Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Feb 22nd 2012
Space Battleship Yamato - Live Action Movie
Earth is under attack by an alien race known as the Gamilas. The Earth Defence Force's space armada is on the brink of being annihilated; their weapons ineffective, their defences hardly a match. Humans no longer live on the planet's surface as it is now heavily radiated from the meteorite bombardments from the Gamilas. One day, Susumu Kodai comes up to the surface to do his job of collecting metals to help the military with material supply when an alien capsule crashes near him. His finding of the capsule soon leads him to becoming part of the crew of the Space Battleship Yamato and soon the fate of world rests in his hands as they pursue the answer in another galaxy to restore Earth.
I have to admit, though I've heard of the original 1970s anime and its general cultural significance, I've never actually fully known what the story or even premise was for Space Battleship Yamato. I probably know more about the ill-fated 1945 battleship Yamato of history (the biggest battleship ever built and took almost a dozen torpedo hits and several aerial bombs to finally sink). So you can probably say that I entered into this without much of an expectation other than to have a rollicking good time brought upon by big guns and explosions.
The story starts off awesomely enough in this manner. Earth's good guys versus the Gamilas, duking it out in epic ship to ship bombardments and small fighter sorties. The orchestral soundtrack even ups the atmosphere and right off the bat you immediately knew you were watching a movie that is an epitome of the space opera genre. When the crew stood up to salute fallen comrades and heroic deeds, you get the hair on the back of your neck standing up in reaction to the super high emotions only larger-than-life war stories can ever fully reveal.
Performances by the actors were equally grandiose. After all, when the fate of humanity is on the line, if you weren't emotionally affected or at least showed cracks under the pressure in your steel-like personality then you were fast diverging away from what it was to be human. Indeed it is the humanity of the characters that is best portrayed by Susumu Kodai (played by Takuya Kimura) and Yuki Mori (played by Meisa Kuroki). The moment when the two of them kissed in the locker room after they realise the futility as well as the necessity of the sacrifices they made, serves as the height of the drama unfolding.
At this point, somewhere near the middle of the movie, something begins to dawn on me. Despite the outwardly sparkly sheen brought upon by the (relatively) high budget of this movie (which was glorious to behold on Blu-Ray), I soon realise I was still watching Japanese actors or more generically, Asian actors. Unfair as it might be, I appraise acting in Asian dramas all too often as bordering in the ridiculous. I've been raised in the more down-to-earth acting methods of Western dramas, where the acting and dialogue delivery from even shows like Neighbours isn't something you can say you'll never see played out in real life by common Australians. In the heat of the moment, Asian dramas tend to exhibit acting that is not reflective of how normal people would react on the outside world. This kiss therefore is where it finally kicked in for me that I can't give this show full marks.
By the time I reached the ending of the movie, I must have seen the crew salute everyone else half a dozen times, including the captain's empty chair (what's up with that?). When Hiroyuki Ikeuchi's character of Hajime Saito made his last stand against the enemy, complete with cries of pain and imploring his deity for divine protection, I somehow just couldn't care as I thought I should have. Ultimately despite very good pacing of the story, what it did wrong was to similarly spread the drama evenly from start to finish. Passions should build up rather than reach a plateau and stay there for the remaining 2 hours of the movie. It wasn't even emotionally draining any more; more just something to feel apathetic about.
Many parallels have been made about this movie and many other pop culture icons or famous movies in recent times (Battlestar Galactica come to mind almost immediately). This is not really a detriment per se; if a style works, I say go for it. There were moments though, particularly at the start when I thought, “I sure hope I don't see Starbuck appearing any time soon.” If there's any negative about having borrowed styles from other shows it is that any previous expectation you might have for the show it was borrowed from can tend to migrate over. I loved Battlestar Galactica but I hate Starbuck. Yuki Mori was a bit too much like Starbuck; I almost hated her too.
As Steve Tyler finishes off the movie by singing for the credits, I tried to piece together all the bits and pieces that brought this movie together. The sci-fi, hardware and general mythos really formed for a compelling space opera worthy of its namesake and its place in anime history. Pacing of the story was also on the whole fairly well done as I can't say I got bored at any point. Where it finally faltered was when the acting devolved to your weekday soap drama variety. I somehow think that in that regard, I would have rather seen animated characters.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Action packed space battles