Sunday, January 10, 2016

Harlock: Space Pirate


  Digging around through Netflix, I stumbled across this. It looked cool, and I'm fond of director Shinji Aramaki's work. So I figured, what the hell- and gave it a shot. I'll throw this out there right now, I know nothing about the anime this is based on. I've seen a lot of anime, but not this one. So I'm not judging this movie as a fan of the source material, I'm just judging it on basic movie-watching criteria. It looks gorgeous. The settings and environments are simply stunning. The makers of this movie put a lot of work into making this truly eye catching. It's also very entertaining. I liked the action scenes and the story, and the characters were fun as well.

  Despite all of that, it never quite clicked with me the way Aramaki's earlier work did. Harlock: Space Pirate doesn't have a strong emotional core the way the Appleseed movies did. Thus, I never got as invested as I feel I should have been. This is also due in no small part to the computer generated animation. I feel like they were aiming for a very lifelike look, but fell short- and didn't stylize it enough to offset the expression gap. The action and the visuals upstaged the characters at every turn. I felt like I was watching action figures wage space wars. Which is fine, because as far as epic space movies go- you don't have much to pick from these days, and Harlock: Space Pirate is a fine supplement.

  But, when you finally feel one of the characters truly being a character with real emotions and such, it's too little, too late. I should also point out that it's not that the animation is bad, or sub par- it's just a problem inherent in the medium itself. I've seen modern video games with more emotional and life-like cutscenes because they focus on the acting and the emotions, not the visual detail of skin and hair. All of that is irrelevant if it looks like your characters are trying to emote from under a ton of botox. Thankfully, Harlock: Space Pirate is less about emotions and characters, and more about massive space lasers and big intimidating spaceships that spew ominous clouds of smoke and such. When it comes to impressive eye candy, this movie is well stocked.

  It's a very polished piece of eye candy, with a tiny heart beating beneath all the special effects. There's a lot to like about this flick if you can follow the story, and while it's not necessarily complex or complicated, there's a lot of backstory detail that gets chucked at you during the opening credits. If you don't pay attention, you'll be lost. This is a very linear story, not a serial-like chapter adventure. You don't really get the feeling you can drop in on this crew just anytime and strap in for a different adventure- this is a very direct saga with a beginning a middle and an end. Like Star Wars as opposed to Star Trek- in regards to story structure.

  Star Trek is geared to tell many different stories over time, whereas Star Wars has been telling the same story since day one. Not that it matters all that much, but Harlock: Space Pirate is definitely like Star Wars in that respect. You have to know what's going on to follow the story. Whereas with the Appleseed movies, you only needed the stage set for you- and you were good to go. Having said that, I think it's a strength of the movie in some ways. The world feels very fleshed out and lived in, it feels like there's a rich backstory here, and the characters reflect that really well. Despite not quite nailing the human element, there were some moments where the story itself picked up the slack and you really had some feelings to latch on to. I gotta give them props there.

  Anyways, I hope I haven't put anyone off watching it. It was pretty fun. If you're a sucker for these CGI flicks, you'll definitely dig this one. I definitely recommend the Appleseed movies as well, and maybe those Final Fantasy movies if you dig that kinda stuff. Technically speaking, Harlock: Space Pirate is one of the most advanced and well polished ones out there, unfortunately the genre has a ways to go still. Look at Pixar movies. They have absolutely no problem getting the audience to feel. So why do these kinds of movies? I seriously think it's because they put more effort into visuals than they do acting. If this genre is to have any sort of lasting appeal, they need to rectify that, pronto.

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