ROBOTECH: The Movie, Deconstructed.

ROBOTECH: The Movie is available on Youtube. Because I hate myself, I decided to sit down and watch it, and take detailed notes. You’re welcome.

I should note that not only does this commentary have spoilers for the “movie”, but it also massively spoils the original Megazone 23. If you haven’t seen that anime classic, the first true OAV, I recommend you do so immediately.

Watch along – IF YOU DARE.

(Segment 1)

0:16 – NO. I already hate this movie.

1:02: A Star Wars scroll. Full of bullshit. Really. Uh, Megazone 23 was KINDA NOT ACTUALLY SET ON EARTH.

1:46: This version of the theme is awful, and not just because of VHS warble. Too much emphasis on the horn, man. What was wrong with the original cut?

1:56: Why are you even bothering to credit the original artists? You’ve hacked up their work and recontextualized it into something it was never meant or designed to be. If I were them I’d be all ALAN SMITHEE THIS CRAP RIGHT NOW.

4:17: Oh, good. Extended Southern Cross footage, the most boring part of Robotech. The designs of this series were boring as hell anyway. Brain: shutting off nowzzzzzzz

6:13: LOL OH WAIT NICE DUB JOB claiming “Colonel Andrews”. Cheapass connecting edit. Of course we never get to see him before his appearance in the MZ 23 footage. Yes, they just spliced a random battle sequence from Southern Cross and, through cheap voiceover dubbing, changed its intent.

8:23: WHAT? A CLONE of… NO. WHY? (Snort – like typical B movies, they cut the footage in such a way that you never see “Andrews”‘ face or head.)

(Segment 2)

0:22: WRONG WRONG WRONG WOW. You just pulled the cinematic equivalent of starting the entire Harry Potter story at the battle of the Ministry of Magic. This sequence doesn’t come until halfway into the original film! Also, that EVE song was AWFUL, and this is from someone who got used to and even accepted some of that Lynn Minmay hackery from Robotech. Couldn’t we have had her singing “Stage Fright” instead? SHEESH.

0:37: “We have not been invaded, if you hear those rumors ignore them.” Ah, the ol’ “PLEASE LOOK AWAY NOTHING IS HAPPENING OVER HERE” manuever. Very effective on journalists and computer-brainwashed populations.

1:29: “Next time you ask for a raise I’m gonna use twice as much reverb.”

1:40: I’m getting whiplash from all these time jumps. Now we’re in a sequence that was about 10 minutes in from the start of MZ 23; the whole handover of the Garland.

Things get a little confusing here, because the Garland is prominently labeled “Bahamoud” in several places in the animation, but the dialogue calls it a MODAT (ugh) To clarify, the Garland (bike) is a access terminal to “Bahamoud” (the supercomputer), which houses EVE, the Bahamoud central AI. In Robotech: The Movie, the much less imaginative “Mother Computer” name is substituted for Bahamoud, and so for the entire film the bike is prominently labeled with a term that has no meaning to anyone. Couldn’t you have just kept the friggin’ computer’s name as Bahamoud, Harmony Gold?

3:00 “He’s broken out!” (Protomen song cue)

3:16: So… you leave in the gorekill shot of Shogo’s buddy, where there is a crushed body and a HUGE PILE of blood, and have the voice over say the following:

“Is he dead?”

“He’s getting there.”

I SHIT YOU NOT THIS IS ACTUAL DIALOGUE.

3:19: Another CLEAR shot of the bike’s ankle joint with the BAHAMOUD label. IN ENGLISH. IT’S NOT LIKE WE CAN’T READ, HARMONY GOLD.

4:22: And now we’ve jumped to the original start of Megazone. I wonder if this is how EVE felt in the original when B.D. was hacking into her protection database and they kept busting through her programming layers. I actively have to fight my knowledge of the original story to keep going through this thing.

6:09: Okay, they’ve now used the opening sequence where Yui and Shogo first meet – literally the first six minutes of MZ 23 – to jam plot elements (through redubbing) that make it appear as if they already are dating, know each other, and have been at it for a while, making references to stuff that either happened in the original at a different point or are IC for their characters from the original. I actually can’t reasonably complain about this; yes, it’s jarring, but it works for storytelling purpose in a way that the Southern Cross hacking did not, allowing the maintaining of character beats that would otherwise have been lost in the cut footage.

(Segment 3)

0:09: Wow, that was an AWKWARD transition. Back to more Southern Cross footage. SNORE. Weirdly enough, this footage is used as (I’m sure) justification for the original space-versus-aliens battle sequence in MZ 23 – but this is going to cause a glaring disconnect later, since MZ 23 is set onboard a (SPOILERS) GIANT SPACESHIP IN OUTER SPACE, and these hacked-in Southern Cross battles are taking place within Earth’s atmosphere… UGH.

