Newest Book ...

Monday, March 31, 2014


Next from the big list (HERE) is another space film that my son is sitting out: Message from Space (1978).

My take on it:
Oddly named aliens throw glowing walnuts into space to find heroes who will fight against their kabuki samurai overlords. 
An oversimplification, but that's how it starts. 
From there, it stays rather goofy.  Sailing ships flying in space.  (Man, the Japanese like that image, don't they?)  Drag racing spaceship pilots.  The "Space Patrol," complete with a trooper wearing a motorcycle helmet straight outta CHiPs.  Annoying princess.  Vic Morrow as a booze-swilling general.  Guys in suits as "robots."  Space night club!  Chasing fireflies during a horribly composited spacewalk.  A subplot about a witch trying to marry her ugly son to the empress. 
Other than that, it's not so much goofy as just plain boring. 
Look.  I'll get to the point.  The model work and visual effects are top notch as far as these films have gone so far.  (I read later that this was the most expensive Japanese film produced up to this point.  I can believe it.)  It feels more epic and grand than many other tokusatsu films.  Unfortunately, it's burdened by ill-conceived humor, over-the-top acting, a lack of cultural imagination*, and an expected but ultimately misguided attempt to copy Star Wars.
The music is better than War in Space ... but the walnut cue sounds suspiciously like Princess Leia's theme from THAT OTHER MOVIE.  I mean, really.  HERE is Leia's theme.  HERE is part of the walnut theme.  C'mon.  Elsewhere, the score feels like a direct lift from John Williams' efforts (especially at the beginning of the attack post-firefly chase). 
Bad guy ship flyover?  Yes, it's lengthy, making the vessel feel very large.  Well, it would if the rest of the scene were better assembled and structured.  (Not everyone is ILM.) 
* - What did I mean by "lack of cultural imagination?"  In Star Wars, there wasn't an identifiable Earth culture, especially not among the aliens.  Here, though, despite being who-knows-how-far into the future, the bad guy aliens are evil samurai with kabuki theater makeup.  The good guys speak in '70s slang and wear clothes similar to the youth of that decade.  There's a disco feel in the night club and in a party scene.  It's just so dated.  Elements are so easily pinpointed.  That's not the case with (most of) Star Wars and other successful films like it.  ...  All of that said, it's entirely possible that my own perspective is skewed since I'm not of the origin culture myself. 
These sins could be forgiven if the movie was exciting and enjoyable.  Yes, there are some entertaining scenes ... but on the whole, it drags.  Hard. 
Message from Space ... in copying Star Wars, it forgot to be interesting or good.  2 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Next, Gamera: The Super Monster.

No comments:

Post a Comment