From space we look down on the Earth. The narrator sets up the events about to unfold, explaining that today, 16th September, is the day of that America will make the initial test of their Space Ranger missile defence system. A short burst of Seiji Yokoyama's theme plays over the opening credits as panning shots of abandoned and decaying satellites sets the foreboding mood.
Russia. The Nuclear Submarine Rai Yurick leaves port on a long voyage of reconnaissance, disappearing beneath the ocean's surface. On board Commander Sokawski greats his newest crew member Chief Officer Denkin. They exchange pleasantries and Denkin leaves to meet with the Communications Officer. Finding him at his control desk he hands him a slip of paper upon which is written a very important cipher: "Fly Eagle". Denkin instructs the Comm's Officer that if a communication is received from the Kremlin which starts with this cipher he is to inform him immediately.
Days later at the West German plane mobile short range Nuclear Missiles remain aimed east, partially camouflaged by the surrounding woods. Amongst the trees British Service Men relax in the warm morning sun. One of them, Michael, stares up at the passing clouds, saddened by the news that his girlfriend back home has left him for another man. His companions offer advice to try and brighten his mood. Then, out of the trees, the peace is broken by an approaching cow bell. A young German girl is chasing one of her escaped herd which charges past the tanks heading for the open fields ahead. Michael leaps to her aid and manages to wrestle the beast to a halt, just long enough for the girl to catch up. But the angry bovine breaks free of his grasp and continues its dash for freedom. The two continue the chase while Michael's fellow Service Men watch and laugh.
Over the sea of Japan a routine Air force patrol intercepts a Soviet jet invading Japanese airspace over Hokkaido. This is becoming a regular occurrence since neighbouring Cuba became allies with the USSR. The Japanese planes fly in formation behind the Russians forcing them out, the lead pilot circling the enemy and passing close to them in a display of superior flying skills. "This is no joke" he warns his Wingman as the intruder retreats to safety. (Despite the impressive and fluid aerial animation much of this sequence was removed from the Western edit).
Above the Earth we finally meet with the main protagonists in this story. Wataru and the DARPA crew are making the final adjustments to the tracking system of the Space Ranger Laser, ahead of its monumental test run. His work complete he returns to join the rest of the crew within the Space Voyager shuttle. At the Vanderberg Air force Base Dr Brown and the system's creator Burt Gains stand by to launch the dummy warhead, joined by numerous representatives of the world media. The event is being broadcast live across America and inside the White house President Gibson, the Secretary of State and Chief of Defence watch with great intent.
The missile is launched. Tension grows on the ground and in space. The ICBM comes into range and the order to fire is given. The laser responds, missing initially but eventually one shot meets its target and the missile explodes. Inside the control room everyone celebrates the successful test, people rush to congratulate Burt on his achievement. A call comes through from the President who is extremely impressed, not least because this event virtually guarantees re-election. The Secretary of State pledges the funds needed for the project to be completed. The Laser is packed away into the Voyager and the team return to Earth. Their arrival is met by an excited media. Burt is there to welcome his sister Laura and his best friend Wataru.
Later that evening the three are relaxing at Burt's beach-side home, having drinks on the veranda, looking out to sea. However it seems that Burt's mood has changed. He is beginning to have doubts over his invention. What he has created will completely altered the arms race as nuclear Weapons will be no longer a threat to the United States. He fears the effect that this will have on the world situation. Wataru reveals to his friends that once his work is done he will return home to Japan. Laura pretends to be indifferent to this news but Burt tells him that he knows his sister has feelings for him. (In the Wizard video version the dialog is a lot different for instance; Robert is leaving for Cape Kennedy before the completion of the project causing friction with the others).
That night the research team calibrate their success at a disco bar. This is one of my favourite scenes in the movie as it looks fantastic particularly the lighting effects plus the rotoscoped dance moves are really impressive - fluid and lifelike without ever having that creepy "uncanny valley" which often effects this method of animation. In the U.S. version they are dancing to "Sole Survivor" by Asia.
