Visually, it’s extremely impressive and incredibly detailed. The best descriptor for the animation is “cool.” However, it’s quite clear the budget was heavily loaded towards the animation, but not much else. If you are a fan of the original Captain Harlock, you will find this movie extremely disappointing. Really, the best way to watch it is with the attitude that it’s a pretty, but mindless action flick.
Purpose: Poor. It serves well as your average sci-fi action movie. The basic setup was: here’s some really cool characters, doing cool things that you get to learn about. The underlying problem was that there really wasn’t a clear goal to the movie. Instead of a goal, we got little more than a camera following scattered elements, watching from afar. It lacked any real sort of hook that draws the viewer in. Several times, they attempted to throw out those hooks, yet they never delivered on what they promised. This ended up robbing even the pretty fancy and cool action sequences, turning them into an “I’m rooting for the explosions” type of event. Sadly, instead of an experience that said “wow! I want to join the pirates right now!” this movie was more of “well, let’s not do that again.”
Characters: Bad. If you’ve watched and loved the original Captain Harlock, these characters are nothing short of a travesty. Even putting that aside, they are bad. At their best, most of the characters are incredibly shallow, falling even below a plot delivery device. To put it into words, the characters had little to no presence – they acted like mannequins or hand puppets that did some talking and some fighting, but, ultimately, were completely empty and lifeless. At all points, the viewer was treated as an outsider, learning little, if anything, about the characters. Even when we got something approaching a character motivation, it was highly one-dimensional and felt like a label, without any real meaning behind it. The best way to describe the characters is as if you are watching a sport you aren’t familiar with – you see some people from afar, running around and doing things and sometimes the crowd cheers.
World: Weak. There was so, so much potential. There were extremely cool things happening, but without any sort of foundation to make it consistent. The problem is: Nothing. Is. Explained. While you don’t need a spill session on the finer points of interstellar warp or a explanation of exactly how a super-positron cannon works, you do need to build the world to a point where those things can exist without explanation. Instead, we have random bits of jargon thrown in and super-weapons that come out of nowhere. Stuff happened when convenient to do so. Oops, shields not working? kay. Random misfires? check. Awesome wheelchair-thingy? Awesome! (No, seriously. That was pretty cool.) I’m not saying that it wasn’t extremely cool or neat to watch, just that the world lacked any sort of consistency. It was almost more of a sandbox-style game instead of a world governed by its own rules and causality.
Plot: Bad. Continuing on this theme of random, this movie lacked any unifying plot to tie disparate narrative elements together. Frankly, there were more holes than plot and the name of the game was to leap from action sequence to action sequence. Since the action was the main plot (I think), the subplots were everything in between. They tried to include too many subplots and give them equal attention. Even then, they lacked the appropriate, logical steps to make them interesting. However, the subplots were horrifyingly identical in execution. They were: give some action, add some little bits of character plots that are unrelated to each other, and then the character the camera is following changes his mind. Every. Time. This ended up creating an extremely jarring mood, that eventually led to desensitization.
Storytelling: Bad. Starting off slowly, the movie doesn’t even tell you the names of many characters until over halfway through. This creates a rather obvious problem on its face because it’s not even telling you that those characters are important enough to warrant a name. This ends up de-emphasizing many characters and preventing any sort of attachment a viewer might have for them. Next, they never really clarify any sort of relationships between characters. It’s an awful place to be, confused as to whether key events are between brothers and sisters, co-workers, friends? This ended up robbing a great many scenes of a much more potent impact. It also helped enforce the feeling of randomness on the story – we only get to find out things way after they were supposed to be relevant. All those things are annoying, but the biggest problem with the storytelling was that it never properly developed anything. Thus, when the time came, there was no one to root for. Effectively, all we had were varying degrees of bad/selfish/shallow people that were at cross-purposes. If done properly, that actually could have been a strong, interesting story. However, since the storytelling didn’t really carry any weight, there was nothing to make anything compelling.
Pace: Decent. It never felt like the show was dragging on or even that it was progressing quickly, it just existed. Actually, we can thank the action for that – it was flashy and spaced at well enough points that it prevented any sort of dragging. Honestly, the action and the accompanying pace became the only thing to look forward to as the show progressed.