I finally got around to renting “Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles” last week and came to the conclusion that while it wasn’t a complete waste of time, it certainly wasn’t the best 88 minutes I’ve ever spent.
Now, I know, there are probably many of you out there chorusing “What did you expect from a fan-film follow-up to a series bastardized from the original Japanese?!” And I have to admit, you’d kinda be right.
I wasn’t expecting anything amazing (Robotech was never the epitome of timeless, top-notch anime). I was kind of hoping for something a little more coherent.
Let me make it clear, that when Robotech (an Americanized riff off of the anime classic “Macross”) first aired here in BC back in the 80’s, I was one impressed teen. How could you not like transformable fighters and starships defending the Earth from aliens – giant aliens no less? That being said, I was only a fan of the first part of the series which depicted the adventures of the crew of the SDF-1 and their battle against the Zentradi. The other two segments, highlighting the wars of subsequent generations against the Robotech Masters and the Invid were largely uninteresting to me at the time. Maybe I was just Roboteched out by the time the first chapter ended.
As an adult, I can still look back and enjoy the celestial slugfests and the attempts at creating three-dimensional characters (though often in a ham-fisted soap-opera way). Although I cringe at the gigantic run-on sentences with their unending streams of subordinate clauses: “…blah blah blah and therefore blah blah blah and so blah blah blah and therefore…” You get the point. Why could they not have had a better dialogue editor back in the day?
Anyhow, never having followed the back two thirds of the story, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d be a little lost with some of the character walk-ons and relationships that have their genesis in ‘Masters and Invid.
That being said, this flick was a complete mish-mash of classic character cameos (some unresolved), half-hinted backstories and rushed and undeveloped plot ideas. If old characters are going to make appearances, it should be a reason necessary for the advancement of the plot, not to satisfy cameo-thirsty fanboys. If a movie is released for the general public, backstories necessary to give it context need to be developed properly, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense to the uninitiated and seems stilted even to those who already know the story. If a major plot development takes place, it too must be flushed out, and not rushed unceremoniously out the door like the Invid departure as a means to make way for the next undeveloped challenge. In essence, a movie like this needs to be able to stand on its own as an individual story, one that just happens to be part of a larger tapestry.
This principle even applies to feature film pilots for new series (as it’s clear the producers of the new Robotech installment are hoping). Example: the feature pilot for the new “Battlestar Galactica” works great as a stand-alone film. Sure you’d like to see the fleet’s further adventures on the road to Earth, but you don’t need to because you’ve just been told a phenomenal story that works within itself.
“Shadow Chronicles” fails at this. Miserably.
That being said, it wasn’t totally without merit. The space battles were cool and the writers did manage to infuse the film with the same energy level of the original (if not the focus). I also enjoyed how the general design and colouring of the Earth capital ships worked as a nice little nod to another classic: the Yamato/Argo of “Space Cruiser Yamato”/”Starblazers”.
If you have only a passing interest in anime and Robotech history, I’d suggest waiting until “Shadow Chronicles” runs on TV for free before indulging your curiosity.