Baginski’s Knights of the Zodiac is the latest Big Hollywood entry into the YA Fantasy genre. Mackenyu stars as the orphan Seiya, whose sister, Patricia (Kaylan Teague), was kidnapped by a mysterious villain. Meanwhile, Athena, the goddess of war, has recently been reincarnated into the body of a young teen girl, Sienna (Madison Iseman).
Unfortunately, Sienna’s parents, Alma (Sean Bean) and Vander (Famke Janssen), are split between Vander, who thinks she needs to be destroyed to save the world, and Alma, who believes Athena will do the right thing. A younger Sienna severely injured her mother long ago after experiencing a “cosmo” surge. Now, Vander is searching for Sienna, who Alma has hidden in a secret lair. Helping the search is the Phoenix Knight, Nero (Diego Tinoco), and the sadistic Cassios (Nick Stahl). Alma and Nero have discovered a way of draining people of their “cosmo” powers and instilling them in Vander, giving her god-like power. Their mission is to find Sierra and drain her of all her powers.
Called to protect Sienna is Seiya, who learns he has been endowed as a Pegasus Knight thanks to a mystical pendant. With the help of Alma’s aid, Mylock (Mark Dacascos), Seiya is sent to the mystic home of the masked Marin (Caitlin Hutson), who deems Seiya worthy of training. But can Seiya find a way to unlock the Pegasus Knight’s power and unleash his true destiny?
My biggest problem with Knights of the Zodiac is that it’s a soulless story. We’ve all seen this before in other YA and Disney-channel-like productions. A young teen has a mystical destiny that comes with extraordinary powers, and they have to go on a soul-searching journey or experience trials to unlock their abilities. But, again, it’s all been done before. Now that wouldn’t be the biggest of problems, save that the film is missing any meaningful subtext. Seiya is driven by a need to save his sister and now Sienna. On the other hand, Sienna is a young teen locked up in a castle because her powers (and destiny) are world-endingly dangerous. This is not enough to tell an exciting story, even for teens with questionable taste.
“Called to protect Sienna is Seiya…a Pegasus Knight…”
This lack of an engaging plot means the film becomes a soulless series of adventures and fight sequences with no heart or motivation behind them other than good versus evil. There is a reason Seiya can’t access his powers, but honestly, it’s not deep enough, especially for a character that is meant to carry this film and its potential sequels. It really should be a trait that teens are deeply connected to. Allow me to direct you to Harry Potter.
Everything else about Knights of the Zodiac is fine. Sean Bean does what he does best. Along with Famke Janssen, these veteran actors lend a great deal of gravitas to the cast. I’ve never heard of Mackenyu, but he’s a star in the making. If you judge this film on the level of YA films, it’s a good cast.
The action is also fine. Yes, it’s CG-heavy, but the choreography makes excellent use of wirework and high-speed camera tricks. Again, it is fine, but nothing groundbreaking, which inevitably translates to boring. It’s not enough to bring the pages of a manga to life. You’ve got to find the heart of the story that attracted its fans in the first place. This is where screenwriters Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, and Kiel Murray fail.
In the end, with the multitude of films, movies, and content, fine is not good enough for a multi-million-dollar studio production. Knights of the Zodiac is a good production in terms of its action and cast. But when one focuses so much on the fantasy-action set-pieces, having a soulless story makes all efforts fall flat.
"…fine is not good enough for a multi-million-dollar studio production."