Saturday, May 17, 2014

Movie Review: Space Battleship Yamato

When I was in college, one of my roommates recommended Star Blazers to me knowing of my interest in anime. I had never heard of it, but eventually checked it out and loved it. It was an English dub of the Japanese anime Space Battleship Yamato. There were three 26-episode seasons and several animated movies in the franchise.

Space Battleship Yamato is a 2010 Japanese science fiction, action, adventure, live action film based on the 1974 anime series of the same name. It was recently released in English in a Blu Ray/DVD combo pack as both a dubbed and subtitled movie. It is rated PG-13 and is appropriate for teenagers and up due to language, violence, and death.

The Good

Special Effects. One of the main aspects the trailers and other promotional materials featured were the special effects. They were top notch and impressive, something one doesn't usually expect from live action Japanese productions that are famous for Power Ranger like battles scenes and creatures. The ships felt real, the space battles exciting, and the costumes top quality. The space jumps were well done. The dying Earth looked like they put some thought into it. The aliens were cool, unique, and threatening.

Action. The action was really exciting and intense, albeit a little short and repetitive. But for a Japanese film, it was much better than I was expecting. There were space battles between large ships, dog fights between single-man fighters, hand-to-hand combat, ground battles, and more.

Characters. The characters in the original series had a lot of personality and interaction. The actors cast in this live action adaption did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the originals while still bringing something new to the table and presenting the characters in a way that worked for a live action movie. The acting for the most part was well done. (The captain was a little stodgy and the marine over the top, but not so much it ruined the movie.) The filmmakers devoted sufficient time to the interactions between major characters to really develop them, their back stories, and their relationships so that the viewer knew and cared about each and every one.

Faithfulness / Adaption. This film was a 2+ hour adaption of a 12+ hour anime series, so you know a lot of things had to be cut out. Too often it doesn't turn out well. But not with this movie. The choices made by the filmmakers were brilliant and wise. They selected the essential parts, themes, characters, and scenes from the anime that I didn't feel like I was being cheated out of anything. And they left everything unessential out to keep the story flowing and to avoid confusing nonfans with nonessential tidbits that would only distract from the story. The villains of the story were completely changed, but I wasn't annoyed, because they did it in a clever way that worked for this movie and the story they were telling. They still put in enough nods to the original (like Deslock/Dessler) that fans knew they weren't being shafted or ignored like so many other adaptions have done.

Story. The story was solid, clear, and flowed very linearly without a lot of side trips which really helped to keep the interest. At the same time, they cut the majority of the series out completely instead of trying to cram everything in a make a convoluted mess of the production, which I really appreciated.

The Bad

Japanese movie. This isn't a bad per se, but it is something American audiences will hold against the film. While this movie was much more western in feel and tone than most Japanese films, there is no question this was a Japanese film with a lot of Japanese cultural influences that a western audience would find boring or unnecessary. Some of the pacing and the way character emotions are portrayed may seem slow or strange to someone who doesn't watch a lot of Asian film.

Doctor. I'm not sure why they felt the need to turn the old doctor into a younger female doctor. It made no difference to the story, so why do it?

Captain. The Captain is a pretty cool character in the anime, but he is so reserved and stodgy in this adaption without his bad@$$ dialogue or actions. He could have been better developed and made more interesting, because honestly I didn't care that much when he died, and that should have been one of the most emotional scenes in the movie.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish they hadn't made the ending so final. I won't spoil the ending, but the producers really didn't leave it open to a sequel, at least not with the same cast. You could easily adapt the other two series or any of the movies and make a whole series of movies.


Overall I thought this was a really entertaining movie with great visuals, a strong story,  enough content from the original anime to satisfy fans, but wasn't dependent on having any knowledge of the original series to enjoy so nonfans could enjoy it as well. For anyone who likes a good action flick, special effects flick, space opera flick, or science fiction flick, I'd highly recommend you pick this movie up. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

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