Space Battleship Yamato * * *

Genre: Sci-Fi

Director: Takashi Yamazaki

Writer: Shimako Sato, based on the anime TV series Space Battleship Yamato by Leiji Matsumoto and Yoshinobu Nishizaki

Cast: Takuya Kimura, Meisa Kuroki, Hiroyuko Ikeuchi

Running Length: 137 minutes

Synopsis: It is the year 2194. The Gamilas, an enemy of undetermined form, begin an invasion of Earth. The nations of Earth pool their forces and fight back, but their armies are defeated and most of humanity wiped out.

Five years later, in 2199, space-to-planet bombs have polluted the Earth, and those who remain alive have fled underground. Even former top pilot, Susumu Kodai (Takuya Kimura), has left the military. However, a communication capsule from the far off planet of Iskandar seems to bring hope for Earth. The Defense Force of Earth equips the Space Battleship Yamato with a previously unknown propulsion system, a ‘wave-motion engine’ based on plans found in the capsule. Kodai rejoins the Force, and becomes part of the crew aboard the Yamato. With the fate of the Earth in their hands, the crew blasts off for Iskandar.

Review: If you’re of a certain age group, Space Battleship Yamato (also known as Star Blazers) would probably be part of your childhood memory. This live action “remake” of Space Battleship Yamato has made it to local theatres about three months since its debut in Japan, and whilst there are some niggling flaws, it remains a generally entertaining space opera, very reminiscent of the Star Trek film franchise, especially the reboot in 2009.

From Takuya Kimura’s involvement in the movie to the very respectable special effects in the film, it’s clear to see that a lot of effort (and money) has gone into the making of Space Battleship Yamato. There are some very impressive action set pieces, and the CGI is top notch, almost as good as first-tier American sci-fi productions. Even the end credits song is done by Steve Tyler, echoing the iconic song in Armageddon which was performed by Aerosmith. 

Unfortunately, the actors in Space Battleship Yamato are a bit too prone to hamming it up, and because of the rather melodramatic plot, some of the scenes end up being unintentionally funny. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since one doesn’t come to such a film expecting deep character portrayals, but some of the more potentially poignant moments are really undone by the cheesy acting.

Space Battleship Yamato is also guilty of trying to cram too much into its already-long running time. One particularly noteworthy offender is the romantic subplot, which really stuck out like a sore thumb and never felt like it was well integrated into the rest of the movie. Also, for such a long movie, Space Battleship Yamato still gives short shrift to many characters and their backstories, and the opening reel is particularly confusing because most of the characters aren’t properly introduced till later on. The reason for rushing through these subplots and expositions? Too many action sequences for its own good, which eventually wear out their welcome.

Despite all these imperfections, Space Battleship Yamato works well in the context of a guilty pleasure. It’s corny and cheesy like the original Star Trek series, updated with action set pieces that are closer to the 2009 JJ Abrams reboot, and ends up being somewhere in between, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. Part of why I found the movie enjoyable was the nostalgia factor, so for audiences who are not acquainted with the original anime are likely to find the film toeing closer to mediocrity. 

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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