Next to DOCTOR WHO, the animated TV series STAR BLAZERS was my second biggest obsession. Known in Japan as SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, it spawned multiple animated TV series and movies since the early 1970’s and in 2010, the Japanese attempted a live-action version.
It’s 2199 and for the last 5 years, the Earth has been bombarded with radiation bombs by an alien species known as The Gamilas. Because of this, the human race has been forced to live underground and at this point everyone will be dead within the year.
To make matters worse, the entire Earth Defense Force’s fleet of space battleships have been wiped out by the enemy. Hope arrives via a message from the planet Iskandar; the mysterious benefactor provides blueprints for a special warp engine as well as a über-weapon (The Wave Motion Gun) that can penetrate the Gamilas defenses.
The dying Captain Okita assembles a brave crew lead by Susumu Kodai (Takuya Kimura) to man the retrofitted battleship Yamato (which sunk during WWII). It has secretly been converted to a spaceship with the new engine and Wave Motion Gun. The Yamato has to make it to Iskandar to get the radiation cure before the human race is lost forever.
What’s so great about the series is that like STAR TREK it’s ultimately about the crew of the Yamato and how they deal with the stress of the long journey never knowing if they’re even going to make it to Iskandar, let alone the journey back.
I was utterly entranced watching this live-action version of something so close to my heart. The production design, costumes and the casting were spot on. They even used the iconic music from the series. I was in fanboy heaven.
But if I am to step back and take a more unbiased approach, I will say that even at over 2 hours in length, it still felt too short. They race through so many plot points that the series took its time with, that I wondered if someone not familiar with the story would be lost. Many of the characters get short-shrifted because of this. I almost felt like it needed to be at least 2 films if not a trilogy. The story, as well as the emotional needs of the storyline, certainly warranted more than one film.
The only other (minor) complaint is that the CGI FX are really good but they’re more BATTLESTAR GALACTICA level than feature film. It still works quite well, but it’s a shame they didn’t (or couldn’t afford to) go all the way with it.
At the end of the day, I was quite happy with the film and liked the subtle (and not so subtle) changes they made to the original story to make it work as a feature film. It’s a great space adventure that I encourage you to look into if you’re not familiar.