1:53: Wow, a bunch of no-name, no-face people in a mismatching art style I don’t care about are being blown up. Gosh! Don’t try and pull my heartstrings with that “Sound the retreat while there’s someone left to hear it” crap, either.

6:31 – Broadcasting the entirety of EVE’s database to a nonfunctional satellite? Oi. NOBODY questions this. “Guess that’s what they call busy work.” Guess that’s what they call BAD WRITING.

8:01 – Wow, Tomomi’s character got (har har) SHOT TO PIECES in this. In the original, she was a perky/bubbly chick who just had one dream of making a cool SF film. In this version? She’s a nagging harridan shrew bitch.

8:37 – CLUMSY. Also, another terrible EVE song. But to suggest that a character that lives in the world where EVE is omnipresent doesn’t… ARGH, THAT’S RIGHT THEY CUT ALL THE SEQUENCES FROM THE STORY ESTABLISHING EVE IS A OMNIPRESENT CELEBRITY ICON. Which now requires “Mark” to look like a giant idiot and for someone to explain EVE to him, which is still stupid since the dialogue states that she’s an omnipresent celebrity (SHOW US DON’T TELL US) and … ARGH.

8:51: I just realized that whoever’s singing for EVE in this sounds UNNERVINGLY like the singer for Jem. I can’t decide if that’s brilliant meta or just cheap, shitty vocals.

(Segment 4)

0:50: NOW “Mark” gets around to calling EVE about the Garland MODAT. In the original, this was one of the very first things he tried to do and it was a dumb idea there too, because it was a giant neon sign pointing at his location to the evil military complex secretly operating EVE. It’ll probably work similarly here.

0:57: And they cut the nervous gulp from Shogo – but leave Eve laughing at him in. Weird.

1:36: Yup, basically playing out as in the original. The only bit of intact/conceptually unaltered footage in the damn movie so far. I can’t believe I’m halfway through this thing. I wish I was ALL the way through this thing.

5:18: Southern Crozzzzzzzz

5:47: Okay, now “Mark” is infiltrating the TV studio. As in the original, appears to be attempting to get closer to EVE. LOL, nice ripoff of “Every Breath You Take”. Is this an attempt to be coy and meta, Harmony Gold?

7:26: … I must be hearing this wrong. I must be. Did EVE just sing “Lean on me, but don’t come on me?”

7:38: And where in the original MZ 23 the revelation of EVE’s falsity sends Shogo on a city-destroying rampage with the Garland, this film cuts to… a later and very placid all-talk exposition sequence. Gosh, “Mark”, how’s it feel to have your cinematic balls cut off?

8:30: Heh, without the original context, the easter egg shot of the Macross in space leaving Earth actually supports this shitty narrative.

9:29: You know, if EVE is this lucid as to give a whole backstory and give “Mark” instructions on what to do next – then why can’t she keep out the jerks hacking her system? To be fair, this was also a flaw in the original story, but the original made it clear that EVE was under constant attack and could only communicate freely for very brief flashes at a time.

At the end of the exposition dump in the original, EVE pulls back in a panic, revealing herself naked, and shrieks “Help, they’re killing me!” which freaks Shogo right the hell out. His reaction is still here, but EVE’s end of the sequence is gone and it’s all been smoothed over, so EVE seems far less hysterical and the cinematic threat is gone and OH MY GOD I AM CARING WAY TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS SHITTY HACKJOB.

Sorry, won’t happen again.

Damn, I need a break. And booze.

(Segment 5)

0:04: WHOA WAIT A SECOND. We just cut from a city driving shot to … the UNDERGROUND COMPLEX WHERE THE SUPERCOMPUTER HOUSING EVE IS. Which is explained as such in dialogue, but the actual sequence where Shogo physically drives there was cut. (Why? For time? To cram in more Southern Cross?)

1:40: It looks like they couldn’t get/couldn’t find matching sound effects to the beefy original lasers, so instead we hear giant, high-tech robots shooting Old West six-shooter pistol bullets at each other. Ka-pew!

1:57: Okay, I was wondering how the heck they were gonna cover this up. During the battle sequence in the underground/aboveground city in the original, the battle blasts open a hole in the ship’s hull and Shogo falls out into space. This is a critical plot scene in the original film. Nobody else except the military knows that the Megazone is actually a computer-controlled spaceship. Now Shogo is seeing the truth for himself.

