Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie) Review

SPACE BATTLESHIP ヤマト

SPOILER Summary/Synopsis:

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)A fleet from Earth goes out to meet the fleet from Gamilus, but are easily defeated. Captain Kodai, of the warship Yukikaze, tells Captain Okita to get out lest they all be destroyed and provides cover for Okita’s ship to escape. On the now poisoned and irradiated Earth, Captain Kodai’s younger brother, Susumu, hunts for scrap metal to sell to the military as Okita’s ship returns. While he’s out searching, a spacecraft crashes. Susumu is knocked out and when he comes to, he finds that his helmet has been removed. He should be dead, but his radiation detector is clean. At the crash site, Susumu finds a pod, which he then turns over to the military for investigation, after which he confronts Captain Okita for abandoning his brother.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)After the pod is examined and determined to contain information, the head of the Japanese division of the Earth Defense Force takes Captain Okita to a part of the underground facility where a ship is secretly being constructed. Okita says that instead of using it as an evacuation ship, they should use it as a ship of hope. As such, an announcement is made that Earth’s last surviving warship will be sent to a planet called Iscandar to retrieve a radiation cleaning device and that they’ve been provided with the technology to make this happen. With that, recruitment starts for key roles on the ship as well as fighter pilots and research scientist.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Susumu, a former military pilot, reenlists in the military and joins the crew as the Black Tiger squadron commander, which also makes him in charge of the warship’s new Wave Motion Gun. A Gamilus ship arrives and fires a long-range missile at the warship’s location, forcing Okita to order an emergency launch of the Yamato. Once clear of the ground, Susumu fires the Wave Motion Gun, destroying the missile as Yamato makes for space.  Once there, it is announced that there will be a test of the ship’s warp engines in 24-hours.  The following day, the warp test happens on schedule and Yamato safely warps from Mars to Jupiter.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)A Gamilus fleet warps in and there are 20-minutes until Yamato‘s warp engines can recharge. Since the Wave Motion Gun uses the same energy as the engines, it is out as an option, meaning the Black Tiger’s have to launch fighters. MORI Yuki launches first and is soon joined by the rest of the squadron.  Fending off Gamilus fighters, the Black Tiger squad establishes target-locks on a large, Gamilus carrier for Yamato to hit. Yamato fires its main and secondary guns at the target, destroying it in such a fashion that the entire Gamilus fleet is destroyed. However, Yuki’s fighter is heavily damaged, causing Susumu to disobey orders to get her. Yamato fends off Gamilus fighter attacks as Susumu rescues Yuki, barely returning in time before Yamato warps out.

