Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles

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REVIEW: After One Viewing


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I cracked open my DVD of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (RT:TSC) with more than a little trepidation.  I don’t envy the person asked to write the sequel to the original Robotech series (okay, maybe I do a little).  This is a show many people who frequent my blog have thoroughly enjoyed since decades ago.  After the years our tastes have all changed significantly and if Robotech aired today there’s a very good likelihood many of us wouldn’t care for it at all.  Seriously, have you watched Robotech lately?  The writing is downright horrendous at times.  So, now, as adults, we need a sequel that has changed with our tastes.  Honestly, that just makes it entirely impossible to create a sequel that EVERY Robotech fan will like.  Regardless of what I say here, good or bad, there are some that will vehemently disagree.  That’s not necessarily because I’m right or wrong, it’s just that as we’ve aged our tastes have changed differently.  Let’s also not forget that this show was made to hopefully appeal to a brand new audience.  So, with that disclaimer made, let’s jump into it.

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The BAD:
1) Re-writes.  First, there’s the re-writing of the battle at Reflex Point.  Why?  In the original there was an ensemble cast there, events transpired that we’re all familiar with, it ended as it did.  A simple reanimation of a few scenes to get them fresh in my head would have been fine but there are points where the folks who know it well will definitely feel jarred.  “Wait… this didn’t happen.”  There might be a case to be made that the events shown did happen off-screen (note that Scott says “She’s going BACK into the hive?”) from the original but it seems a little hard to believe.  Scott’s exit with Ariel was definitely changed to soften Scott’s image.  Also, the Neutron-S Missiles were planet killers and everyone was okay with that in the original Robotech… now they’re just “half-planet” killers.  You may find more ticky-tack re-write issues on your own.
2) I can’t exactly place it but the opening credits feel like they’re stolen from another sci-fi flick.  If any of you know of a similar opening feel free to post a comment.  It’s not quite as blatant as Robotech: The Movie’s ripping off of Star Wars but I think you’ll know what I mean.

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3) Spandex and boobies.  Don’t get me wrong, I love boobies, and a girl in skin-tight anything is usually cool by me, but it does get gratuitous here.  In particular, there’s a girl on Vince’s bridge and Maia who seem to be overly-endowed and the camera constantly wants to reinforce it.  The spandex on the guys tends to be underneath large capes or body armor so that helped keep things decent.
4) There is a PERFECT scene for showing off old school Robotech mechs as a little fanboy service for all the old-timers and they COMPLETELY ignore it.  Oh man, if I was a Southern Cross fan (a nod to you dirty dozen) I would have been pulling my hair out.  Here’s the scenario, Maia Sterling goes looking for a vehicle without Shadow Technology onboard a giant space station with a huge warehouse.  Does it show her walking by AGACs or Hovertanks, maybe a Logan?  Heck, are there any Conbats from the original New Generation?  No, she goes straight to a new Alpha!  Hey, that’s fine, take the new Alpha, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have her walking by and choosing not to go with some of the older mechs (and a simple sentence of dialogue would explain away the reason they are there and not being chosen by Maia).
5) The animation is ULTRA stiff.  I don’t know if it’s worse in the beginning of the movie or if you just get used to it by the end.  The character/2D stuff tends to be decent but the 3D stuff seemed rough.  Part of me tried to accept this as everything happens in space and I kind of think the choice in animation was a ploy at realism but you should definitely expect to be a bit put off by it at first.

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6) Cheese in the dialogue and some of the events.  First off, I do want to relate that the cheesiest line in the preview actually is quite funny.  Do you remember the preview where Vince Grant says “If I survive my wife’s going to kill me!”  Scott delivers the next line and I felt it totally redeemed that cheesy of a line being in the film at all.  Also, Janice’s stiff odd delivery seems almost like it was intentional.  They gave her room to grow.  She starts purely as an android, adopts her disguise, and seems to be trying to become more human.  I imagine if this becomes a series by the end she’ll act entirely human.  Now, all that said, some of the other lines are just BAAAD.  You might want to see my disclaimer earlier about the writing in the original show though.

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7)  The Haydonites.  Their design on every level is… meh.  That said, Robotech hasn’t had a single alien design that was good or original yet.  Let’s see, Zentraedi are big humans, Masters are humans, Invid are… only seen as humans.  What we did see were some cool mechs though and the Haydonites do not have cool mechs or capital ships.  Their capital ships reminded me a little of the Earth ships in VanDread.

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8) BETAS!!!  In the first episode of New Gen I think every Alpha had a Beta.  Where’d they all go?  The cooler Invid mechs all appear to be missing also.  I don’t think we see a single Beta in battloid mode.  Boo.

The Good:
1) The pacing of the film is good.  The slowest part to me seemed to be the very beginning which was obviously a bit slow as an introduction to the characters.  After I watch it a few times I might find other areas that lag but on my first sitting, I was pretty entertained throughout.

