Space Battleship Yamato (DVD) Review
From anime to live action feature. A Japanese crew must fight their way from one planet to another to repel an alien invasion and save mankind in this sci-fi action movie.
In Space Battleship Yamato attacked from afar in the year 2199 the Earth is now contaminated. While the land is a radioactive wasteland only metal scavengers dare venture out onto the surface. One of them Kodai (Takuya Kimura) is our lead, a former pilot he discovers a crashed alien probe that has removed all radiation around it saving his life as his radiation suit is ripped from his body as the probe impacted. The probe carries instructions for an interstellar engine design, a high tech gun technology and with it the promise of an anti-radiation device that will cure Earth. The only catch is the crew of the newly launched Yamato, Earth’s final battleship must travel farther than anyone has before to the home planet of the probe fighting Gamilas’ ships, the aliens that seek the end of all humans for their own purposes.
Victory means the humans left on Earth will live more than the few months they have estimated, with no hope of evacuation failure isn’t an option. With Kodai joining the crew, confronting the Captain who left his brother to die in battle as he retreated and re-uniting with an unrequited love in ace pilot Yuki Mori (Meisa Kuroki) and his Black Tiger Squadron. Kodai will be having quite a trip in an emotional roller coaster.
Yamato is a big showy explosion filled space odyssey. Massive naval hulls being retrofitted to serve in space as the basis for Earths defence force with Battlestar Galactica style fighter combat, impressive visuals and a Hollywood blockbuster attitude and script. Aliens attack every few minutes in one battle after another with character moments of the crew used to give an emotional anchor and a reason to their sacrifies. The entire budget of the film was only $24 million USD so for the quality of the on-screen action it could’ve easily been assumed triple that if made in LA.
There’s only two negative points to speak of, for a few shots the special effects fall short of what’s hoped. These come in the standard blue screen moments where it’s someone running through an alien landscape where things don’t quite join together perfectly. The intention is there, the money is there but given the graphics weren’t done by ILM (responsible for Star Wars, Star Trek and almost every special effect seen in cinema these days) there isn’t the experience in making something that will pass the audiences critical eye on every shot. Still, with a film that is space action FX shot after FX shot for two hours only having a couple of failing moments it’s a significant achievement.
One moment late in the film involving the lead actress Kuroki Meisa deserves high praise for it’s quality as not just memorable but a benchmark effect (to do with her hair, you’d know it when you see iT.) The other negative point is the quick end to the film, it feels as though the last two minutes are missing and while a during credits scene shows what happens after the missing section (on a planet) is disappointing. Given where it was in the story it could’ve been absent on purpose or simply not included due to the VFX expense. We’d love to get into it more but to say would ruin the film and enter such a spoiler of massive proportions.
Extras on the Yamato release include a number of visuals and special effects comparisons with no commentary comprising of:
Visual Effects Before & After: Showing the raw footage and the layers upon layers of visual effects being added to make the final version.
Pre-Visualisation: Side by side of the first rough placeholder computer generated ships and the final version.
VFX Scale Footage: Real world test footage of landmarks with the Yamato flying overhead and along side bridges and buildings.
360 Degree Gallery: A video of each ship model rotating around.
Depending on how you look at it there is a positive way of looking at this release. New for Region 2 Yamato is available to buy as a regular DVD or a Blu-ray/DVD combo version. Which is perfect for those who want to future proof their DVD purchase and save a little money. It’s nice to have the option for slow adopters and shows it isn’t a cash grabbing release. Buying the Blu-ray combo instead of the DVD is the better option.
Some may be put off by the idea of watching a Japanese live action space sci-fi film. With few previous examples crossing into our regions making much of a dent in pop culture and none being shown on television it’s a new area for discovery. On the disc for a film with only it’s original Japanese language track available the English subtitles are very acceptable. There are a few moments where English dialogue is used and the subs don’t match what is said on the screen but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Thanks to the performances of all the actors including highlight Meisa Kuroki, the money spent on the visuals and the thought that has been put into the music Space Battleship Yamato crosses the language barrier and belongs in any sci-fi fans collection. The only thing stopping a maximum score is the lack of a making of past the visual effects.