Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles Movie (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2007
What They Say
The legendary Admiral Hunter is missing as a deadly new adversary threatens the vulnerable survivors of the Robotech wars. Vince Grant and Scott Bernard must race against time to unravel a treacherous mystery that could spell the end of the human race!
After years of misfires and false starts, Robotech finds itself finally getting to an all new original continuation that's actually finished.
Providing for both a stereo and 5.1 mix, the film has two English language audio tracks that gives the action a good deal of placement to it. We listened to this in its 5.1 mix which is done at a 448kbps encoding and it sounds solid throughout but it doesn't have quite the oomph and punch to it that it could have had. The mixing in general is solid and the dialogue is clean and well placed but the big action sequences just don't have a real impact to them. With the film having no real big music numbers either, the music track feels serviceable but uninspired.
Originally released in 2006 to theaters, the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With a bitrate that hits and stays in the seven's for a good part of it, the transfer for this looks quite good throughout and generally problem free. Because of how this is animated, with a number of stills and panning sequences, the bitrate has plenty of opportunities to drop down to the threes and fours and does so but there wasn't any perceptible loss of quality to those scenes. Colors are generally solid throughout with lots of vibrant pieces throughout while the black space sequences look excellent. With no cross coloration and only some of the usual mild stuttering during panning sequences, this is a very clean looking transfer that shines very nicely.
With such a large cast of characters I wondered who would get the front cover. It's no surprise to see Scott Bernard take it with Marlene at his side while others and the ships are laid out around them. The overall background image of the Earth with a battle going on around them it has quite a good feel to it and looks very slick. There's enough familiar imagery to it but also hints of how its been updated with more current animation that it can appeal both to old school fans and those who want the latest and greatest. The back cover goes for the technical layout with machinery designs used for the background while bringing in several screenshots of the characters. A couple of brief paragraphs cover the plot while the bottom has the various awards its won and some production and technical grid information. No insert or reversible cover has been included.
The menu design for the release is pretty simple with just a letterboxed layout that has clips from the film playing throughout it to some dark serious mood music. Selections are lined along the bottom while the logo is along the top which leaves plenty of space to check out the visuals. Access times are nice and fast and the film defaulted to its English 5.1 mix. I did appreciate however that there are SDH subtitles included for the film though I would have been even happier if they had non-SDH as well, something that you do see on a lot of Hollywood releases depending on the studio.
There aren't a lot of different extras on this release but what is here has a good amount of content to it. The teaser trailer is included for the film though I'm surprised that they haven't made up more spots to promote this and offered them here. The big extra is the "Birth of a Sequel" featurette which runs about 45 minutes in length. This takes a good bit of time to get rolling as its front-loaded with fans geeking out over the show in general but once it gets moving into dealing with the creators and the production it proves to be much more interesting.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It is very easy to say that without Robotech in the early eighties I would not be here now doing this. My love of that TV series got me to go to a science fiction convention in Boston where I got not only a laminate with my picture that proclaimed I was an official Veritech fighter pilot but also a copy of the Macross movie fansubbed. I had adored the TV series so seeing this brand new movie that retold the story in a high budget way had me giggling the entire train ride home. It was my first introduction to anything in Japanese with subtitles and I wore that tape into the ground. It no longer plays but I still keep it.
Robotech has had a fair bit of resurgence in the last several years in the video market with both the series getting a full on special edition release in multiple box sets but also seeing Macross come out in two different forms. Add in the two sequel series being presented in their original form and those who loved this property finally got to see what came out twenty years ago from every angle possible. What was missing however was something new. In the interim there have been plenty of novels (which I admit I would still want to see animated " but only if rewritten and cleaned up) and some new Japanese series that continue the original property but there hasn't been any new animated Robotech itself. A long time in coming, Shadow Chronicles finally corrects this after some misfires in getting going.
Much as they say in the making of featurette, the biggest problem that the creators have behind this is making it accessible to new fans while not boring the socks off of everyone else. The film takes place in the time just before the final attack on Reflex Point that marked the end of the original series. Where we had originally seen the Mars Division come in for the attack only to be destroyed, the rest of the fleet has spent its time building up and prepping on Moon Base Aluce while getting people ready to attack on Earth. While we see both Scott and Ariel trying to get through to Reflect Point, we also see the attack from the perspective of Marlene's younger brother Alex as a pilot. The original series didn't go into much detail about the actual full on attack so this brings some clarity to that while also giving more depth to the reasoning behind the Queen's leaving of Earth.
The Expeditionary Force had aligned itself with the Children of Shadow, also known as the Haydonites, while out in the universe. The race, fairly mysterious, has reason to help humanity in its struggle against both the Masters and the Invid but has little love for humanity either. Unknown to them, the Haydonites have hidden Trojan Horses in all of the high tech anti-Invid technology that they've given them in order to be able to eliminate them after they eliminate their own enemies. The enemy of my enemy is my tool for their own destruction. Where their plan goes awry is when Admiral Hunter's ship doesn't make it to the attack and Vince Grant takes the Icarus off to find him. It's through this side encounter while the main battle goes on that they learn that the massive weapons they've been given to use against the Invid will actually obliterate the Earth entirely. It then becomes a race to warn the fleet about what's going on and dealing with the Haydonite's new attacks on the Expeditionary Force's locations around deep space. And to make matters worse, Hunter and the SDF-3 end up getting sucked up into a black hole.
