Review: Old Glory Reigns in the "Robotech 2-Movie Collection"
So goes the official marketing line for the new Robotech 2-movie collection from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The ostensibly fresh addition in this collection is the feature Robotech: Love Live Alive, heretofore a conception of the late Carl Macek as a way to expand upon Robotech beyond the end of the original 85-episode series.
Technically speaking the feature does continue the story, though hardly in the way that one would expect from a genuine sequel. Love Live Alive draws heavily on the Genesis Climber Mospeada OVA of the same name, which spent the vast majority of its running time recounting the title’s storyline with edited footage from the TV episodes. So in practice this is almost entirely an alternate retelling of the third arc of Robotech, which followed the adventures of U.N. Space pilot Scott Bernard as he battles to free Earth from the rule of the Invid after they occupy Earth in the wake of the disastrous Second Robotech War against the so-called “Robotech Masters.” When humanity’s first attempt at driving the Invid from Earth fails spectacularly, it falls to Scott to carry on the good fight as best he can, ultimately leading a group of resistance fighters to resist the occupation while the bulk of humanity’s Robotech Expeditionary Fleet makes its way back to Earth to retake humanity’s home planet.
Conceptually, the act of condensing this storyline is not necessarily a bad thing, given that the source material took its time getting to the point for a story about a guerilla movement desperately resisting an occupying alien force. That being said the 90-minute running time of Love Live Alive takes the notion much too far, rendering the feature a Cliff’s Notes version of the third Robotech saga. It does the job of touching on the biggest adventures and showcasing the essential events and plot points, but inevitably there is scant time left to do anything else. The innovation of Love Live Alive is to recount these events in the words of Lance “Lancer” Belmont, one of Scott’s compatriots who stands out for his bizarre second life as a cross-dressing idol singer. Lancer’s role as narrator does little to explore his character though, while the one genuinely new thing that happens resolves his romantic subplot from the third story arc with the aid of completely new animation that contrasts starkly with the older footage. Any great fans of the character that may still exist should be thrilled I suppose, but it is difficult to conceive of this movie as being anything above trivial when it ultimately adds naught but a minor footnote to the sprawling saga of Robotech.
The other half of this collection includes the 2006 movie Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, the first and currently only completely original sequel to the Robotech series. Chronologically speaking it picks up where the third story arc of Robotech (and thus Love Live Alive) leaves off, although amusingly the start of the movie retcons quite a few details when it comes to how the Invid are ultimately coerced off of the Earth. As it introduces a slew of new characters to fight alongside Scott Bernard and once again swaps out one alien threat for an even more malevolent one in the mechanical Haydonites, in hindsight Shadow Chronicles plays more like an extended pilot for a grand new Robotech saga than a fully-realized new chapter of the story in its own right. However by that former standard it absolutely gets the job done, and there is much to like here. Rather than go through the exact same motions as the original Robotech when it comes to humanity’s encounters with aliens and the show’s championing of human understanding and diplomacy over militarism, Shadow Chronicles‘ story is that of a successful alliance doomed by treachery from the start.
This is not to say that the overriding theme of Robotech is thrown away for the sake of an unambiguously malicious enemy, though. After the Haydonites nearly succeed at manipulating humanity into destroying itself along with the Invid, two of humanity’s best allies are Janice and Ariel, outsiders profoundly influenced by aliens. Janice is an android merging human and Haydonite technology, while Ariel is an Invid born as a human that ultimately fell in love with Scott and sided with her adopted homeland. At one point or another, otherwise admirable characters find the two of them suspect, but thanks to events and the strength of character of our heroes the temptation to xenophobia is ultimately overcome. What’s not standing the test of time so well are the film’s many action scenes in outer space, which rely on CG-animated mecha. Harmony Gold was one of several parties to adopt this approach several years too early, and in terms of both detail and dynamic motion the Valkyrie fighters of Shadow Chronicles look noticeably dated compared to what’s done today. It’s not quite enough to take you out of the action though, and if nothing else fans can probably expect some genuine spectacle out of the upcoming Robotech: Shadow Rising given the advances that we have seen since seven years ago.
Although in and of itself the content to be found here is good and Shadow Chronicles alone can make this 2-movie pack worthwhile for the price, savvy collectors should keep in mind that this is a DVD collection while Shadow Chronicles has a perfectly good release on Blu-ray with the same extras. Meanwhile the Love Live Alive disc is practically bare bones with the exception of a very small collection of conceptual artwork, while the feature itself is such a thorough retread that it’s no surprise it was packaged along with something else. For a Robotech fan, with this collection that which is old is “new” again.