Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Space Battleship Yamato (2010)

Space Battleship Yamato: things explode, people yell a lot (WOULD YOU LIKE A COFFEE! YES PLEASE, WITH MILK AND SUGAR. OKAAAAAAAAAAAAY!) and sake appears to be the staple diet.

It's the year 'sometime in the future' and the earth is being bombarded with asteroids by the evil Gamilas. These inundations of space rock have left the planet decimated - a radioactive wasteland of yellows and grays that has forced the remaining population underground. It's a population waiting for death, bereft of hope, lacking direction. We begin the story with two separate threads that quickly come together: one follows the protagonist Susumu as he scavenges the wastes of the earth for scrap and the other shows the humans being handed their arse in a space battle then one of the few remaining crews limping home just in time to be given command of a new super ship. The plans for this new ship, the Yamato, were found by Susumu on one of his scavenging trips, apparently sent from space by a benevolent race keen to save humanity. This space message also contains a promise of technology that will cleanse the earth of radiation and a map to the planet Iskandar.

A number of the characters are bound together already: Susumu's brother was captain of a ship destroyed in the opening battle, Susumu himself was once an ace pilot in the fleet, the captain of the Yamato fled the opening battle when Susumu's brother sacrificed himself. For all these reasons, plus some more that make little sense, Susumu re-joins the fleet and is immediately put in command of the Yamato's biggest weapon - the wave motion gun. One moment he is a civilian threatening to kill the captain, the next he's back in the fold - and later on he's even installed as Acting Captain.

I'll leave the commentary at this point and delve into the review itself. Space Battleship is an enjoyable but hard to swallow movie. The effects are excellent for the reported budget of about $24 million, though there are a couple of dodgy shots that should have been left out. The two themes of hope and the burden leadership are kind of patchy and never really grab you or make you think. A lot of what drives the characters is a fabrication designed to give them and the population left at home some hope that there is a solution, though in the end this fabrication turns out to be literal (though slightly twisted) truth.

Some of the cast: Hot girl (top left), serious guy (top right), pilot guy (bottom left) and Captain Beard (obvious).

All in all the story, backgrounds and plot are lightly treated and only there to support the mostly excellent action scenes and alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption you say? Well, yes. You see this movie was hard to follow and the motivations of the characters muddied and erratic, until you pay attention to what's happening in several of the quieter scenes on board the Yamato. At all times, even when in the brig or on duty, the characters - military men and women - are drinking sake. Lots of sake. After coming to this realisation I found that the actions of the characters made more sense. They yelled a lot because they were drunk, they looked confused and made spur of the moment decisions because they were pickled, they rushed into the breach with excess bravado because they were tanked, they suddenly fell in love and fell into each others arms because...well you get the picture. The penultimate scene makes a lot of sense if you consider the character has been drinking non-stop for several months. There were several other solutions to the problem, but naturally he chose the most obvious one - probably assuming everything would be OK in the end and he'd be back home in time for tea and strumpets at 6.

Cast from the cartoon: main guy, hot girl and Captain Beard. Plus some others, they're not important right now. The Yamato is far more interesting but they shoved it right up the back there for some reason.

Putting all the failings aside, I enjoyed Space Battleship Yamato and would recommend it to anyone who remembers sneaking out of bed early as a kid to watch the original cartoon (Star Blazers as it was known in Australia) on morning television. I think younger sci-fi fans who don't know the original material would still enjoy the simple mix of light themes and good action scenes. Now to practice my roll and shoot move from the original series opening credits. How that used to amaze and confuse my friends in primary school...

7/10 - Simple story, drunken decision making, pretty explosions. Bonus: Lot's of yelling.

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