Tuesday, January 15, 2013

REVIEW: War in Space

War in Space
Director: Jun Fukuda
Year 1977

War in Space is an absolutely stellar Toho science fiction flick that throws caution to the wind as it depicts a future world placed in peril by morphing green skinned aliens, furry ax wielding beasts, and outrageously designed spaceships. Constructed in that stupendous Toho sense, the production boasts a wild array of outstanding miniatures, quaint effects, and a mind-blowing plot that is simply bonkers. With all of these valued qualities jam-packed into the runtime of this entertaining gem, it goes without saying that War in Space is a sci-fi fantasy meld that just screams fun and enjoyment.

The film begins with an alien attack on the planet Earth, where all across the globe countries are being bombarded by a mysterious enemy from Venus. All the world's hope lies with one Japanese scientist named Professor Takigawa, who has constructed a space craft called the Gohten, which has the ability to take down this nefarious force which has savagely waged war against the people of Earth. With a crack team of astronauts, Takigawa and his crew set off for the planet Venus to take the enemy head on, but will they bite off more than they can chew?

Ryo Ikebe takes on the role of Professor Takigawa, the headstrong leader of Project Gohten and the last hope for mankind. Ryo gives a fascinating performance which is subtle in every sense of the word. Almost contemplative to a fault, he calmly approaches each situation with a thoughtful pause before making a decision that propels the team into some perilous situations. Being no stranger to Toho productions, seeing that he had prominent and memorable roles in such science fiction films as Battle in Outer Space and Gorath, Ryo just gels into the style of the movie as he compliments all of the stylistic charm that Toho films are known for.

Accompanying Ryo Ikebe on this wild ride is Yuko Asano, Kensaku Morita and Hiroshi Miyauchi, as they take on the roles of June Takigawa, Miyoshi and Morrei. Yuko's portrayal of June Takigawa, daughter to Professor Takigawa, is whittled down to little more then a damsel in distress role, but she still does a commendable job with the material she's given. Hell, if anything else she gets to share the screen with one of the strangest of Star Wars coincidences in the form of a giant Wookie-like creature with horns and a laser ax, so her existence in this flick can't be too shabby. When it comes to Kensaku and Hiroshi, they take on the two central hero roles of the film with Kensaku playing Miyoshi the fiance of June and Hiroshi taking on the role of Morrei June's former crush. It may sound confusing, and it is, but the love triangle aspect of these criss-crossing relationships never takes center stage and is more of a backdrop to showcase how these characters are all connected to each other, so there's really no melodrama to bog down the story. Each leading man gets to show their stuff on the action front, allowing for both actors to shine while saving the day and thematically that's what the movie is all about.

In true Toho fashion, the production is filled to the brim with imaginative practical effects and the use of miniature work throughout the film is astoundingly effective and awe-inspiring. You never can go wrong with a practically constructed science fiction film from this era, or prior, and War in Space is no exception. From the epic space battles, to the interesting conceptual designs of the various spaceships, to the otherworldly atmosphere of the Planet Venus' surface, this entry is frothing with visual splendor. Not only that but the character's of this film, mainly the alien beings, are rather unique in their obscurity and uncanny resemblance to other cinematic characters within the genre. As I've mentioned already, there is a hairy creature in this movie that has a striking resemblance to Chewbacca that will surely give many fans out there a good chuckle, but of course there are other beings in this film that truly stand out as strikingly odd. One in particular is the main villain of the piece who resembles a green-faced Roman soldier, equipped with helmet, armor, and all the trimmings. He's a sight to behold and probably the best description on how wacky and fun this film can be.

This zany smorgasbord of craziness can all be attributed to the always entertaining filmmaker Jun Fukuda. With around five Godzilla films under his belt and the ridiculously entertaining spy gems Ironfinger and Ironfinger 2: Goldeneye, Fukuda has already made a name for himself in my book and with War in Space, my appreciation for him has only strengthened. There is a care-free outrageous quality to this production, where you never know what is going to happen next. It has all of the familiar trappings of a traditional Toho film, but there is always something a little off kilter or bizarre that throws you for a loop. I enjoyed the random nature of it and truly appreciated the fun factor, which by the way is through the roof in this production. All in all, War in Space feels like a Ishiro Honda Toho production, yet the outlandish way in which Fukuda portrays this unusual world gives the formula a whole new life of its own, making for a viewing experience that is wholly unforgettable and unique.

War in Space is an absolute blast as it blends Star Wars aesthetics with Japanese Toho science fiction in the wildest of ways. The combination is astoundingly madcap and you'll love every second that you spend in this topsy-turvy cinematic world. From its entertaining cast to its epic story, this sci-fi oddity really pulls out all of the stops to get your attention and make you take notice. When it's not dazzling you visually the film is boggling your mind with fantastic situations that are out of this world and in all intensive purposes gravity defying. This is not logically sound and thought-provoking science fiction here, but a silly entertaining romp that entertains to no end and that's just how I like it.

With its abundance of practical effects and majestically constructed miniatures, War in Space is without a doubt a throwback to the heyday of Toho studios and a testament to all that this movie-making powerhouse has brought over its long existence. It's thrilling, cheesy, outrageous, and above all entertaining and that's all I ask for in a fun science fiction adventure film. Make it a priority to hunt this one down, because it is well worth your attention and admiration. They don't make them like this anymore and that is a damn shame. War in Space is one hell of a.....

Is there something you'd like to share with the rest of the class?

Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello.... HELLO!

Nice fucking model!

Is that creepy bald dude still looking at us?

Eat laser you alien scum!

Say cheese.

Don't leave me hanging man.

See.... he digs the movie.

Damn you aliens!

If there's one thing I hate it's dirty Wookies. Shit! There's one behind me isn't there.

Everybody run! It's the Bruce Lee Space Raiders!

Use the Force Miyoshi. Use the Force!

Chewbacca! NOOOOOOOOO!


Looks like the gang is all here.

Let's play space-chicken.

Pick up your knees! You run like a girl!

Don't touch that dial weirdo.


  1. If you liked this one Jay, you're gonna love MESSAGE FROM SPACE. It's makes this pale in comparison, imo.

    Great review, too.

  2. Thanks Brian! I've got it in my sights. Hopefully I'll be grabbing it up soon!