It's common enough in any Japanese anime adventure and director Shinji Aramaki delivers the stylistic goods with space ships that circle each other, defying the laws of physics, firing broadside salvos into each other. I liked the first time that Captain Harlock's ship, the Arcadia, emerged from an endless black smoke that creepily slides off its skull and bones figurehead. All the computer-generated sets were created with painstaking care and attention to detail.
There is a capital city, where the oppressive governing council reigns, that has every bit the white marbled beauty of Minas Tirith. Although the Arcadia's engine room was only briefly shown, it is a magnificent futuristic coal chamber running on dark matter, dimly lighting a room whose every surface is silted with tarnished blackness after long empty years.
Toei Animation's computer graphics are unrivaled in any animated action film to date. From time to time, especially in close ups, it's difficult to tell the difference between a real life person and the rendered characters. It's beautiful.
Unfortunately, all that technical brilliance goes to waste on movie that is unforgivably stupid. The characters all come in varying shades of idiocy or they were so uninteresting that I forgot who they were.
The main character switches loyalty depending on who he' talking to. He has an idiotic backstory where he was a slightly younger idiot who paralyzed his idiot brother and now has to make amends by acting in his brother's place as a field operative who answers to an evil council of space idiots.
This council is clearly willing to sacrifice entire planets for the sake of...actually it makes no sense so I won't bother. It's easier to admit that the writers wanted to make them "bad guys" so they were. No one sufficiently explains anyone's motives because motives only exist for the sake of creating annoying artificial conflict.
Sure, all the characters had some backstory, in which they did something inexplicably stupid and now they have to atone, so I guess they had "motives," but it was only to correct completely contrived and nonsensical choices in their pasts that would never have crossed the mind of anyone in control of half their mental faculties. The movie seemed perfectly content following around lobotomized douchbags.
For most of the movie I was rooting for the evil empire because it would have been a valuable public service to euthanize the pirates and remove their mental deficiencies from the gene pool.
There are too many horrible things to point out about this movie. I would like to catalogue all the violations of the laws of physics that no one took the least effort to limit (This was egregious. The dark matter Macguffin alone was unforgivable). I could also rant a while about the pirate crew's determination to use medieval weaponry in space. I want to complain about all the scenes in which everyone is a bad shot. However, those were all sacrifices that the filmmakers made on the alter to style. I point them out because I could only handle so much dumb moronic idiocy in one stupidly stupid movie.
Sure is pretty though.