I only very vaguely remember watching Star Blazers as a very young boy, so even when I watched Uchuu Senkan Yamato last year I did so with very little nostalgia. I did enjoy it, particularly as the genesis of so many things the shows I’ve come to love remember love for. I’ve had little experience with anime/manga to live action adaptations so I really didn’t know what to expect from this production. I liked the Detroit Metal City film, adored the Nodame Cantabile films, I liked the Great Teacher Onizuka film, hated the Honey and Clover film, appreciated the Solanin film, and I did like the 20th Century Boys trilogy of films.
Let me tell you though, this film did quite a few things right, and I think that these things count. This is a pretty badass action film, and in surprising ways (which I won’t spoil). In this post I’ll comments on a few elements, but ultimately, I recommend that you watch this (unless you dislike action, space opera, and/or Japan).
If you liked the planet-hopping adventures of the anime, with its encounters with different alien races and cultures, you won’t find those elements here. You won’t even find much of a culture among the Gamilons/Gamilas and Iscandar. The movie streamlined them to fit a feature length format which meant they’re more like Star Trek-like singular alien consciousness representing entire populations. I found it funny how the film had to shoehorn Desler as a name, wherein he as an individual meant nothing really.
If you’re concerned that the film lacks extensive characterization, then you’re right. The characters are not very fleshed out, and the acting is only a few steps above Tokusatsu TV productions. Okita doesn’t get to act badass enough, though Kodai does well to carry the whole film (capably played by Kimura Takuya).
Another element which I found interesting is the faux-feminist friendly cast. Yuki wasn’t the token girl anymore, she was the ace pilot of the Black Tiger squadron. Also, you’ll find a whole bunch of females serving as Macross style bridge bunnies (and at least 2 other Black Tiger pilots)… even the alcoholic Dr. Sado is now female. But no, this film won’t pass the Bechdel Test at all.
Also, Kuroki Meisa is an attractive woman and all, but she most of all suffers from the comparison with Matsumoto Leiji’s illustration of well, the Matsumoto Leiji female character design.
But what are the things that this movie supposed to do well?
Yamato’s emergence from the Earth must be suitably grand. It was.
The firing of the Wave Motion Gun must be appropriately iconic. It is.
The fate of the human race must be portrayed as so desperate that the Yamato must represent this shot in the dark kind of hope and yet so much of everything rests on it. Okita selling the story of the radiation cleaner in Iscandar, and even clearer with the whole sequence after the first firing of the Wave Motion Gun …we feel that the Yamato is everything. This perhaps is the most important success of the film.
But, I recommend it on the strength of the action sequences. The space battles themselves aren’t anything spectacular. It wasn’t until the final assault on Gamilas that this film really grabbed hold of me. The atmospheric entry battle was incredible. It was daring, audacious and totally worth not spoiling you.
I can tell you about the grand dogfight in a cavern. This is badass.
I can also tell you about a desperate run by the space commandos. This must be seen to be believed.
I think I like Uchuu Senkan Yamato live action at least as much as I enjoyed the 20th Century Boys trilogy. I found the final scene ridiculously long and drawn-out, robbing it of much of its dramatic power, but otherwise it was a great experience that I wholeheartedly recommend. In this post I’ll tell you why you should watch this film, regardless whether you’re a fan of the anime or not.
The moment I finished watching the film, I could not help but sing along to this over and over: