The Memory Matrix - A Robotech the Movie Website

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Memory Matrix (Database) - My Personal Take On The Film

 

My experience with this strange film, "Robotech the movie" admittedly isnít a long one, but as the person who created this site I thought it would a good idea not only how to explain how I discovered the film and what I actually thought of it and why I created this site, but also my experience with the "Robotech" and "Megazone 23" franchises and how I got into this Japanese animation stuff.

Right off the bat Iím going to admit that I was never the biggest "Robotech" fan. However from an early age, I had a keen interest in Japanese animation. It was around 1980 or 1981 as an eight year old that I first saw English dubbed Japanese TV shows which played on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) TV on weekday afternoons. I canít remember what I saw first, "Battle of the Planets" (Sandy Frankís loose adaptation of "Gatchaman") or "Starblazers" ("Space Battleship Yamato"). Either way, this animation was very different from animation coming out of the UK and the US. Characters died, the cinematography was vastly different from Hanna-Barberaís stuff, which was the dominating studio at the time, and most had a continuing storyline. Coupled with the broadcast of the live action show "Monkey!", and a later broadcast of the 1980 version of "Astroboy", I was hooked on this stuff.

A couple of years later I became interested in model kits. I mostly made 1/24 or 1/25 scale cars, but soon discovered a small amount Japanese sci-fi kits being sold in various shops. For whatever reason my local K-Mart was selling the Imai "Macross" kits (a year or two before "Robotech" was broadcast here), which I loved building. However we moved in the mid 1980ís to a smaller town, and the Japanese kits were gone and even new anime on TV had disappeared. However by extraordinary luck the local commercial station had begun to play "Robotech". Unfortunately the schedule was all over the place and I only ever got to partly see the "Macross Saga". Worse luck was that within a year we had moved to an even smaller town out in the far west of New South Wales. There was nothing in terms of Japanese pop culture in the area, so for almost a decade that was it for me and anime.

The drought was broken when I moved to Canberra in 1994. After I had purchased a VCR and TV at the end of the year, I ventured into the local video shops and discovered the new video release of the "Starblazers". It was a great chance to see this childhood favourite again. Coincidently there was a boom of Japanese animation in the home video market mostly due to Island Records in the UK. Their Manga Entertainment label was picked up by local distributor, Siren, who released the majority of their titles. Thanks to them, and other smaller video labels, I saw number titles that rekindled and strengthened my love affair with anime; "Akira", "Macross Plus", "Patlabor", "Wings of Honneamise" etc. I also happened upon "Clash of the Bionoids", a UK import which was in reality the uncut English dubbed version of "Macross: Do You Remember Love?", the 1984 movie version of the "Macross" TV series. Dťjŗ vu hit, and I recalled my younger days of watching "Robotech", the show I vaguely recalled that was this Japanese cartoon that featured robots and a city inside a space battle fortress.

Unfortunately finding "Robotech" in Australia at the time was difficult. The only option I had was to import the Family Home Entertainment VHS tapes from the US via my local record store. Around the same time (1996), I discovered though a housemate that there was an anime club at the local university. As they were playing "Patlabor" TV episodes (I loved the film versions), I decided to go. Though I felt the screenings were a little off-putting (thanks to guys who ran the club), I persisted and my love for anime grew a bit stronger. Sometime during that year they screened "Megazone 23 Part 1" which I thought was brilliant. I managed to get a fansubbed copy from the club.

Fast forward to 2000; I had just bought my first DVD player and my first import DVD order from the US included Image Entertainmentís "Megazone 23 Part 1". It was around the same time that I first heard of this thing called "Robotech the movie", via a mailing list for an anime shop located on Sydney. You could send off $10 to an American fansubber who'd send you back a snowy, jumpy, multigenerational VHS copy. Somewhere I had heard that the film was an edited down version of "Megazone 23 Part 1" with a tacked on new ending, but by that time "Robotech" no longer interested me and I had no desire to acquire the tape. I only got half way through the "Masters" arc before giving up on purchasing the "Robotech" series on VHS from the US. They were pretty pricey and they only had two episodes per tape. However the lure of cheap DVD sets brought me back to "Robotech". Around 2003 or so, they were being sold off for cheap on a couple of anime store websites, so I took the plunge and bought all seven ADV Films box sets. It was certainly nice to finally see the entire series.

In early 2004 I stupidly decided to help out a local anime convention (which turned out to be an exhausting task). I had put my hand up to be screenings coordinator. One thing which I disliked about modern conventions was the lack of interesting material being screened. I had decided to change that and stated to gather up all of the obscure, rare and interesting material I could find. I recalled "Robotech the movie" and thought it would be an obvious choice for the convention. I managed to source a really good quality DVD-R from a bootlegger. I canít remember any adverse reaction to the screening at all. In fact one of the con attendees actually asked me for a copy of the film. I told him to give me a blank VHS tape and I'd gladly make a copy, but I never heard back from him.

I honestly can't remember what my initial reaction to the film was when I first saw it. Being a fan of "Megazone 23", I was more excited to see the "alternate ending", which is a pretty darn cool ending compared to the original, but makes little sense in terms of the original OVA's plot. Of course I could easily see the many, many flaws in "Robotech the movie". The major one is that the "Southern Cross" footage doesnít mesh very well with the "Megazone 23" scenes. And of course the "Southern Cross" material was previously used in a completely different context in the "Robotech" TV series. There's also the problem of having two different sets of characters who never interact at all during the entire length of the film. The second major problem is that he plot is also a complete mess. The original material was literally cut up into small pieces and reassembled into a different narrative, with only the nearly non-stop dialogue relaying the plot, which serves as a glue in attempt to hold everything together. The audience is practically bombarded with dialogue and plot almost for the entire length of the film. It's all a bit tiring really. Macek was pretty much forced to attempt to string everything together as one cohesive narrative through this dialogue because of the way the film was edited and complied. But it doesnít really work all that well.

