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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Macross II': Plodding and Unintelligible

June 04, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Macross II: Lovers Again," a Japanese animated feature opening today for a one-week engagement at Laemmle's Sunset 5 in Hollywood, gives new meaning to the phrase "battle of the bands."

In the year 2079, Earth keeps the alien Zentradi at bay by broadcasting bubblegum pop music sung by teen-age girls: Given the quality of the songs, it's no wonder the aliens prefer to stay out of earshot. But the balance of musical power shifts when the evil Marduk emperor begins using his own singers to force the Zentradi to attack Earth.

The emperor's nefarious plot unleashes a standard array of metamorphic robots, big-eyed heroines, laser battles, explosions, action sequences (many of them shamelessly lifted from "Star Wars"), simple computer graphics and extremely limited animation. Naturally, the plan fails at the last minute and the Earth is saved.

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The saga of the robot-fortress Macross began as a popular television series in Japan in 1981, and helped launch the transforming robot toys that became a craze in both Japan and America ("Gobots," "Transformers," etc.).

"Lovers Again" represents the last two parts of the six-episode theatrical epic expanded from the TV series; the earlier film, "Macross: Do You Remember Love?," has already played the United States.

Viewers unfamiliar with the previous film will have a hard time following the convoluted plot. The English-language production team increases the difficulty by failing to translate the songs, including the all-important "song of joy" that saves the Earth from destruction.

Unlike the popular, fast-paced features of director Hayao Miyazaki, "Lovers Again" moves at a snail's pace, despite all those space battles. At two hours and 14 minutes, it's longer than "Fantasia," but probably required fewer drawings than an hour of Saturday morning kidvid.

"Macross II" (Times-rated Mature for some profanity, violence and an unintelligible story line) is sure to delight dedicated Japanese animation fans, who relish hearing characters proclaim, "The fate of the Earth is in our hands!" General audiences are unlikely to share their enthusiasm.

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