Because Susumu disobeyed orders, Okita has him thrown in the brig. With Yamato now about to leave the solar system, Okita authorizes one-minute calls to Earth from the crew. While this is going on, Doctor Sado and Chief Engineer Tokugawa pay Susumu a visit in the brig, where Sado shares her sake. Chief Engineer Tokugawa remarks on how much Susumu reminds him of a young Okita. After they leave and the entire crew has had a call home, Susumu is released from prison to make his call. In the mess hall, Yuki has a chat with Saito and learns that Kodai resigned from the military after one of his fighter missions to destroy Gamilus planet bombs resulted in the accidental death of his family.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)On the bridge, it is discovered that a damaged Gamilus fighter was caught in their warp, so Captain Okita orders its capture before collapsing. After being taken to medical, Dr. Sato tells Okita he doesn’t have long to live. Meanwhile, Susumu, Saito, Yuki, Sanada, and other crew inspect the Gamilus ship. The pilot suddenly emerges and after running on the ceiling a bit, is eventually shot. An energy pulse shoots from its head and enters Saito, taking him over. The possessed Saito calls himself Desler and explains a bit about the Gamilus people. When Susumu asks why Gamilus is attacking Earth, Desler laughs and says they are transforming the planet.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Yuki returns with Dr. Sato when a movement by Saito-Desler causes Susumu to shoot.  The blast knocks Saito out and forces Desler’s energy out, where it forms a crystal. The rest of the crew shoots the crystal despite Sanada’s pleas not to. Later in the mess, Saito complains to Susumu about being shot but thanks him just the same and buys him a beer. Susumu is summoned to see the ailing captain in his quarters, where Okita asks him to take over as Acting Captain. Susumu declines the offer, even after hearing that Okita had wanted Susumu’s brother to command Yamato. Okita won’t take “no” for an answer and officially gives the order, making Susumu the Acting Captain.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Yamato comes under attack and Susumu learns that the captured fighter is transmitting their location. They eject it into space and destroy it, but Gamilus fleets are on approach with long-range fire damaging the 3rd bridge. Susumu makes contact with Ando and learns of the trapped crew there. He orders the Wave Motion Gun charged and when it fires, the Gamilus fleet is destroyed. However, a stealth craft-bomb has attached itself to the 3rd bridge, forcing Susumu to give Yuki the order to fire missiles to detach the 3rd bridge before the bomb goes off. She obeys and the 3rd bridge is shot off before the bomb goes off, killing Ando and the others but sparing Yamato.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Susumu reports to Okita about the situation and his own unworthiness at command. However, Okita tells him he’s doing fine after they chat a bit.  Susumu pays the grieving Yuki a visit and apologizes for his orders. She reminds him that he’s the captain now and orders are orders, even if those orders mean killing their own.  As Yamato goes into warp, Yuki and Susumu kiss.  When the ship emerges from warp, they’ve arrived as Iscandar. However, a massive number of missiles are fired and though Yamato tries to shoot them down, the largest one is not destroyed despite taking a direct hit and lodges itself into the Wave Motion barrel.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)There are too many missiles to shoot down, so Susumu orders an emergency warp although Sanada and Shima are opposed. The warp happens and they are taken to the other side of Iscandar. Investigating further, it is determined that this is Gamilus, leading the main crew members to debate whether this is a trap or not. Too much doesn’t make sense, so Susumu orders a landing party to the coordinates they’d been provided for Iscandar to get some answers. Susumu has a wider-scale briefing on the mission, which will involve the Black Tiger squadron and the Space Cavaliers. He will lead the mission in a Cosmo Zero fighter.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)The crew prepare for the mission and Susumu gives a rousing speech over the intercom. Susumu inserts the Analyzer device into the Cosmo Zero fighter and gets in to do pre-flight when Yuki comes for a final visit. After Susumu closes the cockpit, she kisses the glass and he launches to the planet. Making it down to a giant, cavernous entrance guarded by weapon platforms, Yamato appears beside Susumu and takes out the weapons before warping away. Susumu leads the Tiger Squadron and the Space Cavalier transport into the cavern where they quickly come under attack by Gamilus fighters. They destroy the Gamilus fighters, though at a heavy cost with only three fighters and the transport surviving.