Touting its high definition origins during the DVD release, FUNimation carries through and offers up a Blu-ray release of Robotech.
What They Say
Scott Bernard and Vince Grant fight to end a decades-long struggle against an enigmatic alien race known as the Invid. However, the mysterious disappearance of the legendary Admiral Hunter will unfold in a treacherous mystery that could tear apart our young heroes - and threaten their very survival!
Non-format specific portions of this review also appear in our DVD review of ‘Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles.”
This release provides for two language tracks on it and they’re night and day to be sure, but not exactly the best comparisons to have side by side. This release contains a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix with its variable rate as well as a Dolby Digital mix in stereo encoded at 640kbps. This is actually higher than the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that was on the DVD at 448kbps, but it’s unusual that they don’t include that mix here and just the stereo one since a segment of the Blu-ray population likely still doesn’t have a TrueHD decoder. This is why I continue to prefer DTS-HD Master Audio for audio since it contains the core track at a higher rate. Regardless, the Dolby TrueHD mix here is vastly improved over that stereo mix and it certainly feels more inspired than the original 5.1 mix we heard on the DVD release. There is greater impact during the action scenes and it has a richer feel overall, though it still doesn’t compare to a big budget flick by any stretch of the imagination. The lack of good music numbers hurts it as well as it doesn’t get to stretch in that area. The action is where it all makes out for the best though and several sequences are definitely better when in comparison to the DVD release.
Originally released in 2006 to theaters, the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 using the AVC codec. This feature was one that featured a lot of very vibrant colors to it on the DVD release but they come across as even more vibrant here, especially when you compare them to some of the DVD encoded clips in the extras section. The visual color palette is very much out there in a way that captures you and gets your attention, though the film isn’t one that’s heavy on detail for the most part. The overall presentation is one that is much cleaner and solid looking, especially with the large swathes of solid colors and the black space backgrounds. The only real issue with it is source related in that the banding is a bit more pronounced here and there is a fair bit of line aliasing going on during the panning sequences early one with the CG ships. The banding issue still crops up in big budget Hollywood films so it’s not a surprise to see here, but at least it remains sold and doesn’t break up into noise. This release is a significant improvement over the DVD on our setup.
I have to admit that I like the original DVD Cover a bit more since it felt like a slicker package in how it was put together with the artwork, but this one isn’t any slouch either even if it does feel a little more traditional with how the artwork looks. The feature’s name is through the center while the top half has the character group of Vince, Marlene and Scott. The bottom portion runs through with a couple of Veritech fighters with it all set against a murky black background. The back cover is a brighter affair with an orange hued background that has a single piece of character artwork, that of Janice in her robot mode, in the center underneath the text. The summary runs through the basic premise while also bringing in some of the credits with the cast and the shows origins. The shots from the show are far too small but they do list out a good bit of information that makes up for it for me. With Blu-ray owners at this point generally being a bit more interested in specs, the back cover has a good rundown of the discs features and what to expect as well as clearly listing the region code for it (A). The breakdown of the discs features are also included in a clear form. The reverse side of the cover is an interesting piece as it’s a white background that has a strip of original character designs for a number of the lead characters in how they looked before going with the final look.
The menu design for the feature is relatively straightforward, but they do a rather good job of adapting material from within the show to create an thematic piece. The main menu, which comes up after the front loaded trailer, uses the technical schematics from within the show to create a “Shadow Chronicles Navigation System”. The background designs are fun to watch and they look great while the actual navigation is a simple strip along the lower right corner. This menu is utilized during the pop-up segment as well which makes for good consistency. My only dislike is that they require you to “X” out of submenus to go back to where you were instead of being able to move about directionally like most Hollywood Blu-ray releases. It’s a very minor quibble overall though to a very solid looking and designed menu.
The original DVD release didn’t have too many extras on it but it did have one extensive one which is replicated here. The "Birth of a Sequel" featurette, which runs about 45 minutes in length, takes a good bit of time to get rolling as its front-loaded with fans geeking out over the show in general. Once it gets moving into dealing with the creators and the production it proves to be much more interesting. Newly added to this release is an original score music video which takes some of the opening sequence material and then adds in a lot of the money shots from the show to flow along with it. This runs just over eight minutes and highlights each new piece of the score with a subtitle which is a nice plus. Another featurette included is the Anime Selects piece which runs just under two minutes and took place at Anime Expo 2005 when Select On Demand did a brief piece about the feature with some folks from Harmony Gold. An interesting featurette is an eleven minute piece done by AnimePodcast.net that’s included in which they have an interview with Tommy Yune about the feature and what went into it from his perspective.
For better or for worse, they’ve also included in the featurettes section the Robotech 3000 material. They do admit that they’re thankful the project was canceled and so will you if you’ve never seen this material before. The first is a three minute or so piece that has the demonstration piece of what was capable at the time from Netter Digital, right down to the bloody obvious Shadow Creatures gimmick used from Babylon 5. Also included is a very brief segment on the motion capture aspect. Thankfully, as they note, the entire project was abandoned. I can only imagine the in-room response to this being shown back in 2000.
Deleted scenes and outtakes are included in this release as well. The deleted scenes, which also have commentary options with them, run about seven minutes, though most are just extensions and alternate takes on particular scenes. The alternate opening and closing takes are interesting, especially as the closing has a very Empire Strikes Back feel to it. The outtakes run about three minutes and have some amusing bits to them, though a lot of them fall flat for being amusing.
The animatics sequence is a rather fun piece that runs ten minutes as it shows the conceptual drawings and basic storyboards that were used alongside a smaller piece that has the end result playing alongside it. I rather liked that some of the storyboards were used within the show itself, such as the shot of the original Marlene in the flashback piece. The original release also featured a single trailer for the feature but this one adds a few more, such as the DVD release trailer, NATPE and more. It’s not an extensive section but it was good to see the various ways it was being promoted. The last section of extras for the release is a fairly extensive set of production galleries. They break it down into personnel, ship material, mecha pieces and a few other sections that are more general. My favorite is the Secret Files section which showcases various pieces of promotional artwork and concepts to different parts of the release.
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.
When this feature first came out, I was definitely in fanboy mode about it because I was amazed they managed to get it off the ground. Now some time later, I can still see all the same flaws and issues with it but I’m still very happy about the end result as it gives me pretty much what I want. It may not be entirely accessible to new viewers to say the least, but for those of us who have been waiting an age for more Robotech, it’s exactly what I wanted. Even more so after seeing the hideous Robotech 3000 material on here which I’d never seen before. This Blu-ray edition significantly bumps up the release in comparison to the original DVD release when it comes to the extras and they’re all solid pieces that are definitely worth spending time with. At the same time, Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles makes out very well with its audio and visual presentation in the high definition arena. It’s a solid bump up in quality for both sides of it which in addition to the copious amount of extras included makes it very much worthwhile. For me, this is now obviously the definitive version and I can’t imagine ever pulling out the DVD version again.
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, Feature Commentary, Birth of A Sequel, Anime Selects, Original Score Music Video, Anime Podcast, Split Screen Animatics, Robotech 3000 Promo, Robotech 3000 Motion Capture Sequences, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Original Trailers, Production Galleries
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.