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Review: Space Battleship Yamato (Directed by Takashi Yamazaki) (Fantasia 2012)

Space Battleship Yamato (Directed by Takashi Yamazaki) (Fantasia 2012)
3 10

PLOT: In the year 2199, the Earth is on its last legs after a campaign of terror and destruction waged by a alien force called the Gamilas. Humanity’s only hope lies with the crew of Space Battleship Yamato- which is sent on a final, desperate mission to the Gamilla home world at the other end of the Galaxy.

REVIEW: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is positive proof that idiotic tentpole movies aren’t solely the domain of the US. Based on a popular animé that many say influenced STAR WARS (I dunno- possibly), SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is pretty big-budget for Japan, boasting a $20 million plus budget (miniscule by Western standards)- but all the money obviously went into eye candy, and none into the script.

As a result, we have this bloated space opera that makes it look like this summer’s BATTLESHIP look like it was written by Aaron Sorkin- that’s how dumb YAMATO is. We start right in the middle of a huge, bombastic space battle, with CGI that looks straight out of a sci-fi original movie, despite the budget. While the seventies YAMATO may have influenced STAR WARS, this is in turn heavily influenced by the recent BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA TV series, with the production design seemingly having been lifted from it wholesale, along with the characterizations of the hot-head fighter pilots, with- you guessed it, unresolved romantic tensions between the tough chick ace pilot, and her squadron leader. The only surprise is that they somehow managed to avoid making the protagonist, a moody rebel named Kodai (played by Japanese heartthrob Takuya Kimura) the older ship captain’s son- but maybe that would have been too transparent.

Suffice to say, I thought SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO was a pretty idiotic space adventure, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not really the target audience, which seems to be thirteen year-old Japanese boys. That said, I like my goofy Japanese blockbusters, including YAMATO director Takashi Yamazaki’s earlier RETURNER- which was a shameless MATRIX rip-off, but fun. Too bad YAMATO wasn’t fun, but it’s so melodramatic towards the end that the only possible level it could succeed on is as unintentional comedy. The conclusion is so overwrought that it’s no surprise the filmmakers brought in Steven Tyler to write a ballad, as what other way could it have ended at the point? Heck- the last ten minutes of the film would probably even have Jerry Bruckheimer thinking it was too much.

Too much. Those two words actually perfectly sum up SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO. It’s too log (130 minutes, but it feels like twice as long), there’s too much melodrama, too many incidental characters we don’t care about, too much lame CGI action, etc. It’s all just too damn much.

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