Take the off screen abduction of Colonel B.D. Andrews as an example. Macek was stuck with having to use the "Southern Cross" footage for battle sequences, but also had to find a plausible motivation for Andrews actions in the "Megazone 23" footage. Hence we get the plot about Andrews being a simulant created by the Robotech Masters. It really is truly amazing how he managed to concoct a story out of this mess. Of course there is so much collateral damage in the process; the previously used "Southern Cross" material for instance. Thereís also a fair bit of sloppiness in terms of continuity. One of the most glaring errors being Andrews is dubbed by a different voice actor in the scene where he confronts Mark Landry and Todd Harris in the underground garage. Itís obvious that the production team had no idea that it was Andrews. In a scene before this, the character even asks his colleague to contact Andrews! And you also have Markís bike being destroyed in that very scene however we then see him ride the same bike not 10 minutes later.

These minor continuity problems arenít really surprising when you consider how chopped up the footage from "Megazone 23" is. The very first piece of "Megazone 23" footage we see "Robotech the movie" is actually the last shot in "Megazone 23", but reversed. No, Iím not making this up. "Megazone 23" ends with a shot of the Shibuya skyline with the camera slowly zooming out. In "Robotech the movie" that same shot is reversed so that the camera zooming in. The next three shots are taken from the three separate sequences from "Megazone 23"; the Eve shot is taken from the last third of the OVA, the interior of the TV studio control desk is from the early part of the OVA. And the scene with Andrews addressing TV cameras and Kelley Stevens and Stacy Embrey's reaction can also be found towards the last third of "Megazone 23" but is unrelated to the previous Eve shot. While most of the footage sourced from "Megazone 23" isnít as choppy as this scene, most of the footage is presented out of sequence. Admittedly if you hadnít seen "Megazone 23" youíd probably be none the wiser. Luckily the non-stop dialogue and plot pretty much smooth out many potential continuity problems. Another black mark against the film is the rather inane dialogue. A lot of it is just plain woeful. For example, the matter of fact exchange between the two computer technicians right after Andrews helms a coup d'ťtat against the government.

I readily admit that the film is pretty bad. In fact itís a total mess of film. Itís arguably also the worst part of the "Robotech" universe, perhaps with the exception of the "Robotech 3000" pilot film. But honestly, how well does it stack up against the rest of the franchise? Not a great deal of the material in the "Robotech" universe is written all that well. A lot of it is poorly written, is full of clichť ridden dialogue and plot holes a mile wide. Take for instance "Robotech II: The Sentinels" which at times is poorly written as "Robotech the movie", and still itís considered by most "Robotech" fans as part of the official story. You also have the continually changing meaning of the word "Protoculture" in the original TV series. One minute it has the same meaning as that in "Macross", next it seems to be an actual fuel source.

Despite the fact I find the film to be pretty bad, I am continually perplexed as to why fans despise it so much. According to an article by Peter Walker on the Unofficial Robotech Reference Guide website, it was the San Antonio (Texas) branch of the C/FO (Cartoon/Fantasy Organisation) that first made a lot of negative noise in regards to the film. Peter also rightly notes that most people who write off the film as terrible probably have never even seen the film. Prior to it's first appearance on torrents and Youtube around 2008 or 2009, the movie just hadnít been widely accessible to fans, especially those in the US who were mostly the ones deriding it. For whatever reason, "Robotech the movie" is regarded as an anomaly in the "Robotech" universe. I understand why Harmony Gold doesnít really wish to acknowledge it or the fact Carl Macek wanted, in his own words, wanted "for everyone to forget about it". But the fan hate is something Iíll never understand.

And of course the lack of accessibility of the film and indeed the lack of information about lead to some really silly myths about it, the great majority which had absolutely no evidence to back them up. After obtaining a bootleg copy of the film in 2004 and then finally the legit UK Rank Home Video VHS in 2006 (for the bargain basement price of £5 Ė somehow I was quite fortunate that no one else was bidding), I was rather surprised to see fans claiming that the movie was never released on video anywhere. I had the damn thing sitting on my shelf! I also knew that it had been released in other countries on various video formats. I had always an interest in "Megazone 23" and was disappointed in the lack of info on the web, so I created my own website, "Operator 7G - A Megazone 23 Website", which included a section on "Robotech the movie".

For whatever reason, in 2009 I decided I would focus my efforts on "Robotech the movie" and completely reorganised the website. Perhaps the first reason for making it was that I just felt really bad that this film was going to be relegated to dust bin of history. Secondly, the myths and Chinese whispers about the film propagated mindlessly by fans kind of ticked me off, so I thought I'd like to set the record straight. And finally In recent years there has been a lot of (accurate) info about the film released into the public domain, but a lot of this material is fragmented and found in obscure places. I wanted to collect all that information and have in the one place. Wrapping up, yes, the film is kind of silly and bad, but I think it does deserve a little bit of respect. If history had been different and Cannon Films had actually released it in 1,400 US theatres in August 1986 and if it had been successful, of course "Robotech" fans would be singing a completely different tune. You may not agree with my assessment of the film, but at least the facts about it need to be told. This is why this website exists.

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A GWEI Product. ©2007 - 2015 GWEI. Robotech the movie ©1986 Harmony Gold USA/Idol Co. Ltd. Megazone 23 ©1985 Idol Co Ltd/Artmic/Victor Entertainment, Inc. All other logos/trademarks are copyright of their respective owners/companies. Used for review and illustration purposes only.