Space Battleship Yamato reminds me of two films in particular - well, actually a lot more than two but I'll come to that soon. The first would be Hell's Ground, a little known zombie film hailing from Pakistan. This was a film that heavily borrowed from loads of other horror films, but did so in a way that was fun and entertaining. Space Battleship Yamato homages Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica, Star Trek and to a lesser extent Serenity, and just about gets away with it. This is probably due to its desire to put on a large epic scale show despite a relatively meagre budget for this type of sci-fi thing ($23.9 million). I got carried away by the sheer exuberance of it all. Saying that, I'd be moaning if a big budget film had done the same. Maybe more time should have been spent at the script and planning stages to develop some more original ideas. That probably comes down to money though.
The other film it reminds me of is Casshern, another live action adaptation of an anime. Casshern is overlong and the pacing is all over the place. When I watch it I always end up slightly disappointed and think about what could have been if the editing had been different. Yet I still keep going back to it. Space Battleship Yamato feels very similar. The final act should be an action spectacular but it gets bogged down with lots of emotional chatting. It really drags. But again, I felt the need to watch it again.
This hasn't been too positive so far so you may be thinking, why bother watching it again. It does get some things right. The space battles, despite being way too short, are some of the best I've seen in years. They take their cue from bullet hell shooters and are suitably exhilarating with ships swooping through a barrage of laser fire. Admittedly the ships can do some pretty stupid things such as grow arms that can pick people out of space and give them a little cuddle, but that's all part of the fun.
The effects are pretty great too given the budget. They have stuck to one of the strengths of CGI: rendering hard metallic spaceships. There are some creatures and they don't look too hot but at least they are simple enough to be effective. They are normally only seen from a distance and in hordes so the effects don't come under too much close scrutiny. One of the highlights - and quite rightly so - has to be the reveal of the titular battleship as it rises from beneath the ground. It's a quality design and there's something delightfully quirky, in a Terry Gilliam way, of seeing what is basically a naval vessel charging about through space.
One example of this endearingness is also one of the funniest moments of the film. When something positive has happened in a space battle the action cuts back to the bridge and the characters cheer and give cheeky little fist pumps, yet it's all done without any accompanying music. It feels distinctly odd, but due to the fact that it happens about three times it gets funnier each time.
The music is also another source of quirk. When I watched some visual effects extras the soundtrack was playing along with the footage and I thought, crikey this music is pretty good. But in the film it's feels out of place at quite a few points, and at worst, exceedingly cheese ridden. There are also moments where you would expect music where it just doesn't appear (like the celebration scenes above). Again in all comes down to the editing.
Another positive though: the lead character Kodai has lovely luxurious locks.
It's hard for me to recommend this but it's struck a chord with me. I'm even considering shelling out £15 for the blu-ray.
If you like this you could also try:
Any of the above films that it thieves from.