Friday, February 12, 2010

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (2007) Review: Tries to hard to please all

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

The Good: Continues all aspects that made the original series such a hit, top notch voice acting, attractive character designs, realistic human drama, high flying space combat action

The Bad: inconsitstent animation, clashing visual styles, rushed story, requires prior knowledge of Robotech lore.

Current Availability Status: Limited availability of code 1 version in local DVD stores. Code 3 and code 6 versions are limited as well but going at discount price.

DVD features:
- "Birth of a sequel" behind the scenes featurette
- trailers

DVD Value for money grade: B-

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles is the long awaited sequel to the Robotech franchise that started in the 80s. Its release was met with very mixed fan reaction and reviews with ratings ranging from awesome to downright terrible. Shadow Chronicle's main mistake was not being able to decide which target audience to appeal to and trying to hard to please everyone. Did it want to appeal to the long time fans of the original? Fans of japanese anime? Or maybe fans of american science fiction comic books? This movie has elements that appeal to all three but what appeals to one would put off the other.

The story takes place during the final episodes of the original TV series and then branches off into new territory halfway through the film. Going into the back story alone would require an entire essay but some expositionary flashbacks fill the audience in on the bare essentials. A miraculous source of power called "Protoculture" has been the cause of many wars between earth and various alien races seeking to harness that power. Humanity tried to take the fight to the invaders by launching a expeditionary fleet but this in turn left earth vulnerable. Finally the alien race known as the Invid conquered earth and enslaved the human population. In 2044, the expeditionary fleet returns to earth in a last desperate attempt to regain their homeworld. But as mankind and Invid clash in their final apocalyptic battle, a far more trechrous enemy lurks in the shadows. This new enemy, who works through deciet and sabotage, is intent not on harnessing protoculture for itself, but in eliminating all races that use it.

The "bare essentials" of the backstory leading into the movie are adequate but since this movie is intended to be "episode number 86" , one is required to sit through at least season three up to episode 85 of the original series in order to get fully appreciate the story developments. Returning characters and their continued developmental arcs would only appeal to the fans of the original but new characters are thrown into the mix, each with their own well defined personalities and quirks which make them instantly likable. Despite the stellar voice acting, character development feels a little rushed as the production tries to cover too much in 88 minutes. On the plus side it manages to weave in suffecient human drama, a social allegory about racial intolerance and xenophobia plus little bits of humor here and there for variety. A longer running time would have benefited Shadow Chronicles and allowed for the charaters to grow naturally.

Another aspect in which Shadow Chronicles suffers thanks to its indisicive appeal is in the animation. Made on a tiny budget, even less than many anime movies, Combining 2D character art with 3D CGI backgrounds and vehicles was a bold move that paid off. The characters are drawn with a mixture of american comic book proportions and japanese anime styled features. In other words, every male is a tall, buff, handsome "bishonen" and every female is lean, hot and with "assets" that would make WonderWoman Jealous. Really, whether you like the art style or not is up to personal taste. Taken on their own, the 2D and 3D animation is able to stand up to most big budget anime movies. Balancing a decent amount of art detail with fluid animation, it is only when the 2D characters and 3D models blend in the same scene that you can see how painfully they clash.

As a first time anime Director, Tommy Yune's inexperience shows. Fight choreography of the space battles looked like they came straight out of the original 80s anime. This is not really a good thing since this is a 2007 production. In the original anime, to save on budget, a still picture of a space fighter would zip across screen locked in a set pose to give the illusion of motion, enemies would disappear in gaudy balls of light and space cruisers exchange volleys of fire while making no attempts at evasive maneuvers. Basically on screen movement of mecha and spaceships were kept to a minimum back in the original series. Robotech the Shadow Chronicles continues that tradition except that now space battles involve CGI models that look more like toys than actual spacecraft. Yune directs this movie conservatively like a comic book but never fully exploits the limitless potential of animation.

Robotech: the Shadow Chronicles is a good effort for a debut production. Sadly, while grabbing around in the dark, trying to decide which target audience to appeal to, the production team made the mistake of continuing now just the good aspects of Robotech, but its flaws as well. The sometimes campy dialogue, derivative music, limited mecha animation and inconsistent production standards were all carried over from the original series. On the other hand, maybe this was just their idea of keeping true to the original.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you want to see the definitive sequel to a famous 80s classic anime series or if you like shows such as Star Wars.
Avoid it: if you obstinately believe that all anime has to be japanese in origin or if you never even heard of Robotech.

Entertainment: B
Story: A-(if you are long time fan) or C- (for new comers)
Characters: A
Animation: B-
Art: B
Voice work: A+
Replay Value: B-
"Brains": B-

hey thats one hot........wait she's a robot?
Maia and Louis discover the android Janice Emm.

Girly features and wild hair is all the rave in space
Marcus and Alex, the main pretty boy chara
cters of Shadow Chronicles

Leeeeevvvviinnnnnn onnnn a jet plaaaane......
The 3D CGI is quite awesome considering the measly production budget

Hand cannon. FOR THE WIN!!!!
But notice how the 2D foreground characters dont really fit in with the clean colored CGI background

All figures sold seperately
Quantity over quality. Sometimes having too many spacecraft in one scene comes at the price of animation detail

Ooh look down there, Maia is pointing at me!
Skull leader opens fire on the enemy

*while pointing at the previous pic* I could have sworn that white cloud was a space fart.
Maia Sterling. Latest addition to the Robotech hot chicks list.

Oh My Gawd! Marcus! You finally grew a pair!
Marcus and Scott's happy reunion

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