With as big a franchise as this is, there are innumerable ways you can go wrong. And to a lot of fans I'm sure that Shadow Chronicles is wrong in many ways. Be it characters that don't make appearances (where's my Lisa dagnabit!) or seeing original Veritech Fighters (hello lawyers!), there are reasons that the large base of fans can gripe and grouse about this film. And they aren't bad reasons either for the most part. There is such a large cast of characters that need to be accounted for " especially if you're considering the Sentinel's series as canon " that people will be left out that shouldn't be. The choices made for this film which end up bringing in some new characters as well are ones that I think work rather well. The leads to me are both squarely Scott and Ariel and they do a very good job of taking this as continuity piece from the TV series and moving it forward.
The new characters that come in the form of Alex and Marcus aren't terribly deep here but they work to bring some excellent continuity to the main series by having one of them be Marlene's younger brother. With Max and Dana out of the picture, bringing Maia as the resident pilot and Skull Leader does a good job as it also allows for some racial issues to be addressed. Where the film lost me a bit more, likely because it's been an age since I read the novels, is how Janice figures into things. Others like Vince and Jean Grant were familiar and seeing Louie making a new appearance with some amusing new goggles was pleasant enough. Reinhardt felt the weakest of all the new characters though and the changes made to Hunter, who should be only what, thirty nine by all of this, just didn't make sense.
The animation for the film falls into the good and bad category. The character animation is pretty good though it doesn't fit in with the original material for obvious reasons. DrMovie has done a good job here though the mixing of 2D and 3D at times is awkward, it reminded me of some of the earlier Gonzo series in this regard. Where it feels better is in that the designs are much cleaner and a much greater sense of vibrancy overall. The good is that the space scenes in general looked solid and had a very Legends of the Galactic Heroes feel to it with the fleets and movements. It'd be easy to imagine that series being filmed in a similar way with the new digital cameras. The bad in the space scenes tended to come from the explosions which looked good for some of them but suffered in most of them from looking too flat. Explosions have come a long way in the last twenty years from when they would just be balls of fire but they went the wrong way here.
The characters are a mixed bag as well but part of that is just a matter of perception. Limits on how things could be animated and designed twenty years ago don't apply so they have to walk the line of being true to the original while being fluid and up to today's expectations. The new characters aren't much of an issue as I liked how Alex and Marcus turned out as well as Maia even though it's a touch too heavy on the purple. The design of the Haydonites makes me want to see more of the Sentinel's animated so I can see the various races really come to life. Janice was an interesting design with her being an android as she has something of an entertainer feel to her because of the flower but she also shows off a fair bit of skin.
The biggest changes outside of Hunter come with Scott and Ariel. Half the time I keep wanting to call her Marlene since that's who she is to me. In this version she definitely has a much slicker feel to her and one that is much more vibrant and outgoing but fits in with her evolution after facing her mother. Scott is a bit more problematic since his original designs had him being so straightlaced and square that when this version shows him with hairs out of place it just looks wrong. The two of them get some nice updates with new uniforms here and their designs take on a much more consistent look throughout the film as the rest of the characters interact with them. It simply takes a bit for it to get there since the film takes some time to get everyone in the same place.
If there is any single greatest disappointment to me about this film its in how the music is done. The instrumental score aspect of it is decent though with twenty years between the original and now it feels like I'm hearing nothing but riffs of Superman, Star Trek and innumerable other science fiction oriented scores. It's entirely serviceable and works well with the material but it is in total quite unmemorable which is unfortunate. While that isn't great, the lack of any real vocal numbers here is something that keeps it from feeling like a true full on Robotech property. At most we get a couple of quick blurbs where Janice does some lyrics but that's it. I'd even settle for Yellow Dancer at this point and that's saying a lot. They have plenty of nice nods to the originals but with song and singers being so key to the series not having something stronger here stands out.
If there was ever a film I was going to be a fanboy over, well, this is it. It's one of the few shows that I've gone so completely into over the years with books, comics, music and so on where I felt like it was something that meant something to me. Getting my hands on new original animated material has been long sought after since first seeing the original Sentinel's animation. Shadow Chronicles goes in a different direction while still keeping to the overall property and that's a smart move. Being able to start from here with something a bit more original allows for a bit less pressure and more freedom. At the end of the film, one where I did not check the runtime once, I felt like not only going back to check out some past volumes of the TV series but also watching this film again.
Reflecting on it a day later, all I want at this point is to see FUNimation take some of its gains from other properties and work with Harmony Gold to get something much more substantial made. I suspect we'll see this on Cartoon Network someday and for Shadow Chronicles to gain more of a mainstream following as it pervades the market. With the right funding and the right people behind it, the fanboy in me believes that a true Sentinel's series could now exist and be done right while a Shadow Chronicles series of original films could run in parallel. The challenge is whether the right people and companies can actually do this or whether Harmony Gold will simply spin its wheels for another twenty years. This film has reinvigorated my love of Robotech, camp and all, and it's up to those with the cash and connections to see if they can make even more money off of me once again. I sincerely hope they're able to.
English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,Making Of Featurette
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 88
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2