North America got one of its first tastes of Japanese Animation with Star Blazers, known in Japan as Space Battleship Yamato, in 1979. The adaptation from the graphic novel was dubbed in English and was among one of first pieces of Japanese animation to hit the western world. Space Battleship Yamato tells the story of humanity’s last hope against an invading alien force called the Gamilas. With the live-action version of this story hitting theaters next month, fans of the series and those wanting a taste of hard sci-fi are in for an adventure.
When ex-military pilot Susumu Kodai leaves his underground shelter to salvage metals on the surface of the radiation-laden planet, he is wounded by a crashing ship and awakens outside of his radiation suit. However, he’s unaffected by the hostile environment and he finds an alien pod by his side.
The pod found with him is picked up by the crew of Captain Juzo Okita’s ship, the last surviving battleship during the biggest altercation with the Gamilas.
The pod contains schematics to a super-weapon and a location far off in space, to a planet called Iskandar. With a government recruitment drive in full swing after this revelation, all civilians capable of serving aboard the newly built ship are brought onboard and prepped for the dangerous journey across space to Iskandar on the newly built battleship, believing that the co-ordinates will lead them to a device that will erase all radiation on earth.
Space Battleship Yamato is written like a classic space opera: action, drama and suspense are on the menu. While the live-action rendition remains somewhat faithful to the original material, some of the characters in the movie felt underdeveloped in comparison to the animated series. Given the time constraints of the film medium, this isn’t entirely surprising.
The film provides a very balanced amount of action and dialogue and sets a very comfortable pace for most of the movie.
On the other hand, the female cast was woefully underutilized, spending most of the movie crying, worried or being all around vulnerable. For a movie released in 2004 (in Japan), this kind of trope doesn’t exactly belong in modern tellings. While it’s true that this remains faithful to the original material, it ends up harming the quality of the movie in the long run, taking it down from something that could have been great, and making it only pretty good.
When it comes to the presentation and sound though, the movie is beyond stellar. The special effects were phenomenal and the space dogfights were action-packed and full of intensity. The score added the right tone to every scene and provided just the right amount of emotions to the high-end acting. Although the movie was not dubbed in English, the tone and expression of the cast speaks leagues for the intensity and drama that the movie conveys.
The movie’s 132 minutes may seem long, but the only sequence that felt tacked on was the final scene before the credits. Running for almost fifteen minutes, it felt like a lot of the dialogue could have been cut and the ending would have been no less dramatic.
Nonetheless, Space Battleship Yamato doesn’t disappoint. While it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, this retelling of an old fan favorite hits all the right chords and despite its flaws, the movie is never uninteresting. It may not move mountains, or be contender for movie of the year, but it’s a competent, enjoyable space opera that’s worth your time.
Space Battleship Yamato will be out in Cineplex theatres on Nov.11.