It turns out that Laura is a skilled disco dancer and really captures everyone's attention. Meanwhile at the bar Wataru stares at his drink, lost in thought. He is approached by one of the female members of his research team who invites him for a dance. He accepts, reluctantly at first but soon he gets into the mood. Laura sees and becomes instantly jealous. She moves in on them pushing his partner aside. She tries to make light conversion, joking about the interests of the Japanese people being Computers, Television and even Missile Tracking systems not the American invention Disco Dancing. He doesn't see the joke responding with an angry tirade about the aggressive politics of America and how they are the cause of the world tensions. Laura walks away visibly upset and Wataru leaves, along with his previous dance partner.
The next morning our hero is awoken by an insistent knocking at his front door. He opens it to find three men from the FBI waiting. They explain that earlier that morning Burt Gains' car was attacked on his way to the Research Facility. His bodyguards were found at the side of the road, both dead, and Burt himself is currently missing...
Out at sea a Soviet spy plane sinks beneath the waves and a small rubber raft bobs on the surface. On it are three Russian spies and the unconscious body of Burt Gains. A sub surfaces to meet them.
Wataru and Dr Brown rush to Laura's home and find her standing on the beach staring out at the waves. Brown tries to reassure Laura that the Government will do all that it can to get her brother back but she responds cynically to his comforting words.
Aboard the Russian sub Burt lays still, pretending to be drugged, while his captors watch over him. The Commander enters and Gains leaps from the bed snatching the medical officer's gun. He first points it at his captors but then as a slow realisation dawns on him and he turns the gun on himself. Fearing they'll loose this valuable asset the Sub Commander grapples the scientist for control of the weapon but in the struggle it is accidentally fired wounding Burt. Before they can come to terms with these events the room is bathed in the red light of an alert. A U.S. bomber has located them and launched an air-to-sea torpedo strike. The Commander gives the order to increase speed.
Within the Oval office the Chief of Defence informs the President of the failure of the Torpedo attack. The Submarine is a modified Alpha type which can move too fast for conventional air attacks. He warns that the only way to stop Burt from reaching Russian soil is with a sea-based Nuclear Warhead. At first President Gibson is reluctant to take such steps but the Chief of Defence warns him of the grave consequences of allowing the inventor of their Missile Defence System to fall into Soviet hands. He tries to calm his fears by suggesting that the explosion can be explained away as a simple accident aboard the vessel. It is perfectly believable and no one will have any proof that a launch ever took place. It is a terrible decision to make but Gibson realises he has no choice. The order is given.
Within minutes a bomber is in the air and within range of the escaping Russia vessel. A storm is raging as the torpedo is launched. In moments it catches up to the speeding Submarine and detonates. The explosion is immense, wiping out the Submarine and all aboard it with ease and continuing to blast a huge crater into the sea floor. The resulting cloud forces its way to the surface and billows out into the sky.
News quickly reaches the Kremlin. There can be no doubt of America's aggressive actions. The cabinet holds crisis talks with Minister of Defence Bulgarin and his Chief Aide pushing for an equally aggressive response. Vice President Kutsov warms they shouldn't get carried away after all this action was not unprovoked. Undeterred Bulgarin urges the head of state Orlof one final time to go to war. Orlof is not in the best of health. He calls for a 15 minute recess.
While an aide administers Orlof's medicine Kutsov requests a reasoned response. The Russian Premier reassures him that he has no intention of declaring war, he is more concerned about quality of life currently facing his country men, the USSR simply can't afford to do anything rash. Just then another aide enters the room carrying a Christmas gift from the U.S. President. Orlof silently opens the package finding a box of Cigars and a message inside. Gibson pledges hope for a renewed friendship between their two countries, Orlof scoffs at such a sentiment branding the President a Cowboy. As he lights one of the Cigars he gives clear orders for the USSR's response.
Soviet mechanised forces mobilise throughout allied Europe, increasing their presence as a display of might while, in space, a Russia attack satellite destroys an American advanced communications Satellite. Inside the White House the President and his key staff gather to discuss this Soviet response. Elsewhere, to mark the death of her brother Laura drops a bouquet into the sea.
