I have no idea what the original cartoon show Space Battleship Yamato is based on is like, but the film was an utter disappointment. The situation is thus: in the far future, some sort of space-aliens by the name of the Gamilas have been laying waste to Earth by bombarding the planet with radioactive missiles. The survivors have fled underground, scavenging metal for the war effort. One such scavenger, an ex-fighter pilot, discovers a beacon from a place called Iskandar that offers a device to clean Earth of radiation. He signs up with the eponymous space battleship, for humanity's last ditch effort.
I was expecting a crazy-fun little bit of Japanese sci-fi, but what Space Battleship Yamato is instead is a cheap looking, poorly paced (and acted) bit of bad cheese. The over-riding feeling I got from the whole production was it being like a (slightly) bigger budgeted fan film. If only it had the charm and sense of fun a fan-film would have, it would have been forgiven a lot more. There was no passion, and that meant a lot. If there had been some sense of engagement, I could have easily forgiven any shoddy effects and over-wrought cheesiness thrown my way; I routinely do.
There are occasional bursts of noise and action but nothing that really stands out. The whole film is photographed in the flattest, least interesting way possible. There seems to have also been little thought given to the costumes and sets, the filmmakers instead choosing to ape the cartoon rather than try and bring it in to a "real-world" setting. And I say this having never seen the cartoon - the costuming just looks lazy, with the extent of military uniforms being snazzy leather jackets for all. It's a look that would work in animation but here just looks ridiculous. Similarily lazy is the arc of lead character, Susumu Kodai. He's the ex-fighter pilot scavenger and, after signing up he is immediatly (with no explanation whatsoever) given the post of lead fighter-pilot. But he's stationed on the bridge and seems to be the guy who fires the big gun. And then, again for no real reason, come the end he is given control of the ship. It all seems like they had an idea of how this type of arc was supposed to play out, but had no thought to actually pulling it off.
It cannot be easy making a sci-fi film in a battleship/submarine setting, with having to follow the excellent Battlestar Galactica. They're two very different beasts yes: Yamato is a Japanese sci-fi film going for "fun", where Galactica is an American TV show exploring issues of faith, morality and mortality. Still, Yamato could have learned a few things from Galactica instead of being an endevaour that is entirely childish, in the worst sense of the word.