Movie Reviews

'Space Pirate Captain Harlock': A space oddity

By Hidzir JunainiMovies - 16 July 2014 11:00 AM | Updated 17 July 2014

'Space Pirate Captain Harlock': A space oddity

Space Pirate Captain Harlock

Our Rating

2/5 Stars

On paper, this update of 'Space Pirate Captain Harlock' should make most anime fans ecstatic.

Based on the classic manga by Leiji Matsumoto, the onscreen adventures of Harlock has been incredibly influential in the development of anime in terms of style and story.

Hardcore fans should know the tale by now because it has been told and retold in numerous forms (including a TV series that became a cult hit) over the decades.

But what makes this latest incarnation stand out is the involvement of legendary anime director and designer Shinji Aramaki ('Appleseed').

Yet, even though the ingredients seem to make for an instant epic, the final results fall a little short. Perhaps because of those lofty expectations.


The very first (and very predictable) stumbling block is that the plot is much too convoluted for newcomers. But here it is anyway: Taking place “far, far in the future or perhaps in the distant past”, the premise presents a universe where Earth is barren of resources and its human inhabitants have spread out across the galaxy in search of new hospitable homelands.

When the colonisation of alien worlds go awry, the 500 billion humans across the cosmos engage in a mad dash to return to Earth.

Since our pale blue planet cannot possibly sustain humanity's expanded numbers, the fight for territory sparks a bloody intergalactic battle called the Homecoming Wars. 

Eventually, an authoritarian regime called the Gaia Coalition declares Earth off-limits to humans.

Now, know that all this happens even before the movie's main plot even begins.


Then, we have the main characters, led by the titular Captain Harlock, an immortal space pirate who is ruthless but also honourable. 

He is accompanied by woman-warrior Kei and alien advisor Miime aboard a battleship called the Arcadia, which is powered by “dark matter”..

Captain Harlock is a revolutionary engaged in a constant struggle against the repressive Gaia Coalition, determined to expose their shocking cover-ups and shady secrets. In retaliation, Coalition big-wig Ezra successfully sends in his younger brother Logan to spy on Harlock's gang.

The story gets more cluttered from then on, filled with inexplicable heel turns, head-scratching techno-babble and convenient supernatural MacGuffins.


On the plus-side, 'Space Pirate Captain Harlock' does feature astounding, quasi-realistic computer-generated visuals.

The details are meticulous, the design is gorgeous, and the action is so beautifully choreographed that viewers will always follow what is going on, even in the most frantic battle sequences (take note Michael Bay). 

In no uncertain terms, this is a visual feast, and for some, that might be enough. But for others, it might be difficult to enjoy the eye-candy when your brain is so disappointed with everything else.

Updating the premise of the tale to reflect our current societal zeitgeist (anxiety over the environment and government transparency) was a clever move, but the rest feels woefully put-together. 

Besides the silly contrivances and nonsensical character decisions that punctuate the nearly two-hour running time, there is also a major twist that will have longtime fans up in arms.

Both newcomers and old-school anime geeks will have something to gripe about after watching this, but nevertheless, the stunning visuals alone might just be enough to redeem this.

‘Space Pirate Captain Harlock’ opens in cinemas 17 July 2014

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Space Pirate Captain Harlock
  • Space Pirate Captain Harlock

  • Rated
    PG13 /
    Animation, Science Fiction
  • Language
  • (1 Review)