Space Battleship Yamato might have the best name of any film ever – and look! It’s a WWII battleship in space for some reason! If you are anything like me you already have Amazon open in another tab. The Yamato (for that is it’s name) has a crew of about twelve very excitable, very young trendy Japanese people sporting motorcycle jackets and floppy hair and a grumpy old captain who is like an old, Japanese version of Captain Haddock from Tintin. There is also a doctor that carries around a cat and booze where ever she goes and an old Scotty-from-Star-Trek style engineer who begins and ends every utterance with an amazing jovial giggle. The bridge crew get SO EXCITED when they achieve anything that they get up and clap their hands together and hop around like it’s the best Christmas ever. The fighter pilots don’t come across as hardened space combat veterans so much as a cheeky Japanese gang from Grease: during a confrontation in the cafeteria I was sure they were about to break into song. Overall it is obviously the least convincing spaceship ever. It is also the last hope for Planet Earth.
In the distant future, Earth is being bombarded from space by an invincible and mysterious alien enemy called the Gamila. They have rendered the surface inhospitable with radiation. The Earth’s defence forces are in tatters (I assume – only the Japanese are really featured here). A spaceship is built: an arc for a few survivors to try to escape on. But Old Japanese Captain Haddock has another idea. He has a plan – a plan so crazy that it might just work. He is given the ship to use in his plan and he then crews the ship with excitable teenagers (‘I’ve never been on a Battleship before!’ exclaims the second in command) and takes personal charge himself despite the fact that he is obviously on death’s door. The plan is a one-in-a-million shot to… well I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say: it is a stupid plan. If the fate of the world is ever in the balance I really hope it doesn’t fall to Japan to save the day.
Space Battleship Yamato is a very odd film. It’s like the director saw Battlestar Galactica and decided that he wanted to make that but in Japanese. And then somewhere along the line, after they had built the very Battlestar-y sets and commissioned the Battlestar-y special effects he realised that actually he didn’t like grim and gritty after all and damn it if he wasn’t going to just make everything colourful and ridiculous and more like Speed Racer instead. This isn’t such a bad thing and it probably is to do with the film’s origins as a 1980s kid’s show.
Space Battleship Yamato (I just like writing the name) is entertaining from start to finish… well except for what I came to think of as the melodrama scenes. You know the sort of thing, one person decides they will sacrifice themselves to buy everyone some more time and then everyone just shouts or cries for five fucking minutes. There is really a lot of melodrama but I guess that is what you get for having a crew of inexperienced teenagers. Suck it up you floppy-haired moaners! The enemy is not going to stop attacking just because you are having an emotional moment!
The plot really makes no sense but it doesn’t matter so much. It’s the sort of audacious nonsense where even trying to think about it for too long makes you the idiot. The special effects are decent considering the low budget, though not as good as Battlestar. There are quite a few references to things that I didn’t understand but which are probably from the original TV series. There are a lot of scenes that are hilarious though they are not meant to be and it’s actually really entertaining. My particular favourite (apart from the excitable bridge crew) was the way that everyone instantly kept deciding the hero was the BEST PERSON EVER, either falling in love with him or becoming his best friend, or giving him control of a spaceship, or saying he reminded them of them when they were young. Everyone loved the guy on first sight. Despite the fact he is actually just a bit of a wanker. If he was meant to exude some aura of competence and mystique it REALLY didn’t come across. Oh or the way the aliens fire a special type of missile that just clogs up Space Battleship Yamato’s main gun, like they have build a missile just for that purpose. And they didn’t think to make it a missile that could also explode.
As far as adaptations of 1980s cartoons to the big screen go, I would say it is not as good as Speed Racer (I love that film… yes really) but it is better than Transformers. A very good film to watch when drunk.