The most anticipated science fiction movie of December, for some of us, might actually be Space Battleship Yamato, aka Star Blazers. The classic anime's long-awaited live-action adaptation opens tomorrow. Watch an hour-long making-of feature, and read snippets from early reviews.
TBS did a lengthy documentary all about the making of this live-action movie, and the whole thing is on YouTube, including tons of new footage (via Ani-Culture):
So how is the movie being received so far?
The main elements of the original story are all in the movie. The filmmakers were very respectful of the elements, characters and designs that made YAMATO a favorite to fans of Japanese animation worldwide. The Yamato itself has not changed a bit. The images of the huge space battleship flying through star fields, past planets and out of clouds are impressive. And when strains of the original score creep in during crucial scenes, the result is a nostalgic joyride and one that brings a tingle up the spine of any fan of the original animation.
Otaku US's Tim Eldred says you'll be pretty happy with it if you're not expecting a "pure" copy of the anime:
Space-warping from anime to live action can be either traumatic or revelatory, depending on your resistance to compromise. Being a 30-year consumer of all things Yamato could have made me a candidate for trauma, but I managed to escape that fate. When the movie's teaser trailer emerged on January 1 it had me hooked in under 30 seconds, and the two subsequent trailers that followed in the spring and summer proved to me that we didn't need this to be 100% accurate. We just need it to remind us what it felt like to see Yamato for the first time.
It's difficult to describe the plot without unleashing a chain of spoilers, since the film rockets by without a single wasted frame. All I can confirm is that everyone who speculated it might fuse the Iscandar story together with the Comet Empire was absolutely right.
Eldred also says that the film-makers clearly were out to copy Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica reboot, a comment that's echoed by Daily Yomiuri's Cristoph Mark, who doesn't feel like the BSG homage worked that great:
Everything from the dirty, worn-down look to filming methods and scenes is lifted from what British newspaper the Guardian once referred to as perhaps the best TV show ever made. (That's BSG, not Yamato.) Visually, Yamato is a success. Though it does not look as good as BSG, it is often impressive, capturing the right mood with realistic imagery. In fact, it is the best-looking special-effects-heavy film I've ever seen come out of a Japanese movie studio But, the producers of this Takuya Kimura vehicle zigged when they should have zagged, skimming the surface of what made BSG great—its atmosphere and aesthetics—but not fully understanding its deeper successes, specifically its characters (which had been altered from the BSG of the 1970s), its attention to realistic detail and its high-caliber acting.
Finally, the Japan Times' Mark Schilling gives it a lukewarm review:
Quite often, the pressure of pleasing the various constituencies of a project like this, from fans to corporate sponsors, results in an overblown mess. But Yamazaki, working with scriptwriter Shimako Sato (a director in her own right who also happens to be Yamazaki's wife), has made a film that is good, uncomplicated fun for kids, and with plenty of CG spectacle and thrills (if not in the ever-more common 3-D).
All in all, it still sounds like an amazing film, including great visuals — cannot wait to see this! Let's hope it gets a U.S. run soon.