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)They land and the transport ejects its troop-carrier, which picks up Susumu, Yuki, and Kato. They are quickly attacked by Gamilus troops, one which manages to kill the driver and passenger in front of the troop-carrier. Susumu has Analyzer dispatch in robot form, where it provides cover as a Space Cavalier trooper takes over the driving. Analyzer is destroyed and soon the troop-carrier is heavily damaged. Kato and the surviving Cavalier troops provide cover while Sanada, Yuki, Susumu, and Saito head to the coordinates provided. There, they find a floating star crystal, which Yuki touches and becomes possessed.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)The possessed Yuki explains that Gamilus and what the humans call Iscandar are one. Their planet is dying and the “Iscandar” beings have decided to accept it, but the “Gamilus” beings have not and decided to colonize Earth after terraforming it. Susumu recalls Okita’s words to him about the radiation cleaner story being made up in the hopes that Iscandar had something like it  after Susumu easily survived a massive dose of radiation after coming in contact with the Iscandar probe. The possessed Yuki says that while no such device exists, she can clean Earth and proves it by making the radiation and air around them clean. The Iscandar “woman” then leaves Yuki’s body and the four humans depart.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Attempting to return to the landing zone, they find the heart of Gamilus. Sanada and Saito go to take it out and end the Gamilus threat while Susumu and Yuki return to the landing area. They stop to pick up the Space Cavaliers and Kato, but those guys have all been slaughtered, though not without taking a lot of Gamilus troops with them. The two make it to the landing zone, only to find the fighters heavily damaged, though Yuki is sure her fighter will get them out. Meanwhile, Saito provides cover fire so that Sanada can set his bomb. He dies just as Sanada gets it set. Sanada also gets shot but before dying, he explodes the bomb, just as Yuki flies herself and Susumu out.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Returning to Yamato, the pair report to the dying Okita as Yamato warps to Earth. After Susumu makes his report, Okita dismisses him with a wink and then sends Sado out as well so as to be left alone. Susumu makes it to the bridge as Earth makes contact and learns Yamato has the radiation cleaning device.  However, a giant Gamilus warship attacks Yamato, taking out most of its weapons.  Gamilus crystals form Desler’s face and then body, as he informs the Yamato crew that because of their actions, Gamilus has been forced to give up on Earth but that the survivors have no intention of letting the humans keep Earth either.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)The Gamilus ship begins changing form and it is clear that they are going to annihilate the planet. With the Wave Motion Gun still blocked, Susumu is going to consult with Okita, but seeing Sado, he knows Okita is dead. He then asks Nanbu if there’s enough energy for to fire the Wave Motion Gun, which Nanbu confirms.  Nanbu realizes what Susumu is planning and Susumu orders the ship to be abandoned before relieving Shima of his post. Shima reluctantly agrees to get Yuki safely to Earth and orders the bridge cleared. However, Yuki doesn’t want to leave, knowing Susumu is planning on dying when he takes out the Gamilus ship.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Susumu explains the reasons he has to stay behind and thanks her. However, knowing she won’t go, he has to stun her with his gun before getting Shima to take her away. Shima gets the survivors away and they salute him as Yuki wakes up and screams for Susumu. Susumu launches Yamato forward, leading the Gamilus ship to try to take it out, but it is too late.  Yamato takes major damage but continues flying as the ghosts of people Susumu respected look on approvingly. Susumu fires the Wave Motion Gun, destroying Yamato, the Gamilus ship, and its giant missile.  Some time later, Earth is restored and Yuki has a picture of Susumu and his brother as her child plays nearby.

Thoughts/Review:

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Having watched the first two TV series and having enjoyed the first series pretty well (the second one, not so much) as well as the most recent anime movie, I was rather excited to see a live-action Yamato movie, especially since I’d seen how awesome the special effects could be based on pachinko games, of all things.  Of course, not living in Japan, I had to wait until this came out on DVD and Blu-ray.  The experience was interesting and mostly good, but there were some rough patches to be sure.  So, without further ado, lets get to the reviewing of the story, then other aspects of the movie.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Being that the first TV series was 26 half-hour episodes (minus a few minutes for ads), a ton of material had to be cut in order to pack the entire “there and back again” trip into a 2-hour, 18.5 minute movie (counting time for credits).  While a lot of interesting things were removed and the trip thus became much less dangerous, it also made things seem a bit too easy getting to Iscandar.  There is a token fight for Yamato to get into well into their journey, but it is handled in a rather unsatisfactory way (more on that in a bit) that made me think that this might not be so good.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)The time in between is spent trying to give some characters enough development so that you care enough about them so that if they snuff it, you think, “well bummer.” Then the writers make up for the ease of the mission by making the arrival at Iscandar be a real eye-opener, even more interesting than the original TV series. This was because instead of two planets, the writers had Gamilus and Iscandar be one planet, with Iscandar basically being a made up name by Okita (as I understood it at least) as was the whole radiation cleaning device. However, with that being a fictitious story, then it didn’t really make sense to me that the “Iscandar” beings wanted to give Earth technology to catch them up with Gamilus, other than maybe to help defend themselves.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Though this is not the way I would have gone, I had no problem making the Gamilus/Iscandar race a bunch of energy crystals that can float, fly, and form themselves into whatever. However, it did beg the question of why they needed spacesuits.  Seriously, if you are an energy crystal, do you need bipedal form in suit of some kind with guns to run with (speaking of the Gamilus infantry)?  After all, these crystals simply took over people to get their message across and when they didn’t do that, they just took form to be able to better commune with the humans.  It is one of those, “doesn’t make any sense” moments, but the action was so intense, one tended to give the issue a pass.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)On the return trip to Earth, I was fine with everything and even if I hadn’t seen the original TV series, it was completely and utterly predictable that the Gamilus would show up again for one final confrontation. I think the writers pulled the ending from the Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato anime movie.  That didn’t surprise me since the space cavalier leader, Saito, was also in the live-action movie and he was introduced in that anime movie (though I only knew his annoying self from the 2nd TV series).  Fortunately, Saito is a cool character in the movie, even if he goes out in a cliched style. Well, that wasn’t as bad as the Return of the Jedi moment when the apparent ghosts of Okita, Saito, Sanada, and others appeared in front of him before Susumu sacrificed himself.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)While we are still on the subject of Gamilus, I liked that the movie made use of the original seiyuu who voiced Desler and Starsha, though Starsha was never named in the movie (for simplicity sake, I’ll just use her name anyway).  That was a very cool moment.  I also liked how the seiyuu who did the voice of Analyzer was used again, though admittedly, he sounded really old whereas Desler and Starsha pretty much sounded as I remember them from the first anime. The changes made to Analyzer so that he’s just an A.I. program was kinda “meh” to me, but they did put him into an armed, red, robotic body before the end, so that made things cool for me.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)So, Analyzer became Susumu’s A.I. O/S (for lack of a proper description) that’s initially on a computer pad and thus he’s no longer attached to Dr. Sato (Sato-sensei). Well, considering that Dr. Sato went from being a drunk old male doctor to a younger female hottie doctor and non-believable drunk, I suppose its for the best. The writers try their best to work in Dr. Sato, so she’s around and there’s no trouble identifying her (the uniforms are identical to the anime, making character identification a bit easier for some characters), but alas, there’s not a lot for her to do except be seen with the cat, be seen with a giant sake bottle, and be the one to let Susumu know that Okita died.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)One change that did work for me was Yuki, even if she didn’t have her trademarked blonde hair. In the original anime, I quipped on how Yuki had an insane number of jobs on the ship, sometimes being in two places at once. Plus, she was the only female on board (a bad call in my opinion).  In the live-action movie, she’s an ace fighter pilot of the Black Tiger Squadron and was inspired by its former leader, Susumu.  Thus, she goes from addressing Susumu as “Kodai-kun” in the anime to “Kodai-san” in the movie, a move I liked a lot.  The romance between Yuki and Susumu isn’t as smooth as it could be, but it is serviceable.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Speaking of the Black Tiger Squadron, I liked how they weren’t just used as fighter escorts or even as attack fighters.  There’s an early battle between Yamato and a Gamilus fleet as Yamato is still making its way out of the solar system where the Black Tiger Squadron “paint” targets onto the Gamilus warships for Yamato‘s main guns to lock onto and fire.  I thought this was an excellent use of the fighters, who wouldn’t be able to do much damage on their own against such giant, heavily armored warships, but could make it easier for Yamato to do massive damage while waiting for the Wave Motion Gun to charge.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)I’m not sure if all of the Cosmo Tiger fighters had this ability or just the Cosmo Zero fighter that Susumu had. Regardless, the Cosmo Zero fighter had the ability to fold itself at the middle in a fashion that made me think the production team were giving a nod to Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, who’s VF-1 Valkyrie fighters could similarly bend in half like that, though Macross‘s fighters were also mecha units, which the Cosmo Zero isn’t.  The production team made it so that the Cosmo Zero doing this maneuver was acceptable to the audience (in my opinion), but I thought of Macross just the same.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Because this movie requires so many special effects, the production team decided to cut costs in a few places and it has the unfortunate effect of making the movie seem kind of odd in those places, at least to me.  The first was when Yamato emerges from the ground, which is such a cool scene with the main turrets turning to acquire a target.  Then, the rest of the time is spent on the Yamato bridge. We never again see the Gamilus threat, nor the missile it is about to shoot. The Wave Motion Gun fires and we see that, but not as it tears into the Gamilus ship and missile. Instead, we see the aftermath.  That was disappointing.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Another odd cut was when Yamato encountered a second Gamilus fleet.  This time, we never got to see the Gamilus ships and so when the Yamato fires the Wave Motion Gun and destroys an entire unseen fleet, I’m thinking, “What? OK, I guess, if you say so.”  Its the “show don’t tell” rule which the production team violates in order to cut costs (they do show the explosion though and the WMG firing).   Again, this was done toward the end of the movie when the last Gamilus ship showed up, but we weren’t allowed to see the Yamato being hit and taking damage.  Instead, the money was saved so that the Yamato could be seen taking damage as it rammed the Gamilus ship.  Its a shame that they didn’t apparently have more money to properly do those scenes.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)Which reminds me, the ending of the movie is probably the weakest element.  I mentioned the cliched elements of the ending with Susumu ramming Yamato into the Gamilus ship and firing his jammed Wave Motion Gun.  After the characters inform us that Yamato is under attack and taking damage and Susumu gives his final orders, we have the cliched moment between him and Yuki.  I’m thinking to myself, “Why didn’t Desler just finish them right then and there?”  Seriously, the Gamilus ship apparently had a ten-minute firing sequence for its missile so that Yuki and Susumu can be “whatever,” in which time they don’t take out their enemy?  So now Susumu can be a kamikaze hero and the Gamilus finally realize they have anti-ship weapons, but all too late. *_*  Whatever.

Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie)I loved that the powerful Space Battleship Yamato main theme was used, though not in lyrical form.  Not having the song sung was fine with me, providing the tune itself was played and it was, always at appropriate times. ^_~

In the end, though there are some problems with the Space Battleship Yamato movie, on the whole I have to say that I like it a lot. There’s plenty of action, there’s enough character development to make the audience care about most of the characters (at least in my case), and there are enough elements from the anime to appease the hardcore fan. If this gets licensed, I’ll be buying for sure.

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3 Responses to “Space Battleship Yamato (Live-Action Movie) Review”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Say what you will about Star Blazers, at least it was still far more true to the original than THIS sorry rape of the classic.

    Crystal gamilons and the hero dies? Fuck that. Did they even TRY to watch the original. This almost as bad as JJ Abrams rape of Star Trek.

    And I only use the term “rape” because the words dont exist to adequately convey the revulsion I feel towards stuff that doesnt even try to match the source material.

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Crystal gamilons and the hero dies? Fuck that. Did they even TRY to watch the original. This almost as bad as JJ Abrams rape of Star Trek.

    Well, the hero dying was a direct lift from the movie Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato. ^_^; (I know that’s a big spoiler, and forgive me for that, but the movie is pretty hated by fandom both here and in Japan, from what I understand.)

    The crystal Gamilons was different to be sure and not the way I would have gone, but it didn’t affect me the same way it did you.

    And I only use the term “rape” because the words dont exist to adequately convey the revulsion I feel towards stuff that doesnt even try to match the source material.

    I understand the sentiment. To compress an entire TV series into a movie means lots of things get trashed.

    If it were me, I would have made a 3-part movie. The first part would have been Yamato‘s crew coming together and escaping the solar system. The second part would have been Domel’s attempts to stop Yamato, ending with his defeat. The third part would have the crew discover the truth about Gamilus/Iskandar, the Battle of Gamilus, the acquisition of the cleaning equipment, return to Earth, and final confrontation with Desler.

    That’s just me though.

  3. AstroNerdBoy says:

    I wish I had better screen captures than the ones off the DVD. Oh well.

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