Sometimes, shorter is better. At only 71 minutes, Big Wars is one of the shorter feature films one finds in anime. Nevertheless, this motion picture works because right from the title on down, it knows exactly what it is: a B-grade alien shootout. Big Wars has two distinct sections. It doubles as an oddball psychological thriller in the first half, and that part is important but mostly setup. However, the nice battle sequences at the end make for a nice payoff. Is this a great film? Heck no! But for a guy in need of a little sci-fi destruction, it works nicely.
Aliens known as "The Gods" have been slowly encroaching on our solar system, and Mars is where humanity takes it stand roughly 400 years in the future. It's not clear whether the aliens want to move on to Earth, but they know they want the red planet for themselves. As the show begins, the war has been raging for some time. We are introduced to Captain Akuh, who's just finished his therapy after a near-brush with death when his battleship, the Aoba, was destroyed. However, because of his past heroics, officials have full confidence in Akuh, and they've commissioned a secret destroyer for him and his new crew. Before the new Aoba takes off on its mission to destroy the cloaked alien cruiser known only as Hell, Akuh has some personal business to attend to. His romantic affair with a lieutenant turns deadly when he finds that she may have been subverted by the Gods and is working as their agent. If Akuh is to live long enough to attempt the suicide mission assigned to him, he's going to have to watch his back from perils within his own crew.
Now, it's difficult to be an apologist for Big Wars, especially when many of my contemporaries have taken it to task. This is not an eagerly awaited sci-fi epic of magnificent proportions, though it would like to be. It's much more along the lines of a film like XXX or Independence Day where you get enough set-up that when the time comes, you're ready to watch some stunts and see stuff explode. If you don't like this mindless sort of fun, then just stay far away. There's plenty of ludicrous plot strings to make one cringe. For example, what else but a low-rent film would make nymphomania a way to tell if somebody's been converted to the alien horde? (Though I think a few people I know would be willing to be brain-sautéed if that would be the end result...) And how many times have we seen the braggart pilot get turned on his ear when it turns out he's a coward? Clichés abound. And the music doesn't help, either, as the soundtrack glides from one mediocre track to the next. This is one of the few films I've seen where the soundtrack seems appropriate to the action yet feels very dry and tired in terms of style.
One can't pick on the animation much, however, particularly in the battle sequences that are often quite stunning. They are by no means the best that anime has to offer, but they are indeed impressive. Although there are a few questionable shots in slower sequences, the look of the film is tight. The film also makes some wise decisions. Big Wars doesn't fall into the trap that really hurt Super Atragon because it stays with Captain Akuh's storyline and makes him interesting. There are secondary characters, but they stay just that--secondary. We're consistently involved with his story. The pacing of the story is good, and there's enough intrigue to just hold things together...at least for 70 minutes or so. And did I mention the battle scenes? Mmm good.
Big Wars is by no means a great movie. It is, however, entertaining. It hails back to the old matinee pictures, but with several more adult twists. Reading the other, more negative reviews about this picture on the web, I'd have to advise that this might be a rental first, just in case. However, for me, it's a guilty pleasure.
Big Wars -- violence (some a little graphic), brief nudity, sexual situations -- B