Anime Reporter shares some thoughts on Takashi Yamazaki’s (of Always Sunset on Third Street acclaim) sci-fi blockbuster Space Battleship Yamato, the live-action adaptation of the anime of the same name and Japan’s most expensive film to date at the time of filming.
Alien invaders bent on the devastation of the human race. Earth’s final, desperate gambit for survival. Lasers, explosions and primary-coloured leather jackets. Yamazaki’s live-action adaptation of this truly classic anime series delivers an entertaining take on a story told many times before and it’s difficult not to draw comparisons with Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and, at some moments, a certain trashcan on wheels from a particular galaxy far far away. That said, while the film may not break away from the pack very much in terms of theme or content, the characters are likeable and interesting enough to keep the two plus hour film from dragging its heels too much.
In particular, the protagonist, Kodai (played by Takuya Kimura of Howl’s Moving Castle ) and supporting character Saito (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Ip Man, Karaoke Terror) manage to strike a balance between playful jokers with nice one liners and stoic soldiers staring down death. In fact, most of the crew aboard the eponymous spacecraft are portrayed as fully fledged individuals, with distinct characteristics and occasional glimpses of personal histories for even some of the most briefly encountered crew members. There are some characters however, who feel like missed opportunities, most noticeably Kodai’s computer companion Analyzer (Kenichi Ogata) could perhaps benefit from more dialogue and interaction with others.
As in the anime series of the same name, the crew of the starship Yamato travel across space to find the key to ridding Earth of the alien invaders known as the Gamilas and to cleanse the planet of the radiation threatening the human race following the alien attacks. The characters portrayed in the film all stem from the original series, with a few significant alterations made, most noticeably with the characters of Dr. Sado and Aihara changing genders. The ship and crew retain much of their appearance from the cartoon, with the bright uniforms undergoing an update from 70’s style tracksuits to more militarised jackets and the main character’s hairstyle seeming marvellously out of place on a futuristic military vessel. The film features the theme song Love Lives by Steven Tyler, which feels like something wonderfully in between the theme songs for Armageddon (I don’t Wanna Miss a Thing) and Transformers (1986) (The Touch (You’ve Got The Power)), which might be appropriate as the entire film seems a little like a mixture of the two.
Visually, Yamato is stunning, from the opening battle scene, through to the final credits. Though not without the standard volleys of laser fire and explosions typical of the genre, each one is beautifully rendered with sharp and subtle CGI effects which draw the eye, creating a believable and immersive outer space battleground. The downfall of the special effects can be seen in the alien life forms themselves, when outside of their ships. The movements of the Gamilas are instantly recognisable as something animated in a studio and they clash dramatically when combined with non CGI actors and backdrops. These instances are few, but jarring enough to disappoint in comparison to the otherwise pristine use of special effects.
One major pitfall of the film occurs when it attempts to break from its playful, adventurous roots and turn towards a darker, more dramatic tone. These scenes feel quite laboured and unfortunately drag on for what feels like much longer than is necessary. In addition, there is a somewhat unsatisfying sense of obscurity surrounding the alien villains which tries to pass itself off as cosmic philosophy but actually feels a lot like a villain for villain’s sake. This film works best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s best viewed as what it is; an action blockbuster with a sci-fi twist.
Space Battleship Yamato might not be anything new, but it’s an entertaining package and that’s certainly enough.
Space Battleship Yamato is available on DVD and Blu-Ray Monday 19th Aug 2013. For more information, check out the film’s
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Likeable Characters 7.5
Visual Effects 9.5
Alien Menace 5
72% Good Entertainment “Space Battleship Yamato is an exciting take on the sci-fi genre, with plenty of personality to boot.”