The following day Wataru receives an urgent call at the research centre. Its from Dr Brown at the Vanderberg Air force base to inform him he has been promoted to Head of the Technology Department. By order of the President Wataru is replacing his late friend Burt and is to oversee the finalising of the Space Ranger Defence System. It is also hoped that his promotion will strengthen U.S.-Japan relations. This news comes as a shock to Wataru who is uncertain of accepting. That evening while leaving the centre he overhears a television news report that Laura has been admitted to hospital. He immediately takes the train to visit her.
The next scene is much shorter in the western releases. Wataru meets Laura's Doctor who explains her condition while having a good smoke in the Hospital corridors (you don't see that any more!). It turns out that her condition is not too serious but she is taking the death of her brother badly. At her bedside Wataru gives her a gift and tells her that he is to be promoted to Burt's position. She is upset by the news (or possibly the weird gift) and begins to cry. Wataru tries to comfort her and the two engage in a spot of romance...
In Neinberg, West Germany, Marina (the farm girl) is preparing for her date with Michael to the town's New Years Eve celebrations. In the dining room Michael sits and waits making conversation with her parents about the weather. Since he's from Scotland and Marina's parents are German you'd think there might be some sort of language barrier but there's nothing to worry about since everyone speaks Japanese!
Finally his date enters the room, Michael is taken with her beauty. The couple bid farewell to her mother and father and head to the front door. As Marina puts on her coat the peaceful winter evening quiet is broken by the deafening roar of an approaching, low flying jet. The towns people stare into the sky in terror as a Russian fighter swoops overhead, on a course for the air force base at the edge of town.
In the control tower the Commander watches, through the snowstorm, as the Jet speeds towards them. He takes note of how it doesn't appear to be hostile and cautiously allows it to land. The cockpit opens and the pilot nervously rises, identifying himself as Boris Sorenkuga, a Captain in the Soviet air force and requests to defect.
The Kremlin is horrified by this news. Not only was Sorenkuga one of their most highly decorated Officers but the Jet he stole was the Black Dragon, the Soviet's top secret new bomber. This is awful news for Orlof as it represents a terrible security breach. The technology within that jet forms the backbone of their air force. In the hands of a hostile nation it could spell disaster for the Soviet Union. Bulgarin suggests that the only course of action can be to send their troops in to attack the air force base, kill Boris Sorenkuga and destroy the Black Dragon. Reluctantly Orlof accepts but the strain of this decision is too much for his weak heart to bare and he collapses while Kutsov frantically yells for help.
The townsfolk of Neinburg have forgotten the earlier disruption and are now wrapped up in carefree celebrations. They sing Edelweiss around a decorated tree and drink tankards of beer completely oblivious to the approaching danger. Suddenly the ground shakes and the lights flicker. The music stops and some people rush out into the street to find out what is happening. The sound of gunfire, explosions and the shrill cry of the air-raid warning fill the room. Marina is scared but Michael promises to stay with her.
Outside of town, Russian aircraft invade the West German air force base. Armed soldiers spill onto the tarmac shooting their way through the German defences. Soon they break through into the control tower and kill all inside including the defector. The Black Dragon is located and a bomb is set as, outside, tanks roll over the perimeter fence and onto the runway. The timed device detonates as, some how, two West German jet pilots manage to escape the carnage and flee across the border into Russian airspace, determined to get revenge. They don't get far before ground defences shoots one of them down. The other makes it far enough to launch missiles against a Soviet Airbase.
Tokyo. Wataru has flown home, accompanied by Laura, for the New Years Eve celebrations. On a balcony the two gaze out at the sunset and make plans for the new year. They return inside just as the host makes a terrible announcement... war has broken out in Europe! A collective gasp fills the air and the room descends into a terrified hush as he continues to read the details. Back on balcony Laura laments the news, how long will it be before America becomes involved? She turns to Wataru and begs him not to return to the U.S. but he tells her he must complete Burt's work. As he leaves she falls to the ground and cries.