In this movie? “Mark” yells, “It’s some kind of vaccuum, there’s no gravity!”

Which is… pretty much a textbook definition of space.

2:03: Andrews has a line of dialogue saying he’s trapped Mark in a “space combat simulator”. WELL THAT SETTLES THAT THEN. They are desperately contorting the original footage to fit their ludicrous idea that the whole story needs to take place on Earth. When it really doesn’t even have to. The simpler and easier alternative would be to actually use the easter egg Macross shot for its true intent, still-frame it under some narrative dialogue, and claim that something destroyed the Earth (The Robotech Masters, if you insist on this cheap fusion, or better still the Invid/protoculture/whateva to keep continuity with the original series) and that humanity escaped in several generation ships. From there you can basically leave Megazone’s plot intact, since that is what the original plot WAS. And if you want to make the unidentified, unknown alien enemies of the original film Invid or Robotech Masters or whatever, chasing after the last bit of “Robotechnology” in the form of EVE, you can still do that. This movie didn’t have to be this way. Harmony Gold actually made things harder on themselves than they needed to be.

But I digress.

2:33: “Release that cable and I’ll be sucked into the gravity core.” … Okay. (Now, I will grant you this, Macek, there’s no reason that the Megazone wouldn’t HAVE some kind of device that generates gravity. This was never addressed in the original, nice try here, too bad it’s in the wrong context entirely.)

Now, from this point in the original, Shogo pulls B.D. back in and gets the full scoop on the government conspiracy and coverup of the aliens that have been brutally kicking the Megazone’s ass. Let’s see what kind of noise Harmony Gold replaces it with.

3:33: Wow. Okay, they’re completely throwing away the whole original scene in order to have “Andrews” continue to lie his ass off to “Mark’s” face. I guess this fits the character of “Andrews”, and Harmony Gold gets to sidestep any pesky lingering plot problems from the original this way. Blah.

6:00 “Maybe we should all go underground,” says the background song. Cute.

6:37: Hahaha. The playful conversation Yui and Shogo have in the park about sex (and whether or not they are going to have it) is overwritten with some pretty lame plot-related dialogue here. You can bet the pink scene probably won’t be in this version of the film! Funny, because the knowing and lecherous looks they’re trading are completely baffling in the context of the replacement dialogue – their expressions don’t match what they’re supposedly saying.

7:22: Hm, the ‘audition’ scene. Doubt it will follow through with the director going ahead and taking Yui to a hotel room to get her to ‘privately audition’ for a part (along with Shogo abusing the bike to spy on them digitally and then provide some handy molestus interruptus) but.. who knows? The original sequence was heavily timed and syncopated to the music, but the replacement song doesn’t even fit the beats of “Becky’s” movements.

8:00 It’s also going on way too long – are they trying to make a full AMV to the song out of it? Yeah, they forced the footage to run for the whole length of their fill-in song. Nobody’s fooled when you show the same six cuts several times in a row, guys.

8:31: Oh, this is good. ALL the dancers get hotel rooms, apparently, and the director is just going to ‘walk Becky home’.

(Segment 6)

0:09: Oh boy, more “plot” from the other seriezzzzzz. This film objectively makes no sense. Colonel Andrews’ pursuit of the Garland MODAT isn’t getting anywhere; Mark has stalled him for almost the entire length of the film. Despite the fact that EVE was supposedly dumped to the Robotech Masters already, progress in this so-called B-plot is also stalled because it’s apparently going to take “36 hours” to dump all the data. Even though Earthlings have such ‘primitive’ technology, but EVE is Robotech, but…

0:32 and then we cut back from the meandering non-direction of the B-plot to a strategically useless aside from the A-plot; honestly, if you were going to cut ANYTHING out of Megazone 23, this is what should have been first to go – the director/Yui hotel room scene is entirely wasted space as far as the conspiracy plotline goes, and only seems to exist for titillation in the original and to give Shogo another excuse to go batshit with the Garland. But we’ve already established he has a temper and a willingness to use the Garland for personal/inappropriate reasons in other scenes, so why this whole sequence should have survived in Robotech: The Movie is completely beyond me. Except for, you know, “heheheh titties”.

1:29: LOL. “Becky” has a throwaway line claiming she doesn’t know how the director got in her hotel room. NICE TRY. Including the salacious footage without even including the original’s moral ambiguity (Yui was plenty willing to sleep around for a part, making her a grey area character, but seems to have second thoughts once it gets going) is cheap. Several shots establishing the reality of the situation have been cut, which I suppose is to make “Becky” a more palatable character. (The fact that she shrews almost as bad as Tomomi’s-whatever-her-name-is doppleganger is not, apparently, meant to turn us off.)

