|In-Depth Review: Robotech: Love Live Alive
||[Jul. 25th, 2013|06:33 am]
So, last night I finished watching the "new" Robotech movie, Robotech: Love, Live, Alive. (I quotate "new" for reasons that will become clear below the cut.) It was a nostalgic experience. I might just dig out Audacity and run off a one-off Space Station Liberty podcast to commemorate it, and excerpt some audio clips. But for now, I might as well set my thoughts down while they're still fresh.
Fans have been excited for a few months when they heard about this new Robotech movie that was coming out—an adaptation of the Mospeada Yellow Belmont [Robotech's Lancer/Yellow Dancer] concert OAV, Love Live Alive Some fans were excited. Would they get Michael Bradley, the English Yellow's singing voice, to do new music for it? Then those fans were just as abruptly upset when they learned the answer was no. Was Bradley being snubbed?
It turns out…not exactly. Because the fans who had hopes Harmony Gold would make a faithful concert video adaptation were more or less fooling themselves. In retrospect, as Captain Gloval said in the first episode, "It was so obvious!" Mospeada LLA came out only a couple of years after the original Mospeada TV show, when there were still fans of it. But who would want a concert video for a show almost nobody except the fans even remembers? Heck, HG already had enough trouble pushing its brand new sequel movie, because it confused everyone except the fans who knew what was going on.
What HG actually did was clever in its way, bringing to mind the old saying that when you have two problems, sometimes they end up solving each other. The original LLA was basically a nostalgic collection of video clips from the TV show, interspersed with new footage of Yellow Belmont on stage, set to music, framed with Yellow giving an interview to a reporter. There was also some new footage of Yellow and the old gang getting back together at the end. In the Robotech version, they took a cue from the clip show nature of the original, and crafted a 90-minute recap of New Generation. Fans complained when they heard the movie was going to be bundled with Shadow Chronicles, not available by itself, but when viewed in this light, it makes sense.
Robotech: Love Live Alive has about three minutes of completely new animation (all shown within the first five minutes or so of the show) and about ten minutes of animation from the Mospeada Love Live Alive (some of it repeated in such a way as to make it effectively about 15), but apart from that, it's all recap. Rather than being a new story, LLA is meant to bring both lapsed fans and Robotech newbies up to speed so they can actually understand Shadow Chronicles when they watch it. If you watch the first and last ten minutes, you've seen just about everything that's new about the entire show.
The new animation is basically linking material. It's the transitional scenes that I'm sure Carl Macek wished he could have had animated at the time they made Robotech, but had to make do without: the Invid lightning striking the three mounds of Reflex Point from Southern Cross; an older Dana Sterling in CVR armor gazing wistfully back at her homeworld as she boards an evacuation ship, and Lancer's forces arriving on Earth. Almost every moment of it is pure fan service: older Dana Sterling with Sentinels Destroid firing in the background, Condor battloids actually moving and fighting, and of course Lancer launching in a fighter design previously only seen in stills.
How well does the new stuff match the old? Well, on the one hand, you can tell that it's cel-shaded CGI just from the way everything moves. On the other, they do at least try to match the mecha designs and color palette, so the difference isn't too jarring. And there's not really enough of it to be grating. And the way that some of the new animations either end or start with still frames from the first episode of New Generation/Mospeada is a nice touch, as is the way they got the original narrator to come back to record the opening lines and also do voiceovers for the teaser for LLA and another teaser for Shadow Chronicles at the end.
After that, we jump right to the concert hall where Lancer is getting ready to perform, and a mostly faceless reporter is seen interviewing him (with a seriously zeerusty cassette tape recorder; clearly the Mospeada designers put a lot more thought into the futurism of their mecha than that of day to day gadgets). This footage is taken from the Mospeada video. Only there's not enough of it, so it ends up getting reused later in the show. As a result, the reporter stops and restarts her recorder three times, tries to hide a silly drawing she made of Lancer from the cameraman twice, and Lancer just keeps toweling off his hair.
After that, Lancer goes into a "good parts" abridged version of the events of New Generation, starting with when he met the others, proceeding through how they met Marlene and Sera, showing the old geezers in their rusty space battleship, and wrapping with selections from the last three episodes showing the death of Sue Graham and the battle of Reflex Point.
Corg is notably absent from the retelling, only showing up a couple of times and not figuring in the Reflex Point portion of the recap at all—another factor that leads me to conclude this was meant to make Shadow Chronicles less confusing, since Corg is dropped entirely from that as well. Also absent is the Robotech narrator, even from scenes where I specifically remember his voiceovers.
