MOVIE REVIEWS: “Be Forever, Yamato” (1980)

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Recently I reviewed – in drunken, rambling, and poor fashion – the movie “Space Battleships Yamato: The New Voyage,” which was essentially a ‘reunion movie’ for the “Space Battleship Yamato” television series (Known in the ‘States as “Star Blazers). It was pretty kickass and entertaining, and so I was understandably pretty psyched about watching the next movie in the series, “Be Forever, Yamato” which came out the following year.
To be honest, I was rather disappointed. It just wasn’t all that good.
There’s a lot to commend it, of course: the animation – always more than a bit dodgy in the Yamato/Star Blazers franchise – Was far and away the best they’ve ever done for the show. Some of the character bits are nice, but the film doesn’t really make a lick of sense, and it actually feels like it was written/produced/directed/made by people who hadn’t had anything to do with “The New Voyage,” and perhaps simply didn’t like that film much to begin with.
Plot: It’s a year after “New Voyage,” and a probe from the Black Nebula Empire immobilizes the entire solar system, and lands on earth. Sandor quickly realizes it’s a bomb that can wipe out the entire earth, and can be remotely detonated, so after some arduous travails most of the Yamato crew reassembles, and makes their way to the Argo, though Nova gets captured by a Black Nebula Lieutenant in the process. No matter, however, Sasha, the half-human, half-Iscandaran baby from the previous movie has grown to full (And rather hot) adulthood in the intervening year, and takes Nova’s job.
The Yamato discovers a ‘black galaxy’ near our own, but completely black, and hence never noticed by us before (Because, y‘see, space is also black…). On the other side they find a spiral galaxy with the Nebula homeworld in it, and arduously make their way to it only to find it’s earth. They land, are told it’s 300 years in the future, and shown footage of their own demise in battle. They’re invited to just stay on Earth, which was evidently moved to the Black Nebula Galaxy as a war trophy, though this isn’t expressly stated. Eventually they realize the works of art on display are fakes, and hence the whole earth must be a fake too, and decide to make their way home.
Sahsa decides to stay behind because she has a completely inappropriate case of the screaming purple hornies for her uncle, Derek Wildstar. What the frack? Seriously…what the frack? Where did that come from? I don’t pretend to understand any of the Sasha story arc – now she’s a baby, now she’s not, now she doesn’t even know her uncle, now she’s Sandor’s niece, now she’s not, now she wants to sleep with him, now she’s a starchild, now she’s not – seriously, I have no idea what the hell is going on here. If *feels* like there were about a zillion conflicting potential storylines for her character in a zillion different versions of the script, the producers couldn’t make up their minds, and so they just grabbed bits and pieces of ‘em from random versions and tied ‘em together haphazardly. Terrible.
Anyway, the Yamato blasts fake earth with the Wave Motion Gun, which causes the entire surface of the planet to liquefy, revealing an 8000-mile-wide Deathstar Brand Space Battle Fortress Dealie ™ inside. Sasha opens up the back door (What is it about back doors in this series?) and the Yamato flies in, blasts the videogame target inside, flies out the other end, the planet blows up, the end.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Nova (Derek’s fiancé, normal Radar Operator, and very-short-skirt-wearing nurse) has been forced to live as a domestic servant with a Black Nebula Lieutenant who captured her. He’s clearly got feelings for her, she’s clearly got feelings for him (Surprising), but she doesn’t act on ‘em, and he won’t force her. Earth has been completely defeated, but a resistance movement is continually trying to take The Big Bomb, and the Lt. asks her why she doesn’t run off to join him, which would be really easy. The reason? She wants information on the bomb, and also she’s rather sweet on the guy, what with his muscular physique, and his flawless blue skin, and being a foot or so taller than Wildstar. You know, chicks have needs.
Anyway, eventually she does run off to join the rebels, they attack the bomb, kill the Lt. and while he’s dying in Nova’s lap, he reveals that his people are cyborgs (“Our species are just heads”) – again, what the frack? Where did that come from, and how is it at all relevant? – and tells her how to disable the bomb.
The end.
Seriously, the movie is a mess. The animation is nice – it’s a pretty mess (I particularly love the scene of hundreds of Black Nebula Marines lowering from orbit by jetpack!) – but it’s just a dog of a story. I mentioned how Sasha’s story arc is incoherent, to a lesser degree the whole movie is like that. It feels like the script was written by cherrypicking bits from a dozen or so inadequate scripts. The whole “Fake Earth/Time Travel” plot makes no sense, the Cyborg thing is irrelevant and comes out of nowhere, the Wildstar/Nova/Bad Guy Lieutenant triangle comes to nothing, and frankly I’m getting a little bit sick of the lovelorn, doomed woman who bravely sacrifices herself to save all humanity. Starsha did it. Twice. Trelena did it. Now Sasha. Seriously, guys, once is dramatic, twice is annoying, three times is cliché. Did I mention that the Yamato has a new captain who does nothing, and gets killed off anticlimactically in the end? What the hell is he there for?
I strongly suspect that the movie was made by people who had little or not contact with the makers of the previous one. It feels like a case of some writers saying, “I didn’t like that last film at all, and now we’ve got to write a sequel and we’ve got all these damn dangling plot threads we need to tie up, but we’re not interested in telling the story the producers of the previous film were setting up…”
Of the four new characters introduces in the last film, two are conspicuously absent, one dies, and one is only there for comedy relief. The major character re-introduced in the last film gets an extended cameo and then is killed off. The Black Nebula Empire in general, and the Emperor in specific, are entirely completely conceptually at odds with how they were portrayed in the previous film, too. (In the first film they were, well, interesting)
If you’re a bleeding-from-the-naughty-bits fan of the series, it’s worth a watch, but otherwise just avoid it.