Saturday, January 20, 2007

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles


I'm a nerd.

All of you knew that. There's a few things that I am extremely nerdy about. Star Wars, principally, and I'm sure most of you knew that, too. But I don't know how much my Robotech nerdery shows.

Here's an example: My daughter's middle name is "Miriya".

I'm a Robotech nerd. It came as no surprise to me that when, late last night, I read that the new Robotech movie was going to play in limited release in Salt Lake City on one screen for 6 days only, I was there, front row and center. (I did the old double feature today, first "The Good German" and then Robotech.)

I've read a lot of terrible reviews for this movie and I was expecting the worst. But my love of Robotech parked my ass in the seat anyhow and I was pleasantly surprised. I was so happy to see Rick Hunter and Scott Bernard again. I was happy to hear Roy Fokker (even though he wasn't in the movie, he was voicing a different character). In fact, pretty much the entire original voice cast is back and it's a treat if you've watched the original series as much as I have.

It wasn't as bad as all everyone made it out to be. In fact, it was pretty good. It wasn't great, but there were a couple of problems that prevented it from reaching the greatness it deserved.

The first problem was the horrible, horrible, headache-inducing computer generated space battles. If they could ace the process of doing hand-drawn space battles with the same ships twenty or thirty years ago, why bother trying to switch to CGI. And if I were the director, I'd have seen the dailies of the CGI animation coming in and start screaming for a switch to 2D hand-drawn. All of the hand-drawn animation in this movie was really good. My favorite character animations were all of Maia (daughter of Miriya) Stirling.

I would bet that the reason it wasn't all hand-drawn is because CG is cheaper now-a-days and it's a shame that something as cool as Robotech has to be compromised in anyway because of a lack of money. That's why if you like Robotech you need to go see it.

The second major problem with the film was that it felt like it was an entire season (maybe two) of Robotech condensed and revised to fit into a 90 minute time constraint. I could see where expanding it into a series would be a great move. The characters lacked the depth that the rest of the installments of Robotech had because whereas with the series, you'd get five or ten episodes with a major sub-character before their timely death and it would be heartbreaking. In this film, it was kind of... Just not as much....

There were also a couple of other minor problems:

1) It needed more of the music from the original show adapted into the body of the piece

and

2) I wanted the singing part to include one of Minmei's two songs. ("To Be In Love" or that "stagelight crashing..." one....)

I don't see anyone but Robotech nerds caring about any of this at all. So, if you like Robotech and any of what I just said made any sense, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. It has the same campy awesomeness as the show and it's just entertaining as all hell.

It's also nice to see some progression to the story that ended in a cliffhanger twenty bloody years ago.

(Also: If anyone has the power to get me in contact with someone who could get me into writing or plotting some Robotech (comics, films, whatever) I'd greatly appreciate that. I don't know if anyone does, but stranger things have happened by my posting here.)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The singing bits were old Minmei songs -- I saw it back in November, so my memory's a little hazy, but I keep wanting to think it was "It's You" in the officer's club ("It's you I miss / It's you who's on my mind / It's you I cannot leave ... behind" -- the same one George Sullivan sang at the piano bar in the Robotech Masters episode "Stardust"), and I know at the end Janice sings a bit of "We Will Win," the anthem Minmei sang during the final battle of the First Robotech War (and Lancer reprised in the final episode of the TV series).

Bryan said...

I meant the two that EVERYONE knows the lyrics too.

Bryan said...

God. I added an extra o on that to.

Scott Glasgow said...

yeah-- both "It's You" and "We Will Win" are in the movie and were recorded in full (with a different arrangement and different singers) however they didn't fit as complete songs due to the trucated feel of the story due to it being a feature versus a TV show so we went with "It's You" for the mess-hall scene and "we will win" at the end (which used to transition into a full CLUB version for the credits).. Alas, the club version will never be heard (long story)..