After the recap finishes, we get all the Yellow-on-stage footage from LLA smushed together for one song. (This is a little bit confusing; in the original all this footage was interspersed with flashback clips over several songs. So, as a result of Harmony Gold's editing, in the Robotech version Lancer changes costume about three times over the course of one song.) Then there's more footage from the original OAV, in which the rest of the New Generation crew shows up holding light sticks, and they go camp and talk. Then Lancer leaves and drives off to his cabin in the woods (and some footage from the beginning of the original LLA, of Lancer looking at the decaying remains of human and Invid war machines, is moved here, where it is actually rather effective) to meet up with a special someone…
So in the end, LLA is a Robotech production on easy mode. All they had to do was commission a few minutes of new animation, do ten minutes or so of new dialogue recording, and then edit together bits from the old series plus an OAV they had the rights to but hadn't ever used. Of course, they also had to redo some of the audio, given that they were dropping the narration and making everything fit together. And speaking of the audio, LLA uses the same room-shaking 5.1 mix as the perfect collection releases, though it seems to me they don't make as much use of the surrounds as they might have here.
(Which leads me to one of my favorite unintentionally drop-dead funny moments about the show. In episode 84 of Robotech, there's a scene where Rand says he wanted to hear Yellow Dancer perform again, and Lancer tells him he will, but "In the meantime, you can always buy my records." But the LLA rendition of that scene has Cam Clarke redo the line: "In the meantime, you can always buy my recordings." What the hell, Harmony Gold? You've got a reporter using a huge cassette tape recorder. You've got Sue Graham's giant camcorder. You've even got a scene from the episode where they were exploring the Denver dome and Rand was seen holding an actual phonograph album. Yet you felt it necessary to rerecord this one line to change "records" to "recordings"?)
That being said, it is nice to hear some new dialogue from the original voice actors—especially Cam Clarke, who was notable for his absence from Shadow Chronicles. They apparently got the whole New Generation cast back together again to record the last scene, and while some of their voices have changed a little, you can still tell it's them.
(From a fan's point of view, the last scene does add to the confusion over the continuity of the last few minutes of the TV series, because the Mospeada LLA OAV was supposed to take place a year or two after the end of the original show. In the Robotech TV show, it seemed there were at least a couple of days between the fall of Reflex Point and Scott leaving Earth to help look for Admiral Hunter. In Shadow Chronicles, it seemed more like five minutes. But now it's…long enough for Sera to have long hair and Lunk to have grown a beard?)
For what it is, LLA is remarkably well done. In fact, I'm glad to have it, because it will make a great double feature to show at convention screening rooms and such. With LLA, people will be better primed to appreciate Shadow Chronicles. And at least it shows that HG is finally doing something with Robotech again. Maybe there's some hope for Shadow Rising finally coming out.
(In fact, when taken together with the news from January of the live-action adaptation settling on a director, and the rumor from yesterday of Leonardo di Caprio giving up a role in Star Wars VII to appear in Robotech, and the fact that HG had previously been holding off on new Robotech until that movie's production got going, perhaps this means there's movement on that project, too? Hope it doesn't go the way of Pacific Rim.)
Still, I can't help but feel a little sad for the missed opportunity of a Robotech concert video. The Mospeada LLA OAV spawned a soundtrack album with eleven songs on it. The Robotech version just has three of Lancer's, and doesn't even include "It Don't Get Any Better" or "The Way to Love". I wish they could have expanded the musical sequences, used some of Michael Bradley's new recordings of Lancer's music from the album "Lonely Soldier Boy". But this is what we get.
As a post-script, the extras on the LLA disc include a gallery of pre-production art taken from the Mospeada source material. And here Hg's fan service pops up again, as the Veritech fighter that was previously understood (largely via the Robotech RPG) to be the manned Shadow Alpha has suddenly picked up the originally fan-proposed designation of unmanned Shadow drone. Heh.
So is it worth $12.86 for the 2-movie set at Amazon? On the one hand, there's not a lot new here. On the other, if you're wanting to show Shadow Chronicles to someone who's never seen Robotech before, or you're a completist, or don't have Shadow Chronicles yet, it's not a whole lot of money for at least something new, and it does help convince HG to put money toward making more new stuff. If nothing else, it's a cheap and easy way to get Shadow Chronicles on DVD.