Today I watched Takashi Yamazaki’s Space Battleship Yamato (2010)
It is the year 2199, humans are locked in a war with an alien menace (of course) named the Gamilas. Earth has been destroyed by the radiation and industry of our civilizations and the survivors now live underground while battleships fight in space for the existence of those few who remain. But the war is not going well, information on Gamilas ships is woefully incomplete and they overpower human vessels at every turn. Susumu Kodai is one of the poor souls living under the Earth, scavenging for metal to repair the space vessels protecting them. One day he stumbles across a strange device that fell from space, this device comes from another alien world known as Iskandar. This device displays a powerful ability to neutralize radiation and also has coordinates to it’s world of origin which may contain more technological secrets that could help clean the Earth and defeat the Gamilas. Thus a final desperate mission is launched that brings the old space battleship named Yamato out of mothballs and is enhanced with an untested Wave-Motion cannon, meanwhile Kodai, who used to be a military pilot, re-enlists for this mission, knowing it to the last chance for mankind.
This film, if you don’t know, is based on an old anime from the Seventies with quite a legacy. As such it takes some very old school designs, the Yamato itself looks like a literal WWII era battleship just in space, and modernizes them with some very solid special effects. It has been said by others that the design work strongly resembles the Battlestar Galactica remake series and really they both worked towards a similar end, taking something steeped in camp and modernizing it in a manner that audiences will be able to take seriously. While the film might not get into drama as dark as Galactica, it does a very good job of being visually exciting and intense.
That being said, the human drama is really just average and only goes far enough that the time in between action scene doesn’t drag. While it struck me as overly melodramatic, certain scenes definitely worked on an emotional level, notably the montage of crewmen making the final call back to Earth before the ship leaves the solar system. In these situations the human drama really works because the situation and how it would impact anyone is obvious, the parts that drag that down end up being because of one dimensional characters and more specific issues they face as individuals.
But like I said, that drama averages itself out and does it’s job to frame the action. The film focuses on the entertainment element and lets everything else fall into place behind that. A little more drama may have elevated it more, but it is what it is and that is certainly entertaining. The space battles are central to this film and are really quite impressive, the special effects are really great for the time and the way they are shot is frantic and kinetic. This film is a fun ride that leans into the pulpy side of military sci fi while still offering a story serious enough to have some real drama, and again, those battle scenes are something else. 4/5