Friday, July 29, 2011

Space Battleship Yamato: The Final Battle

I am not an expert on Space Battleship Yamato. I didn't watch Star Blazers as a kid, and I've only seen a little bit since then, including the first anime movie. Still, when I saw that this live action version of the story had been filmed, I knew I had to see it, and I'm not disappointed that I did.

While it is a re-imagining of the story, much of the first two thirds of the film remains faithful to what I know of the source material, at least in spirit, with the biggest changes being to beef up the female roles a bit by making Yuki, the female lead, into more of a bad-ass and changing the gender of the ship's doctor.

It's only when the crew comes face to face with the enemy that things really start to diverge from the source material. The enemy aliens are made far more alien in this version than they were in the original, which I think ends up working rather well. I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but the ultimate fate of many of the characters also ends up being different than that of their animated selves.

The style of the movie is spot on, from the uniforms, to the sets, to the ship designs. All of it remains faithful to the source material while making the necessary adaptations for live action.

Many of those adaptations appear to borrow heavily from the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, and this also seems to work. After all, the Yamato is supposed to be a renovated WWII battleship, so it makes sense that it would have similar interiors. The comparison to Galactica is probably most apparent on the flight deck, with the similar white bulkheads and jumpsuited ground crew readying fighters for launch.

These similarities of style bring to mind other similarities between the two stories. Both feature a mix of fighter and capital ship combat. Both feature themes of friendship, loss, duty, and survival. Both feature Humanity's last warship on a quest to save the species.

Overall, the movie is well done, although it does lag a bit near the end, and I'm not convinced that it was necessary to do the ending the way they did. It's still a good ending, just not the one I would have chosen.

I should point out that the lag is all the more noticeable because the rest of the movie is very well paced. Despite the fact that I was reading subtitles, it did not seem like a 131 minute long movie.

I highly recommend this one to fans of Japanese sci-fi.

The copy I got through Amazon appears to be from Malaysia, and while the overall quality is good, there are a few scenes that look like they could have been transferred better. I hope this will eventually get a US release, and that they will take a bit more care in its production. The English subtitles on this version are well done, with only a few obvious errors. There's also subtitles for Chinese and Malay.

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