Attention is once more returned to Neinberg and fighting has reduced the town to ruins. In the midst of a blizzard Enemy jets fly overhead as Michael searches for any sign of his beloved Marina. The wind howls stronger as he spots her lying under rubble from a collapsed building. He pulls her free but it is too late and she dies in his arms.
Not too far away, a tank battle rages in the North German Plains as NATO forces attempt to slow the march of the Warsaw Pact. If you are watching the Wizard Video release then you'll be listening to "Witch Hunt" by Rush. As the fighting escalates the NATO forces are taking bad losses. Inside the White house desperate attempts are being made to contact the Kremlin but with no success. Gibson is determined to make contact with Orlof in hope of preventing the violence from escalating. A call comes through from NATO Commander Lindsay in Hamburg who informs the American President of their grave situation. He also urges the U.S. to veto use of strategic Nuclear weapons to slow the opposing force's advance. Despite the go ahead from a number of other member states Gibson begs Lindsay to hold off asking for just twenty more minutes to get through to the Kremlin.
Fighting has reached Michael's regiment and as he returns to his position one of his comrades punches him to the ground, angry that he left his post while his friends were being killed. Michael doesn't speak instead he gets onto his feet and climbs into the driving seat of one of the missile carriers. He speeds off across the planes, heading for the border. Reaching his destination he climbs out and calmly brings the warhead into position, then snatches the control briefcase from inside the cab and runs to a safe position. Time slows. Laying on the ground he opens the case, arms the controls and hits 'launch'. The missile shoots off into the sky, arching round as it disappears over the horizon.
An incredible flash as strong as daylight momentarily illuminates the dark night sky followed immediately by a blast of inconceivable force instantly rendering the tanks apart. A nuclear wind howls across the land as Michael calmly sits gazing at the flower worn by Marina. Lost in grief he quietly sings Edelweiss.
Beneath the waves Kremlin communications are received by the Rai Yurick. The colour drains from the Communications Officer's face as he reads "Fly Eagle". He hurries to inform Officer Denkin who in turn instructs the Commander. The Kremlin has ordered that the launch keys be removed, missiles armed and the Submarine be put on stand by within U.S. waters.
Wizard chose Asia's "Wildest Dreams" to accompany the following scenes of tanks rolling out across the Middle East, securing oil fields by force. The scene following this is missing from the Western edit entirely. The Japanese government discuss the world events predicting that the U.S. will want to move troops to their shores as a strategic defence against the neighbouring communist state of Cuba. Soviet torpedoes attack a Japanese tanker in the sea outside Hokkaido. The Japanese Prime Minster decides to allow the American forces entry much to the shock of his cabinet.
Deep below ground in the President's bunker Gibson and his staff receive a memo from the Kremlin detailing their cease fire agreement. They are horrified at the demands. According to Wizard the USSR wants complete territory rights to half of the Middle Eastern Oil fields. Although it is signed by Orlof the Secretary of State doubts its authenticity. There are rumours circulating that the Russian Premier is on his deathbed and the Vice President is having trouble controlling Bulgarin's wild ambition.
As the American's debate their response Kutsov has called a secret meeting with the Polit Bureau in an attempt to bring the Soviet government under control. He plans to remove Bulgarin from the cabinet in hopes of holding peace talks with the West and bringing the war to an end. The members are seated around the table awaiting the arrival of the head of the KGB.
In the snow outside a car pulls up. Kutsov heads to the door to welcome their guest but he and the others are shocked to find Bulgarin. The Secretary of Defence is very unhappy with their plotting which he sees as treason. Their disagreement turns ugly and a member of the Polit Bureau is shot dead. Bulgarin can't tolerate their actions and has the everyone of them, including the Vice President arrested.
