July 30, 2011

Space Battleship Yamato Live Action Movie

I don't think it's possible to be an anime fan of my generation and not be at least a little familiar with Space Battleship Yamato or its bastardized American version Star Blazers.  While I've never been a fan, growing up I certainly saw a few episodes of one or the other.  However, I understand that it's hugely popular in Japan, and to a certain extent, here as well.  Back in January of 2010, a teaser was released for a live action movie version of Space Battleship Yamato to great fanfare.  When the movie itself was released, it outgrossed the second-to-last Harry Potter film in Japan.  It was released on Blu-Ray a little over a month ago.  Yesterday, it hit the torrent sites.

In some ways, I'm not the person who should be reviewing this film.  After all, as I mentioned before I was never a fan of the original anime series.  I can't stand up and say "Oh, that targeting unit is in the wrong place, RAGE HAET ARRRRRRRGH!"  In other ways, however, I'm perfect... because I can't stand up and say "Oh, that targeting unit is in the wrong place."  I can just sit back and enjoy the movie as a movie, and criticize it fairly.  But I DO know enough about the series that I've got a sense of what it's trying to represent.  And how does it translate to the big screen?

Pretty well, actually. 

Space Battleship Yamato
the movie (hereafter known as SBY) apparently follows the story of the first anime series with elements of the second thrown in as well.  Short version: the Earth is at war with the Gamilas and losing badly.  The surface of our world has been pulverized by "meteorite bombs," and the surviving remnants of humanity have moved underground.  The Earth Defense Force is nigh-on powerless to stop the attacks.  Using alien technology, Earth's last hope is to send the Yamato to the far-off planet of Iskandar.  There a device that will reinvigorate the planet's surface is waiting.  But the Yamato has to fight through fleets of Gamilas ships to get there.  Fortunately, part of the alien technology discovered is the Wave Motion Gun, able to destroy entire fleets with a single shot.  Action aplenty ensues, the good guys find the device and return to Earth.  The end.

In other words, standard science-fiction plot #35.  The question is, is it standard because of the source material, or was it a standard even before that?  Either way, SBY isn't trying to be particularly deep.  The production staff knew it'd have a horde of rabid fanboys screaming for their blood if there were much in the way of changes made, so I gather they didn't make many... right down to the uniform worn by Captain Okita (above), an image so iconic even I recognized it as being authentic to the source material.

 Our primary characters, Susumu Kodai (right) and Yuki Mori (left), have something of a past.  He was one of the great fighter pilots, but left the military after something went terribly wrong.  She was in his squadron briefly, and became an ace of high standing after he left.  He's come back for this all-important mission, and of course sparks fly.  He's named Acting Captain of the Yamato when Okita falls ill unto death, and is in charge during the climactic battles... but at what cost?

 I've got to admit that I enjoyed the movie, even though the plot is somewhat hackneyed and some of the characters are rather cardboard.  There's a wild, hardbitten marine who loves his mother, the slightly spacy doctor, a chief engineer who's gruff and dwarflike, Kodai is a "bad boy" who discovers honor, yadda yadda yadda.  We've seen them before in movies, and we'll probably see them again.  The budget on the film was surprisingly low: $22million.  Despite that, the movie looks great.  Sets are believable, costumes are acceptable, and great googly moogly are there a lot of special effects.  About half the movie is SFX.  If you've watched the TV show Firefly or the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, the effects are about the same quality.  In fact, the whole movie reminds me a bit of BSG, though the Yamato is less dirty. 

And what of the Yamato herself?  Surprisingly, there are few glamour shots of the ship in this film.

There are a ton of fast passes where everything is motion-blurred to heck and back, but not a lot of flybys where you get a good look at the titular ship.  $22million can only get you so much, I guess.

You never get a sense that the Yamato is a real object, however.  Perhaps that's a function of seeing a 1940s era battleship in orbit around the planet Jupiter, for example... a place 1940s era battleships shouldn't be.  Having said that, SBY looks good on the whole, particularly the scenes in Iskandar, all of which are spoilers so I won't show and shots from it. 

SBY was filmed in movie widescreen-o-vision, not the usual 640x360 aspect ratio... I've edited the screencaps to get a better look at things.  Here's what the aspect ratio looks like normally:

All in all, an entertaining, fun way to spend a couple of hours.  It was a lot better than I expected, to tell the truth.  If you go into it expecting art, you'll be disappointed.  Diehard fans of the original series might be disappointed.  But if you watch it as what it is, a sci-fi action film that just happens to have a ton of backstory to it, you'll come out of the experience entertained.  And what more could you ask for? 

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:22 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 948 words, total size 7 kb.

1 But more importantly, what effect would this Yamato have made in the Battle of Leyte Gulf?  Could the new space-weapons even be employed against targets on the surface of a planet?

Posted by: Siergen at July 31, 2011 05:51 PM (Za5nM)

Could the new space-weapons even be employed against targets on the surface of a planet?

Yes..however in the series they learned to their astonishment that the Wave Motion Gun destroys not only targets on the surface of a planet, but the attached planet as well. After the ship accidentally burninated a planetesimal with a thriving ecosystem the first time they fired it in anger, they decided to never use it on any planet with an ecosystem...a policy they violated only once out of desperation.

But more importantly, what effect would this Yamato have made in the Battle of Leyte Gulf? 
Blown up the planet thus ending the war.

Posted by: brickmuppet at July 31, 2011 08:11 PM (EJaOX)

3 The SB Yamato does have more weaponry than the Wave Motion Gun... she's got her main battery of energy cannon, and a large secondary battery of smaller energy guns.  In theory, she could use them against seaborne threats.  It would be difficult, as it's clearly shown that the ship does NOT have momentum dampers built in. 

We don't know that this version of the Yamato can't float, but its guns only fire in a straight line now.  That'd mean it'd have to fly, but it'd also have to lean over to give her guns firing arcs... thereby dumping everybody either to starboard or port (depending).  Hard to fight with the ship listing like that.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 31, 2011 10:33 PM (KBBJ+)

4 I will always be loyal to this movie
I want this film aired again in Indonesia.
if the film is played back in Indonesia.
I will continue to be faithful to the movie.
accepted the love spache battleship yamato

Posted by: andika pond at August 26, 2012 05:09 AM (nVg5O)

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