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September 5, 2011 | by  | in Arts Film |
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SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMAT0

It is the year 2199. The Earth, a planet so lush and green in the 2170s, has been reduced to a ball of dry rock. This desolation has been caused—of course—by “radiation”. Earth’s only hope lies in the revered Japanese space programme—specifically the sexy crew of the Space Battleship Yamato.

The world is counting on our heroes to retrieve a legendary MacGuffin that can be used to dispel the radiation from Earth, an action that—as we all know—will bring back the oceans, the forests and the non-Japanese earthlings. The only problem? The device is on a planet guarded by an armada of some really nasty aliens. Oh, and it may not actually exist.

Space Battleship Yamato is a perfect example of how one’s expectations going into a film can shape their experience. By any reasonable measure, Yamato is a bad film. Set in a visually indistinct world realised with costumes, set-design and CGI that belong in an after-school TV show, it’s a failure aesthetically. The dialogue ranges from unspeakably silly, meaningless jargon to sickeningly earnest clichés and some worryingly neo-fascist glorification of Japan’s past. Furthermore, it’s unaware of its own ridiculousness and derivativeness, unfolding with a completely straight face. This super-seriousness is clear from the first ten minutes, the movie having the audacity to give an unidentified character an incredibly emotional death scene and expecting us to care. Then there’s the narrative recounted above, the kind of nonsense that can only come about when a terrible storyteller tries to condense a rich world into a single film. I’m unfamiliar with the manga and anime on which this is based but I’m sure it deserves better.

That said, something astounding happened in the third act. The patrons of the Paramount, spoiled by Malick’s and Miike’s latest and unsure how to take this travesty, erupted into riotous laughter. Misinterpreting the pre-movie hype, I had been expecting a genuinely good film and had been equally bored and enraged from the opening scene. However, in Yamato’s Armageddon-esque climax, I couldn’t help but join in on the ironic appreciation. I’m not saying that one of the most expensive Japanese films ever made can reach the same level of unintentional transcendence of something like The Room, but when this comes out on DVD I might just rewatch it, drinking every time the camera dramatically dollies in on a character’s face.

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