Another short scene removed from the version seen outside Japan. The Japanese air force detect incoming Russian jets approaching their airspace and fighters are scrambled to intercept. Somewhere in Tokyo Laura sits behind the piano of a Jazz Bar playing a passionate piece to the mostly inebriated revelers. Painful memories of Wataru, and fears for the world's future fuel her playing. Finally the piece comes to an end leaving her exhausted. The air-raid siren sounds. The people look up from their drinks confused as the door bursts open and a man shouts a warning that enemy jets are inbound. The room clears out all except for Laura who takes one more drink and begins to play a mournful tune.
From the skies above Tokyo missiles rain down on the metropolis, destroying buildings, gridlocked cars and the bullet train. Back at the Kremlin the new government headed by Bulgarin mulls over the reports of their attacks on the Asian nation. He is pleased with the results but less so the news of America's bombing of the allied Cuba.
The crew of the Rai Urick are growing restless. A long time has passed since the "Fly Eagle" instruction was received and they have since reached the southern coast of America, not far from California and with no further word from the Kremlin. Denkin is becoming uneasy, the sub is too far from the surface to receive low frequency radio signals leaving them completely isolated from world events. Finally he cracks and gives the order to surface just enough to be within UHF reception. Over the radio comes reports that Havana has been bombed by America, Denkins is shaken. The alarm sounds. They have been spotted by an enemy sub. Commander Sokowski gives the order to return fire but its little use. Rai Urick is stuck by multiple torpedoes and begins to flood. Denkin approaches the Commander calmly urging him to launch the Sub's Nuclear payload before it sinks but he refuses. Not without a direct order from Orlof. Denkin demands revenge on America for the attack on their allies. This disagreement quickly becomes a fight with Denkin striking first. The struggle is over quickly as the Sokowski is drowned by his subordinate under the rapidly rising water. Denkin snatches the launch key from the Submarine Commander and hands it to the Communications Officer, leading him to the launch controls. His unwilling accomplices' hand trembles as he inserts the key into the control panel. Officer Denkin counts down. The keys are turned and the SLBM missiles launch, racing for the surface.
An alarm echoes around the Kremlin war room, alerting all assembled to the final actions of the Rai Urick. Missiles are in the air and heading for Washington. Everyone in the room, Bulgarin included are shocked.
President Gibson is awoken by the news. Horrified, he responds by ordering immediate retaliation in kind. Hanging up the phone he screams in despair. The Secretary of State tries to reassure him that he has done the right thing.
Above ground Nuclear Missiles strike Washington and the South Coast. A huge mushroom cloud blooms into the sky.
The U.S. retaliation is launched from the ground, air and below the sea. Their response is huge, numbering into double figures. Bulgarin receives the news and considers it for a moment. Then reaches for the launch button, preparing to unleash a larger second wave assault. But to his shock, his plan is interrupted by Orlof who forbids any further action. The infirm leader appears on the video screen in front of him and it seems he is ready to return to office. Undeterred by the Premier's warning the Minister of Defence presses the button then gives a nod to one of his staff.
Orlof's next course of action is to contact the President of the United States. Gibson demands an explanation and the Russian Leader apologises profusely revealing that this has all been a terrible accident. Now that he is recovered he wants to begin talks and bring this fighting to an end. Behind him the door creaks open...
Bulgarin's assistant silently steps through the doorway and fires twice shooting Premier Orlof in the head. Orlof's aide turns to stop the assassin but is also shot and killed.
The second wave of soviet ICBMs reach their targets. New York, Chicago, Miami and Tokyo disappear beneath thermo-radioactive fireball. The burning clouds fill the sky blotting out the light. From space the world turns red.
Deep below ground the U.S. President receives the projected death toll from the attacks. 15 to 20 million American lives have been lost, with further statistics coming in from the allied nations hit. He can take no more. Just as it seems that all hope is lost news comes in over the radio that the Vanderberg base is still operational. The missile aimed for it strayed off course leaving it unscathed in the attacks. President Gibson gives the order to have the Space Ranger and its crew prepared for launch. The Secretary of State asks if they should prepare a second retaliatory strike but Gibson tells him to hold off until the laser is in position. "This is a war without victory" he states.
