DVD: £19.99; Blu-ray: £24.99
In 1973, anime producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki and legendary animator Leiji Matsumoto came together to create what would go on to become the most influential and iconic animé series of its time – Space Battleship Yamato.
The series was eventually released both in the UK and America in the late 70's (albeit as an abridged movie version of the first series called “Space Cruiser Yamato”) and while America would later go on to see the rest of the show's three series run - adapted and renamed as “Starblazers” - the UK was left behind after reviewers panned the movie as nothing more than a rip-off of Star Wars... even though it came out years before George Lucas started work on the films! Now however, thanks to Manga Entertainment and after nearly 35 years, Space battleship Yamato makes its return to British shores in live action form.
This 2010 film stays relatively faithfully to the original series – in the year 2199 Earth has been left a radioactive wasteland, a product of the machinations of an alien race known as the Gamilas who seek to destroy all life on Earth and supplant it with its own, and forcing what is left of humanity to hide in underground cities.
All seems lost until a capsule from the mysterious planet of Iscandar falls into the proverbial lap of disillusioned former fighter pilot Susumu Kodai (played by pop band SMAP band member Takuya Kimura) and brings him into contact with the titular Yamato and a desperate mission to recover technology from Iscandar that could save the Earth.
However, it also brings him into contact with his past in the form of both fighter pilot Mori Yuki (played by actress and singer Meisa Kuroki) who still resents Kodai quitting as a fighter pilot, and the captain of the Yamato Okita (played by veteran actor Tsutomu Yamazaki), the man who Susumu blames for the death of his elder brother Mamoru....
Watching this film, it was plainly obvious that the actors and actresses in this movie were clearly giving 110% to their performances - hardly surprising considering that in Japan Yamato hold as much nostalgia for them as Star Trek has for us in the west. As a result, this helps make the characters seem more believable and three-dimensional, enabling the viewer to feel connected to each of them.
While in the west we've grown used to film companies using CGI as a cheap alternative to otherwise expensive live-action effects the CGI used here, from the space battles and scenes outside the battleship (which made extensive use of green room projection) to the CG-rendered Gamilas in this film (and their leader Dessler, voiced by the anime series Dessler's original voice actor Masatō Ibu) were executed amazingly well without feeling at all overused – all the more amazing considering that all of it was done on a 22 million dollar budget.
The musical score also shows an incredible amount of effort (and includes Aerosmith's Steven Tyler first solo song “Loves Lives”) which perfectly evoke the pathos and drama of the original series, and adds the right amount of action and drama to the film.
However, that isn't to say that this film doesn’t have issues, and while the first is one clearly outside of Manga Entertainment's control - namely the lack of a dub track for this film (which is believed to be due to a clause in Takuya Kimura's contract that prevented his voice being dubbed over) - the subtitles included seem perfectly fine, with no noticable translation mistakes.
The other issue however is more noticable, and one which sadly also prevents me from giving this film a higher score, that being the overall pacing of the film – at times it's clear that, while trying to fit the equivalent of a twenty-six episode series into a two and a half hour movie, the film-makers were struggling to carry this out whilst also trying to keep within the film's running time. The result of this is that at times the plot seems to flip between speeding along at a breakneck pace, only to then suddenly slow down to almost a crawl.
But are these complaints enough to make me discourage you from buying this film? No, absolutely not. While Yamato does have faults, on the whole they aren’t enough to stop this film being a great action packed production, with stunning visual effects that prove that you don’t always need a nine-figure budget to make a great film.
Yamato, you are cleared to launch!