Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, July 26, 2007
Release Date: Monday, July 23, 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!
Robotech returns for a feature-length edition, and this time it's an original feature instead of a re-versioning of another show. While Earth battles the Invid, deep in space another threat is gathering " and it seems that our old friend Admiral Hunter may be unwittingly helping them to achieve their goals...
Audio is provided in both English 5.1 and 2.0 versions (while Shadow Chronicles was animated in Japan, it's a US production, so there's no Japanese track). I listened to the 5.1 track for this review. Disappointing is probably the best word to describe it " background music is uninspiring and seems to have been cribbed from a number of other science-fiction shows (I challenge you not to spot the inspiration for some of the pieces), while effects don't come across as well as they could. Reasonable use is made of the soundstage for placing of dialog, but this could definitely have been better. One the bright side, there were no obvious encoding problems.
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen format, and generally looks quite impressive " to be expected, as Shadow Chronicles was originally made for theatrical release. Colours are bright and vibrant, with no obvious encoding defects. There's extensive use made of 3DCG animation in places (mostly space combat scenes) which looks a little out-of-place against the 2D style of the character focussed pieces, but that's a minor quibble.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
Our review copy was an early-version screener " no menus were available.
Our review copy was an early-version screener " no extras were available.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Flick back to before the events of New Generation. After a garbled transmission is received from SDF-3 and Admiral Hunter, the Icarus is despatched to the Omicron sector to try and find and rescue the Admiral - despite the Mars Base fleet being in the final stages of preparation for an assault on the Invid forces on Earth (the assault that would lead to Scott Bernard being stranded on the surface, and the death of his fiance√© Marlene). On arriving in Omicron sector, the Icarus soon finds itself within the gravity well of an enormous black hole - along with two human ships, including the SDF-3, and a hostile alien ship. Some technical wizardry allows the Icarus to break free from the black hole, while contact with Admiral Hunter reveals why he wasn't able to return to Earth with SDF-3 - the test firing of a new type of neutron missile, built with technology acquired from humanity's newest allies, the mysterious Haydonites, had inflicted heavy damage on both ships and rendered them immobile. Icarus' first priority now is to get word back to the fleet at Earth that they're under no circumstances to use their neutron missiles - but with the Icarus under attack by unidentified assailants and the battle at Earth going badly, time is running out.
Back at Earth, time has passed and under pressure from Scott's attack on Reflex Point, the Invid plan their departure from Earth - but Ariel opts to remain behind, in direct violation of her mother's wishes. The departing Invid manage to destroy the incoming neutron missiles, and leave the human defenders thoroughly confused as to why they left so easily. Their retreat wasn't entirely due to the human assault: another force has developed an interest in Earth, and with the Invid having taken Earth's supply of protoculture with them, the remaining defenders are going to have their work cut out for them if they're to defend the planet again. That's assuming the fleet commanders will believe that there's a new threat out there in the first place - and with their only warning coming from the sole Invid left on Earth, Ariel, they're not inclined to believe it...
After three TV arcs that cribbed shamelessly from existing series, Robotech finally gets an originally-produced feature that attempts to bring characters from all three arcs together in a story that fans no doubt hope will live up to the TV show's reputation. I'd expect they'll be pleased in some ways, disappointed in others. With the story taking place in the same timeframe as New Generation, it's characters from that series that get the most appearances, with Scott and Ariel both playing major roles. After having realised her full abilities after her meeting with her mother before the Invid left Earth, she's gained a number of useful skills, with visions of the future being top of the list. It's this ability that first raises the prospect that the Haydonites " or the Children of Shadow, as the Invid ominously call them " may not have humanity's best interests at heart. Issues of race and trust soon come to the fore, though, as the human fighters who have just freed Earth from the Invid aren't about to take the word of one when she names their allies as a potential threat.
There are other tie-ins with the earlier Robotech arcs, too. Rick Hunter makes an appearance, and hasn't aged well; Maia Sterling, leader of the Skull Squadron is the daughter of Dana Sterling from the Masters arc, and a few other characters make appearances as well. This helps with the sense of continuity between the various stories, and gives a group of characters that we're at last half-familiar with and that the new characters introduced for this movie can fit in around. Amongst the new ones are Marcus (Marlene's little brother), and Alex, his wingman.
The problem with all these characters is that there's not enough time in a 90 minute movie for any of them to really be given enough screentime to do them justice. The writers have almost tried too hard to get something in here from each TV arc, to the point where it doesn't quite feel right, and that time could have been better spent on other areas. As a result, the story feels a bit rushed and doesn't explain itself as well as it could. It is a "typical" Robotech story, though, that fits right in with the atmosphere and ethos of the original shows, and as such long-time Robotech fans should feel right at home.
One area where the producers have been able to go to town is on the presentation. Animation techniques have changed enormously since Macross first appeared in Japan " comparing the Robotech TV series to anything produced within the last few year is a whole generational leap in production and presentation values, and with Shadow Chronicles all that new technology gets brought to bear on the Robotech world and characters. That means that, while the returning characters are all recognisable, they've been given very noticeable design facelifts that give them a fresh new feel. There's also significant use of 3DCG animation for space combat scenes, which isn't quite as successful as it looks a little flat in places and not as impressive as some other recent shows. It's still an improvement over anything we've seen in Robotech so far, though.
For most Robotech fans, Shadow Chronicles will mark a welcome return for the franchise and be greeted with open arms, and as a way of updating the look of the show and providing a way for people who weren't around at the peak of the TV show's popularity to get into the series, it works well enough. I'll admit to not being the world's greatest Robotech fan, but this was an enjoyable way to pass an hour and a half. It isn't quite as spectacular a return as it could " or maybe should - have been, though, either in story or presentation. Hopefully Shadow Chronicles will create enough of a buzz about the Robotech universe to be a springboard for more new projects " but this edition just falls short of what I'd hoped for, given Robotech's illustrious background.
English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Pioneer DV-626D DVD player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Revelation Films
Running time: 88
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2