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2) I actually think the fact that every RT character we ever met wasn’t mentioned was a good thing.  The cast here was a bit large and scattered without too many fanboy winks and I didn’t feel like they were going out of their way to force more names.  The references to Minmay songs were silly but they didn’t seem all that wildly out of place.  Plus, if this does become a series, more fanboy winks via cameo will keep future pieces interesting.  The only exception here was the obvious avoidance of the New Gen gang in a few scenes.  We do get to see Lunk’s jeep though…

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3) A big friggin’ space brawl.  I don’t get to see big friggin’ space brawls enough.  It could have been better but there were a few cool scenes and even one gory death.  Too bad we didn’t see any Royal Command Units.
4) Humor.  The original show occasionally made me chuckle.  The new movie caught me unexpectedly cracking a smile a few times too.  RT has always been good with absolutely subdued sexual tension leading to awkward humor and that keeps going here.  Most the more humorous moments are just kind of random bits though which I was glad to see.
5) The premise opens a LOT of doors.  If the series continues they can take it in any direction still.  They can steer completely clear of the book End of the Circle or they can head toward it.  Really, I think they tried to execute one movie that would tie up a ton of loose ends and grant the show the ability to head in whatever direction they wanted to and I think they accomplished that.  Most everything that was established at the end of Robotech has now been obliterated.  New mechs could be designed, new technologies harnessed, new alliances formed, there’s just really no telling where it would go next (hopefully not The End of the Circle).

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In summary, there’s a lot here for diehard Robotech fans to NOT like.  I, for one, could care less what Rick Hunter looks like.  He kinda had some Rick Hunter mannerisms, that’s good enough for me.  I don’t care that Rick Hunter wasn’t on screen much, he wasn’t on screen at all after the first third (uh… 4/9ths?) of Robotech anyway.  I don’t care that Maia says she’s half “alien” instead of Zentraedi.  If “alien” becomes code for Zentraedi from this point on I seriously wouldn’t care.  If you care a lot about any of those first items, you might do well to remember that anyone new to Robotech probably would feel more similarly to myself since they’re not already attached to any of that.  I also don’t really care that Vince has big muscles or that the uniforms are tight.  I did care about the music though and I found it had a learning curve for me.  I liked it at times and at other times it seemed iffy.  Honestly, what I felt mattered most was the fact that, while watching it, I didn’t find myself thinking about things I’d rather be doing, work I needed to get done, or ways I would totally re-write the whole thing (although I may do that the next time I watch it).  When it ended I definitely felt that if it had an immediate sequel I’d want to watch that also.  So, that said, I do recommend people give The Shadow Chronicles a shot.  At the very least, if you’re familiar with Robotech, put it in your Netflix queue.  I will probably edit this post a bunch after I watch it a second time but for now, I’m just happy I can say I don’t dread watching it a second time (unlike the last RT movie I reviewed).

7 Replies to “Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles”

  1. As soon as the opening credits started, I thought, “damn, this is a rip-off of the opening of Superman Returns!”.

  2. That is what I thought too (Superman), but I believe I have seen it elsewhere as well. If I suddenly remember, I will revisit.

  3. I watched it from beginning to end and thought that it was a decent movie. did it make me want to see more? yes it did. Could the animation be better? yes it can. But i enjoyed it for what it was. A few plot holes here and there (Grant having th codes to Weapons of mass destruction or Scott’s alpha being undamaged atfter the battle with Corg).

    I bought the movie and will add it to the 85 episodes. I enjoyed this way more than the Sentinels movie.

    Let’s hope there’s more to come!

  4. Yep – the intro was a combo rip-off of the Superman movie and the beginning to the old Star-Trek the Next generation series. This is a paradoxical movie – Robotech aspires more than any other American produced animation to deal with drama, war, and humanity – but you can’t help but feel that the writers don’t listen to people talk. I cringe whenever someone says “I fear” in a movie. This isn’t Lord of the Rings- if anything language tends to get simpler as time goes on, no one is likely to talk as if they are in a saga. Ariel’s lines physically hurt, and at times the animation didn’t match what people where saying at all. Nonetheless, the Robotech junkie in me loved it, and the side of me that is always looking for the potential in things says that could go a lot of fabulous directions with this. While the computer animation was excessively stiff, the minimal detail that irritated me in the first screen shots appeared to be an attempt to fit it better with the cell animation. It might have been more jarring with perfectly photo-realistic Alpha’s with a 2D figure inside – more Roger Rabbit than Robotech.

    In short how good this is comes from how you gauge film. This isn’t going to be a Hitchcock or a Spielberg flick, no one is going to be studying it years from now in film schools. It’s not going to sink itself into the popular consciousness and be critically acclaimed. In fact, most “film” people would probably consider it a little trashy – but it IS fun B-movie fare. It’s what the little kid deep inside most sci-fi junkies is going to get a kick out of while still giving a respectful nod to the adult that paid to see it.

    That, and for those of us who love Robotech, hearing the theme again and reentering the feel and texture of a show that effected us deeply is a moving experience. It’s like family – you may have a goofy brother with defects that you shake your head at, but you love him anyway.

    Heh – done with my rant.

  5. Compare to the zero and frontier the CG is damn Fugly, hopefully the Live Action won’t suffer like that (at least BSG lvl CG effect is all I am asking)

  6. Got to say I remember when the original Japanese Macross came out and fell in love with it, then Robotech came after and still the same love but moreso due to being in English than subtitles (Still love watching subtitled films/series).

    Like Many old timers waiting for an update on the Robotech saga it was NEVER truly going to appease everyone. We have all had years to fill in the blanks ourselves, be they with community agreement or our own sole point of view. With that I did actually enjoy “Shadow Chronicles”.

    Yes it missed many little nods to appease us old timer fans BUT the story worked, the animation worked, the Space Battle was Awesome.

    I think the “prequal” comics certainly helped prep us for this and I just hope HG are going to have their NEXT instalment out in the next 2 years and not 25 years LOL..

    I like yourself had hoped to have seen some old RDF, REF, ACAG tech parked up in storage. Would have been a perfect opportunity to have rolled out 1 or 2 VF1s, just so we could see them fly one more time :D Think that is one of the reasons I enjoyed the “INVID WARS” comic saga, with the mix of old and new tech.

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