2:20: And while Yui is laughing at the ridiculousness of Shogo smashing into her hotel room with a giant robot and how surprising it was, “Becky” is laughing about the director trying to rape her. Uhm… And then, suddenly, the dialogue abruptly snaps to an authentic translation of the original scene- which is bizarre given that they just tried to cast “Becky” as an innocent victim, and not a morally ambiguous ‘dirty adult’. It makes Mark’s “Grow up!” and Becky’s “You don’t own me!” response incomprehensible – unless you know the original context of the scene. This edit doesn’t work at all. 

2:49: More stalling from the B-plot. I literally can’t find anything useful to say about this, since the welding of these two parts is so clumsy and so jarring. Yeah yeah, alien menace – launch some fighters and do something or shut up.

3:36: Okay, now they’re launching fighters. In a fuzzy copy of a sequence with a lower frame rate than the Megazone footage. Yay!

3:48: Now they cut in the (clear and higher frame rate) Megazone space battle footage. Finally. I guess this allows them to actually have the space battle in space, but it doesn’t explain where the fighters (all obvious Garland units) come from and… ughhhhhh. It also doesn’t cover up the fact that the entire alien battle from Megazone takes place with the undercity as the backdrop. OOPS.

5:05: Wow, I have no idea what is supposed to be happening in this battle. Nobody we care about is involved in this fight, it keeps cutting back and forth between different art styles and frame rates, some ships are launching from space, but where are the Megazone ships launching from if they’re not based in space? the only origin point we’re seeing for the Southern Cross ships are… you guessed it. A spaceship. IN SPACE. But the Megazone plot is supposed to be happening on Earth. And the Megazone footage shows the undercity. Which is supposedly on the ground. So… uhm…

7:05: My god, am I still only on part 6?

7:18: Wow. They just cut together pieces from EIGHT seperate scenes of the original, all from before the point in the ‘story’ we’re at now, to make some kind of weird montage that is I guess meant to catch up all the broken plot threads from the A line that they’ve been ignoring. I can’t even…

9:17: FINALLY someone calls someone about the stupidity of firing your critical data into space where any unfriendly alien government can pick it up.  (Never mind that this is Mai’s dad – Mai has been damn near completely written out of this film, as has Tomomi, and that this phone call had an entirely different context in the original…)

(Section 7)

0:23.  Hilarious. Total rebuild of a sequence that didn’t even need to be rebuilt using footage we’ve already seen earlier in the movie, just to get to the same plot point – the hostile takeover of the cabinet by force –  that the original film got to without having to lap itself.

1:13: Oh, looks like we’re getting to Tomomi’s death. However, since 98% of her scenes were cut, and she was utterly unlikeable in this version, who cares? Cheesy overlay of some kind of echoed gunshot or heartbeat instead of the original’s soft, tragic “Why?”. The extensive blood spray as she slides down the opposite wall is also removed, and the film bouncing down to the floor across her bloodied foot/sock is also gone.

2:22: “I knew Andrews would be a little upset by the shutdown, but c’mon, overthrowing the government? That’s a little extreme, innit?”  THIS IS WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SAY. As they repeat the same computer footage for a third time.

2:47: Tomomi’s death was the spark that sent Shogo off for his final battle with B.D. But we’ve still got like 20 minutes to go here, so how is the A plot going to possibly stall that long? They try to milk her death (“Kelly”? She had to die before we got a good idea what her name was?) for sympathy here, but they’ve gutted the scene of all force – her corpse is all but invisible, edited out of every shot it appears in the original sequence, and we never see the bloodstain on the wall behind her slumped body either.  The only way we see her body is in the extreme left side of the frame right at the beginning – which was impossible to edit out.

Becky has an idiotic line here, “Maybe she’s fainted?” Uh, there’s no mistaking the giant bloodstain and what’s left of Tomomi’s brains splattered all over the wall. The only justification for this line is that we, the audience, can’t see what she is actually seeing.

4:20: NOW they cut in the rampage that was hacked out earlier – remember when I mentioned that Shogo goes on a rampage after learning that “EVE” is a fraud? It’s now here, displaced by almost a half hour from where it’s supposed to be.

5:45: Suddenly, “Mark” has his banzai headband on! Now we’re back at the timeline of the original plot again. And to a … passable translation of the original battle sequence. Problem is… we’ve still got 20 minutes to go, and this is the final battle of Megazone 23. Where the HELL can things go from here?

