The War in Space (1977)

aka Wakusei daisenso
Article 3488 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-27-2011
Posting Date: 3-3-2011
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Featuring Kensaku Morita, Yuko Asano, Ryo Ikebe
Country: Japan
What it is: Japanese space opera

An intrepid team of fighters use their war machine called Gohton to fight off an invasion from Venus.

Any movie with a title like this to come out after the release of STAR WARS tends to trigger a belief in me that it was made to cash in on the popularity of that movie. And there are definite elements of STAR WARS in this movie. However, Japan has a tradition of space opera all its own, and Toho has more than its share under its belt, and though this movie may borrow from STAR WARS, it also is taking inspiration from previous Toho productions like ATRAGON and (especially) BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE; in some ways, this movie is a remake of that second one. This gives the movie a little bit more in the way of novelty value. There are also a few moments I really like; just for example, I’m really taken with the fact that there is no background music when the task force first enters the alien spaceship, as it adds a real tension to the proceedings. I find it more useful to compare it to BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE than STAR WARS, and I can say that in some ways it improves on that movie; there’s a much greater human element to this one, making it less of exercise in mechanical special effects. But, alas, there’s something incredibly threadbare about the whole production; I miss the crowds and milling extras that fill up those earlier movies, as there hardly seems to be anyone around in this one. There’s also quite a bit of silliness, especially in the monster and alien design. The ending owes more than a touch to the original GOJIRA, and it’s one of the better sections of the movie. Still, the movie is more of a curiosity than a success.

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