Now as for "more of the music from the original show"-- The director and I set out to make it fresh and new (like what happened between Star Trek 1 and Star Trek 2).. I tried updating a couple of the other themes (Zentradi theme, Biomech theme) and it simply did not work for me--- they sounded dated from a CHORD and HARMONY perspective and not to menation the synths were painfully bad.. Also, frankly I just didn't like them,, it need a fresh new modern take on this,, so that is what we did.. I feel it was a good choice for me as a composer (working in someone elses shoes is very hard from an artistic sense)..

remember how many times you have seen a revitalization of an old series / movie to only hear very small bits of the original music--- think of Superman Returns (which is a good example) or the new Batman (which had NONE of Elfman's music).. There are millions of examples --- I watched GODZILLA (the Dean Devlin one) and there David Arnold had a brilliant score with not one ounce of Ifukube's music and I think it was better that way,, not to say anything is bad about Ifukube's music--- its just dated (just like Ulpio's tracks for Robotech)..

None-the-less,, I hope you understand what a tremendous amount of work it was to score this film and appreciate what I did bring to this new film.. I really went for that Star Wars treatment where the themes are all woven in to the textures of the film.. You will hear the love theme for one second before going into the heros theme..

Take another listen (and watch) you will hear more of the original theme than you think--- remember when one of our charactors dies to save his buddies? The "taps" funeral trumpet theme is actually a slowed down version of the main title by Ulpio! Another moment is at the beginning when the fighter pilots "race back" to the moon base--- that is also the main title arraged completly differently.. It is everywhere but just not obvious..

Give it another listen and hopefully my work will grow on you too.. The CD is coming out a week after the DVD (if you were curious)..

best,
Scott Glasgow
(composer of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles).

Bryan said...

I'm not saying that the music in the piece was bad, I liked it alot. But, you have to admit that half of Robotech's charm is that it only had like five music cues.

scott said...

wow,, well for me the repetitiveness was one of the biggest turn-offs for me musically with the old TV show.. They used the EXACT recording everytime-- now if they had Ulpio rework each cue then it would have worked for me but it was rough to hear the same Zentradi theme every time the bad guy appreard in the old series (not the same theme but the same EXACT recording!!).. Yeah--- that was rough-- so was the old synths,, but made sense for the 80s.

I think we set out to do a big epic orchestral score and that's what I did--- I took my NEW themes and reworked them.. when you hear Arial's theme it is NEVER the same recording-- it may be in the clarinet one time and the strings the next (like how JW worked star wars with Leia's theme or Vader's theme)..

I can only hope you are all ready to join me for the ride into the new films---

The futrue of Robotech is bright and I see these themes all developing in the new movies in the future.. Exciting times, my friends..

~SG

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David said...

In the movie, I really like the song "It's you" which sing in the mess-hall.

Where can I buy this version of "It's you"?
I check amazon.com for "the Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles [SOUNDTRACK]", it seems this version of "It's you" not available at that SoundTrack.

Anonymous said...

They should replace everyone who was involved with that awful Shadow Chronicles movie. And that includes the composer. These are hardly "exciting times."

Robert said...

With respect to the music, I think the reason some find it lacking is because the music of Minmei is so central to the Zentradi War (due to its derivation from the original Japanese Macross Saga). And of course there was also Musica and her sisters with the Masters and the recycling of Minmei music via Lancer. Personally, I found Minmei to be the most annoying part of the entire series so I didn't really miss it (or her), but it did seem like the old series was trying to imply some subtle connection between music and protoculture. That theme does not appear to carry over into the Shadow Chronicles -- though I wouldn't necessarily say that for certain it is abandoned, since the protoculture matrix did not feature directly in the movie.

On the other hand, a grown up and hopefully mature version of Minmei might be interesting to see. (Same goes for Dana Sterling. Anybody see the old internet joke that Dana and Nova Satori were switched at birth? Dana is so unlike her parents. It would have been entertaining to see Max trying to deal with his daughter if they could have somehow been togeter during the Masters War.)

Robert said...

Also, with respect to the Mecha, it was a bit disappointing to not see the ability of the Alpha and Beta fighters to separate. They only showed Betas with Alphas attached and acted like there was no way to separate them. I suppose it could have been an intent to show a manpower shortage - they didn't have enough people to pilot both an Alpha and a Beta, so the Betas were built with Alphas permanently attached?

I did enjoy the opening scene with the debris of the Mars Division in Earth orbit.

I do think it is interesting that they chose to not honor the plot treatment of the Jack McKinney novels. During a time when he was the only source of Robotech out there, he gave the Robotech universe a very comprehensive treatment and his continuity would have been a very good one to build upon.