Space Battleship Yamato | ヤマト

Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, drama, adaptation

Director/s: Takashi Yamazaki

Running Time: 131 mins

Budget: $23.9 million

Released: 1 December 2010

Plot:

The crew of the space battleship Yamato set out on a journey to the planet Iscandar to acquire a device that can heal the ravaged Earth – imdb

Review:

I’ve decided to make this the first in a series of Asian film reviews over the next few weeks, just to spice things up a little due to the fact that the majority of my film reviews focus on the American film industry (though that’s not to say I won’t review any American stuff in-between), and I’m interested to see what our Eastern counterparts have been up to.  As it stands, I intend on reviewing a yet-to-be determined number of films both old and new, some of which are adaptations of popular manga or animes (like this review) and some being original stories.  So without further ado, I present to you – Space Battleship Yamato.

Based upon the 1974 anime series of the same name, Space Battleship Yamato – also known to English-speaking audiences as Space Cruiser Yamato (the original English dub being heavily edited) and Star Blazers in North America and Australia, is a live-action adaptation that has been in development since 2005.  On July 17, 2009, Noboru Ishiguro – director and staff member of the original anime series confirmed the film’s development at Otacon with an expected release date around December, 2010.

Right from the onset, Space Battleship Yamato throws you into the thick of it, opening with an epic space battle reminiscent of the battles seen in the popular Star Wars franchise, in fact, one of the scenes is basically lifted from A New Hope (1977), whether this was intentional (perhaps as a hats off to George Lucas) or coincidental, the similarity is undeniable.

A screen cap taken from the opening scene of Space Battleship Yamato...

...and here's a screenshot from Star Wars - A New Hope...homage to George Lucas or simple coincidence...?

So for the premise of the film – the year is 2199 and an alien race known as the Gamilas have ravaged Earth and reduced it to an irradiated wasteland.  Mankind’s last hope rests with a message sent from a distant world called Iscandar with promises of a device that will eradicate all the radiation on the surface. So Captain Jūzō Okita (Tsutomu Yamazaki) sends out a request for volunteers for the mission, one volunteer being Susumu Kodai (Takuya Kimura) – a former pilot, whose brother sacrificed himself to allow Okita and his crew to survive during a battle five years ago.  So with humanity’s last battleship – the Yamato, the crew sets off on a journey that will determine the survival of the human race.

…the characters in these films spend far too much time moaning about a problem (such as escaping from a bad situation or defeating an enemy) instead of actually doing something about it…

Given the considerably low-budget of this film, I’m amazed at what director Takashi Yamazaki and all those involved managed to produce.  Approximately 80% of the film incorporates supposedly the latest CGI technology, however I think that statement is subjective as while the CGI is good, compared to its American counterparts, it’s quite obvious that the CGI present is not the best available, and perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the CGI incorporated in the film is the best possible with the given budget.  The spaceships, space environment and so forth look quite impressive,

One of the aliens up close, while it doesn't look bad, it's definitely not conceived by the 'latest CGI' technology.

but the Gamilas themselves look quite artificial and detract from the overall enjoyment of the film somewhat.  But perhaps more annoying is the acting in the film, maybe it’s just a case of a culture clash, but I find it incredibly difficult to connect or feel anything for any of the characters in this film.  This feeling isn’t limited to Space Battleship Yamato, as several Asian films that I’ve watched (including the odd romantic film) have felt devoid of any emotion at all, especially with the Japanese films, and I think this is due to a major difference in culture and how East and West tackle everyday things such as love, loss, honour and duty.  What I find with Japanese films in particular, is that the concept of ‘leave no man behind‘ really doesn’t compute with the Japanese as self-sacrifice seems to be the order of the day and the remedy for solving most problems and when they try to do the opposite it comes across as a feeble attempt to emulate a Western ideology, with the result that the actors are incapable of making the audience believe what they’re saying, in fact most of the time it comes across as either being insincere or just plain goofy.  Perhaps it’s just me, but this is how a lot of Asian films come across to me so while Space Battleship Yamato held my interest, the performance of the actors prevented me from being able to take anything seriously as even the most ‘intense’ scenes lacked a sense of urgency.  Incessant whining

Yamato under siege.

also seems to be a prerequisite of Asian film (culture perhaps?), as a lot of the time the characters in these films spend far too much time moaning about a problem (such as escaping from a bad situation or defeating an enemy) instead of actually doing something about it.  So while I understand that dialogue is necessary to build atmosphere and progress a story and so forth, sometimes, that huge threatening alien that’s stomping towards you needs to be put down quickly and silently (cough..cough…Gantz…).   On another note, I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Hiroyuki Ikeuchi who plays as commando leader Hajime Saitō in the film, you may also recognize him from Ip Man as Miura.

Conclusion

Space Battleship Yamato is a film not without scope, as the creators have managed to create a decent science-fiction experience, using a meager budget to put out an action-packed film that will please fans of the original anime show.  While I felt that the acting in the film lacked depth or believability, Space Battleship Yamato is fast-paced and interesting enough to keep you watching, even if you have only the mildest interest in science fiction films.  So while it lacks the grandeur of films like Star wars, Space Battleship Yamato is a fine science fiction film and vastly superior to the majority of Western sci-fi films of similar budget and subject matter.

Grade: B

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