Tokyo lays in ruins. Laura is still inside the underground Jazz Bar, now a shelter for the wounded. Shocked and confused by the event she has witnessed she climbs the stairs to the street, pushing past the armed guards. She has to see for herself what has become of the once bustling metropolis. Outside a black rain falls from the thick, dark dust clouds that blot out the sky. Amongst the soot coated ruins bewildered survivors search in vain for their loved ones and for unpolluted water. Hearing a child crying she rushes over to find a young boy standing over the corpse of his mother.
At Vanderberg the shuttle is prepared for launch with Wataru and the other crew already aboard. In the control room Dr Brown oversees the mission. In Japan Laura has been moved to a make-shift medical facility setup within an airbase. She takes a walk and ends up on the beach. The tide washes up a pair of dead birds. Picking up a stick she writes Wataru's name in the sand and realises that if this is the end she would rather die alongside her love.
A military plane is leaving for America bringing with it the service men injured by the Tokyo blast. Laura rides inside, comforting a fatally wounded solider as he deliriously cries out for his mother (the sight of his bloodied stump is missing from the non-Japanese versions). In the background a harmonica is played.
Around the world people begin to pray. In the Middle East a growing number of Arabs march through the desert chanting an anti-war slogan, gathering support and numbers from the disillusioned soldiers they pass. In Rome the Pope gives a stirring speech while, all over the globe, soldiers throw down their guns and dream of a world where the flowers still grow and the sky is still blue.
Above the planet the four Space Ranger lasers are in position, and just in time. The incoming Soviet ICBMs are picked up by the radar revealing an onslaught greater than expected. Around twelve missiles are inbound and there is only a small window of opportunity before they accelerate beyond the Space Ranger's attack range. To miss even one would be disastrous.
At first the four space lasers pick the war heads off with ease but as the pace increases the odds begin to overwhelm. One by one the ballistic threat is reduced, each destroyed on the first attempt, until SR-4 fires, but misses. The crew make several frantic attempts to halt the inbound missile but not a single shot finds its target. Space Ranger 4 is hit and is completely destroyed. Eventually two of the remaining three defence craft succumb to the stress and are wiped out by direct hits.
With the threat nearly contained Wataru is recalled back to base, taking the Voyager Shuttle and leaving two crew men in charge of the remaining laser. As he departs the last of the missiles come into range. Three of the four are taken out with ease but disaster strikes as the final one is masked by the fallout from the previous and it manages to slip through. The crew react quickly and shoot it down but the it had approached far too close. The resulting explosion fills the sky enveloping both Space Ranger 2 and the Voyager.
Back on Earth Laura arrives at Vanderberg Air Force Base while, across the globe more and more soliders and survivors join the anti war march. In the Kremlin's war room Bulgarin receives an unexpected guest. Vice Premier Kutsov has been released from prison and demands to know why he has refused to join peace talks with the U.S. President. Bulgarin responds, informing the Vice Premier that the Americans have lost the will to fight bringing their nation closer a new era of prosperity. In 30 minutes half the world's population will be wiped out leaving the way clear. Kutsov can't believe his madness and orders him arrested. Orlof's assassin positions himself to launch a sneak attack but is instead himself shot, and by one of Bulgarin's former supporters.
To make matters worse for the war mongering politician reports are coming in that Communist forces around the world are laying down their weapons. Bulgarin can't understand what is wrong with these people. Why would they quit now when victory is so close? In a last frantic act of aggression Bulgarin reaches for the launch button, to release Russia's remaining missiles. He is shot but it is too late. As he collapses the button is pressed and, as he informs Kutsov with his dying breath, the cancellation system has been overridden. He is the winner after all.
President Gibson contacts the Vanderberg base to tell them of the approaching attack, willing them to succeed but in space things don't look too good. The missile detonation has left the crew of the Space Ranger dead and the Voyager's oxygen system severely damaged. They are ordered to return to Earth at once. Wataru has other ideas and breaks off contact with the air base.
