In 2199, the crew of the space battleship Yamato embark on a dangerous journey to the planet Iskandar to acquire a device that will rejuvenate the war-ravaged Earth.In 2199, the crew of the space battleship Yamato embark on a dangerous journey to the planet Iskandar to acquire a device that will rejuvenate the war-ravaged Earth.In 2199, the crew of the space battleship Yamato embark on a dangerous journey to the planet Iskandar to acquire a device that will rejuvenate the war-ravaged Earth.
The source material is given many judicious "updates" which largely made sense to me from a story, if not production, stand-point: e.g. the talking robot "Analyzer" is now a "SIM" module which you can load into other devices and the aliens are now truly "alien" with technology and energy signatures which humans have difficulty detecting or understanding.... And the writing is smart enough to make light of the "old-schooled" stuff they keep-- like their costumes ("we're still wearing this?") and one-liners. In fact, there is so little "fan-service" or "sequel baiting" that non-fans probably won't realize that this is an adaptation of a 1970s TV animation series (using the ORIGINAL music)!
P.S. To anyone who thinks that the characters' reactions to the movie's apocalyptic story is unrealistic (taking time to make decisions, say farewells, mourn/salute the dead)-- just look at how real Japanese people deal with their earthquakes and tsunamis.
Owing to the fact that the Japanese "general movie audience" is not that much larger than the Japanese anime/manga audience, there is no faux issue of "re-imagining" the source material for a "new/larger" audience-- and the writers rise to the monumental task of "condensing" many epic, if episodic, story-arcs (which should have taken a trilogy, if not a series of 7/8 movies) into a single feature film... by focusing on the STORY! In fact, this movie is so tightly structured that the only really unexplained or implausible thing in it is probably all of the actors' great hair... and the secret lies in using sci-fi movie tropes (most of it actually originating from their source material), NOT explaining them-- since no amount of techno-babble will turn a plot device into reality.
Which is where, I believe, this movie will divide audiences into fans and non-fans of the source material (or sci-fi/anime in general)-- a downside of all this emphasis on story is, of course, a relative lack of characterization.... Though thankfully, anime stereotypes have at least one more dimension than their Hollywood counterparts and the casting is mostly SPOT-ON (you who believe skinny anime characters with fluffy hair do not exist in Japan, repent!) And some inevitably heavy narration and exposition which might have been risible were thankfully short, focused and well-delivered-- with a touch of self-awareness (*eye-rolling*) by the characters themselves. And as expected, veteran actors deliver their lines and inhabit their characters without batting an eyelid, while younger cast members are less convincing with their histrionics.
So while this might seem like a pretty generic space adventure to "general audiences"; it is and has always been intended as a treat for the fans. And this movie won me over for the simple fact that, after decades of Star Wars and Star Trek, it could still make me go "WOW..." every time an alien or a space-ship appeared, for all of 3/4 of a second-- because it's not what you have, it's how you use it!
For this is low-budget movie-making by Hollywood standards, so there is absolutely no "pimping" of expensive special effects-- which means that the only time you get to see the aliens/space-ships is when they are actually doing something ESSENTIAL to the plot. And sci-fi fans might also note that they got the relative speeds of capital-ships (bigger = slower) vs fighter-ships, missile-fire, warp-effects (almost instantaneous by comparison) RIGHT-- so there is no such rubbish as waiting for "visual confirmation" (which is meaningless in the vastness of space) or capital-ships "dodging" long-range fire (which would hit almost as soon as they are "detected").
All this means going back to the "bridge battles" of submarine/battleship warfare (this Yamato looks/works more like a submarine with a skeletal crew, than some cruise-boat or flying-city) which rely more on having good scripts/actors than special effects-- and people who don't think this can't be nerve-wrecking should see how they "set-up" the Yamato's SPLIT-SECOND "warp-maneouvers"!
The budgetary limits really start showing up near the end of the movie-- but if the money is lacking, the heart is not: the relatively simple yet distinct special effects design (transforming "2-stage" fighter-ships!) is always a pleasure to behold, even when very tight (or wide) shots are used in order to avoid rendering very expensive details. It may be just a few frames of CGI, but the "impact" will leave you re-playing it in your mind...
The real only disappointment for me, if any, would be how the human and environmental issues (Living with irradiated earth? Leaders making up "white lies"?) ever-present in the best of Japanese anime is left in the background-- as both the challenges and solutions presented in the story are essentially alien-related. I mean, I'm ashamed to admit to one of the more touching moments for me was when "Analyzer" finally took on its robot-form (hey, it had more lines than the "red shirts")....
- Mar 29, 2011