Here's the review of the 2010 live action adapation of the animated series called Space Cruiser Yamato in it's home of origin - Japan and better know in the west as Starblazers - Voyage To Iskandar, the film called Space Battleship Yamato!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Takuya Kimura as Susumu Kodai
Meisa Kuroki as Yuki Mori, Black Tiger Squadron ace pilot
Space Battleship Yamato
I first must admit that I was both looking forward to this film and not. I've been a long time fan of the franchise, both in its North American incarnation as Starblazers and the original as Space Cruiser Yamato. I was pumped to see a live action remake/re-imagining when I found out about it. I was, however, also a bit fearful of a disappointing film that could have not lived up to my preferences for it.
This 2010 Japanese film was largely based on the original animated television series called Space Cruiser Yamato, better know as Starblazers - Voyage To Iskandar in the West, plus the encapsulating film of the same name. Blended into the film were elements and scenes from the second film in the animated franchise Farewell Space Cruiser Yamato, aka Arrivederci Yamato. That film itself was the basis for the second series, called simply Space Cruiser Yamato II in Japan and Starblazers - The Comet Empire in the West. In Japan the franchise is held much as Star Trek is in the West. There Yamato is a nationally-themed saga that describes the human spirit in conflict with others and itself.
In the year 2194, Earth is bombarded with meteorites and planet bombs sent from an unseen alien race, called the Gamalis by humanity. Five years later, the Earth is a radioactive wasteland with the remnants of humanity living in subterranean cities of squalor. Humanity is left with only a handful of years at best as the Gamalis continue their unrelenting attacks. In 2199, the last fleet of humanity's space warships engage a fleet of Gamalis ships orbiting Mars in one last hope to change the tides of fate....
I'll get to the meat of it all. If you are a fan of the franchise, either Starblazers or Yamato, this is a must-see. If you are a fan of sci-fi adventure and action then this is for you too. You want a time killer with lots of SFX? This is it. While I watched the film, I found myself recalling and contrasting with more recent popular remake/re-imagined sci-fi franchises, such as Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. Some, such as Analyzer aka IQ9, were amazingly re-imagined, and the Gamalis themselves were heavily altered from their original form. Even some of the cast had gender changes, such as Dr. Sado aka Dr. Sane. No longer a man with a cat and bottle of sake (aka "spring water") in tow, now the doctor is a woman (but still with a cat and bottle of "spring water" in tow). Other changes included Yuki, aka Nova, going from being a RADAR operator to the squadron leader of the Black Tigers. Something very similar and just as successful a change with Starbuck. Some of the relationships have been changed, but this is for the betterment of the film. The most important elements of the Kodai/Wildstar relationship with Akito, aka Avatar, are intact, as is the very important romance of Kodai/Wildstar with Yuki/Nova.
The sets were changed, yet still reminiscent of the classic look while providing a more realistic sense, much like Battlestar Galactica and the Stargate franchises did with their own. It seemed everything fit in the ship. The only element that remained unchanged was the music, and this helped make so many scenes work with that familiarity so wanted by any fan. The SFX were on par with any North American or European show now in production, not to mention many another movie out there. The Yamato, aka Argo, looked just as it did in the animation but with the expected extra details available with CG. It was gorgeous and with the music, brought all the nostalgia together perfectly while providing something fresh. The battle scenes were good and easy to follow. The major firefight slobber knockers of the animation was still here, with fighter craft scenes that rival anything out there now that hasn't had Star Wars as its title.
The film is ultimately a very dark one, especially with the addition of the Farewell Yamato scenes, the last of which I think was unintentionally reminiscent of Star Trek. Mind you, the animation predates that movie, so it's more than forgivable. The old plot motive is still there but due to the re-imagining, now works smoothly and the extra added plot twist thrown in is a good one.
It's a film worth checking out at any of the festivals that are bound to AND should carry it. It really deserves to be released in the West as it's just as good as so many films that do come out, and better than many of them. Pity it was only a one shot film, but it helped make it work that much more. Its $23 million budget, a small amount for an American film, shows it was a major film for Japan with that price tag.
One last thing, do not run away once the credits begin to roll and Steven Tyler begins to croon. You'll miss a great payoff to all the darkness in the film.
Review by: Cat-Scratch