(Segment 8)

0:02: Robotech’s “sad music” is playing as “Becky” walks onto the balcony to watch.. uh… whatsehername-that-should-have-been-Mai leave. Mai was a lightweight character in the original, to be sure, but the three girls were all roommates and pretty close friends, so this should mean something. It doesn’t, here.

0:50: oh, Lord. Does this mean a bunch of Southern Cross footage is going to suddenly try and become the A plot? Ughghhhghgh.

1:29: WHOA WHOA WHOA NEW FOOTAGE AW SNAP. And it’s awful. Doesn’t match at all. The music is warbling like a drunk.

2:04: Damn, they’ve wiped out the lyrical scene where Eve gently nudges Shogo awake with a song (and shows alignment with him in a nice bit of visual metaphor, beautifully detailed as he struggles to come to) with a clunky shot of naked Eve trying to yell at him until he moves. “You must overcome the pain. You mustn’t let it defeat you.” I’M TRYING BUT DAMN YOU’RE MAKING IT HARD, HARMONY GOLD.

2:29: Uhm, the Garland MODAT is out of ammo and out of power. How do you intend to send him across town on a rescue mission, new footage?

3:00: Don’t put bits of the original footage anywhere near this. It’s just insulting, yo. Americans: Making literal what doesn’t need to be literal.

5:22: Telling, not showing. Sigh.

6:11: Sure is Tomino in here what with the random blowing people into space.

6:50: He’s a maniac! Maniac! In your mech… and he’s piloting like he’s never piloted befo~re! You know, for a guy with a broken or near broken knee cap and head wounds that are bleeding all over the place, “Mark” sure is strangely lucid and capable of punching people in the face hard enough to collapse their nose. Sure is testosterone in here.

Wait, I know. This is actually the hallucination Shogo’s having before he actually comes to in the real ending! He can’t admit defeat! That’s it! That’s what’s going on!

8:29: Hypocrites. It’s not acceptable to show Tomomi’s dead, bloodstained body, but it’s perfectly fine to show an nameless adult man’s dead, bloodstained body in the new footage?

8:53: Pointless fanfic-level “drama” at the airport, which may be a reasonable extrapolation from a dangling end of Megazone 23 (AMERICANS CAN’T HANDLE AMBIGUITY, EVER). The really ridiculous thing is that this absurd over the top show of force (with bullets having about the same hit rate as your average COBRA fighter) is completely unnecessary. Andrews is Prime Minister due to killing everybody else in the government. Couldn’t he just get the equivalent of the FAA to ground the plane and have some nice quiet security ops take people away in handcuffs in a nice quiet manner? Sending mobile armored flying fighters AND tanks? PLUS ground troops? For one guy? Seriously.

9:03: “Mark” just NOW figures out that “Todd” (remember him?) is dead. Uh, that’s been clear since the start of the story. And this is another consequence of stupid editing – in the original , Shogo SAW THE BODY (in brief) so he never wasted another second worrying about anything except how to stay ahead of the bad guys. So the characters in this film have some kind of weird blindness where, like the Bugblatter Beast of Traal, the story assumes if we the AUDIENCE can’t see it, then the CHARACTERS can’t see it either.

(Segment 9)

Finally at the end of this thing. I expect hilarity.

2:43 – Extended Star Wars ripoff. “Destroy this core and you destroy the alien flagship.” Okay,but who are these faceless pilots, and why do I care if they succeed? I’m sure there was a story here at some point…

4:01: Where are we now? That doesn’t look like an Earth landscape. It doesn’t look like any location we’ve previously seen.

4:22: Back at the airport where Mark is strafing tanks with a reject from R-Type. The editing in this sequence is so sloppy as to be borderline incoherent. Apparently Harmony Gold went to all the trouble of having new footage commissioned – and then HACKED IT OUT OF ORDER TOO.

5:52: This sequence is so, so unnecessary. We don’t need TWO climactic battles in a story. We just don’t.

6:38: What the hell is “Becky” doing here, and did she seriously run all the way there or something? I guess that provides a strange counterpoint to Shogo’s walking home in the original version.

Nothing’s really resolved here. The dialogue claims that downing the flagship will be enough to stop the aliens, but there’s still plenty of ships out there, and this isn’t Macross, where everybody on all sides joined together to turn against the Overlord at the very end. The ‘provisional government’ is still full of Andrews’ stooges, so just blowing HIM up won’t help, and Mark’s still got nasty, bloody headwounds.

This isn’t even a proper closure ending, this is just a “We’re done now let’s stop” ending.

Well, I believe in real endings.

Advertisements