He plans to have the shuttle get him as close to the damaged laser as it can, then return to Earth without him. Left in space, Wataru will attempt to fix the Space Ranger and then defeat the remaining Soviet attack. From the control room, all anyone can do is watch as the heroic scientist begins his fatal mission. As he makes the necessary repairs to the engines Laura enters the control room and realises what is going on. News arrives of the coming attack, eight ICBMs are on route from Siberia heading for Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. The projected death toll would total 13 million, and Wataru has only one hour of oxygen.
The Space Ranger is operational and prepared. Laura is moved by Wataru's sacrifice and takes the radio, pleading him to come back alive so that they can be together once more.
The missiles enter range. The first four are shot down with ease, the following two begin to separate but are destroyed none the less. With only two warheads remaining Wataru fires, but the shot is wide of the mark. The two separate and accelerate away making them impossible to stop. With their current trajectories one will miss its intended target and hit the pacific ocean. The other, however, will detonate in Los Angeles. Its all over, there is nothing more Wataru can do.
Laura pleads with Dr Brown to be allowed to take a manned satellite to be with Wataru and eventually he agrees. Meanwhile, in orbit, Wataru hasn't given up on stopping the final missile. He takes one last desperate course of action and flies the Space Ranger directly toward the fleeing rocket, knowing that if he can get close enough he can hit it before it reaches its target. His plan is successful but the blast sends him spinning off into space.
On the ground Kutsov has been monitoring the events via a Russian manned satellite and is moved by Wataru's selfless act. He orders the crew of the satellite to intervene and bring the scientist home.
Around the world the peace march has grown to encompass nearly all the surviving men, women and children. Chanting citizens are seen emerging from the ruins of Paris, New York and London waving anti war banners as white doves fly symbolically into the sky.
The ground control team, President Gibson and Kutsov watch their monitors as Laura and Wataru grow closer to their deep space meeting. Our hero comes to consciousness in time to see the sun rise from behind the globe. As the closing theme begins (either "Pathetic Love is my Destiny"; Kazuko Kawashima or "Only Time Will Tell"; Asia) Laura remembers the good times the two of them have shared. Above the planet Laura, Wataru and the Russian satellite near their meeting... the credits roll.
Bargain Bin Bonus!!
A slightly bizarre mix of overbearing orchestral score and hand-painted imagery all hurled at the viewer in under a minute. No actual footage from the movie...
Trailer #2 That's a bit more like it! All the best war bits spliced together to give a misleading representation of the film as an all out action piece with a melancholy tone.
From the Wizard version. Michael's grief and thirst for revenge has dire consequences for the entire globe...
As much as I enjoy Future War there's no denying its faults. For starters the film no where near lives up to the explosive promises of Noriyoshi Ohrai's vivid posters. The lavish colours and provocative images of rolling tanks, launching missiles and atomic mushroom clouds misrepresent the film, which is mostly talking! I'm glad that the story concentrates on the planning and strategising that goes on behind the conflict but it would have been nice to have it balanced with more scenes of the actual war and the effects that the nuclear strikes had on the target cities and their inhabitants.
But, in my mind, the biggest flaw of all is the ending. It down plays the effects of nuclear conflict to an even greater degree than The Day After. It is even out of step with the earlier scenes of devastated Tokyo. First we see charred corpses, a scorched sky and polluted rain and then, in the closing, we see people walking, completely unscathed, from the clean rubble of their cities. Somehow the end of war signals blue skies, clear seas and birds flying freely. And the multi-national peace train that forms across continents, with their pre-prepared anti-war banners, is bordering on ludicrous! The whole thing is completely implausible and undercuts the drama of everything that came before it.
Having said all that I do still find it an engrossing study of the cause of conflicts. Being a theatrical movie the animation, for the most part, is detailed and fluid although the facial detailing of the characters is noticeably inconsistent. The Japanese score is both eerie and foreboding which is fitting but sadly a tone which the onscreen action itself never quite lives up to.
So which version is better? Well, the Wizard edit has the obvious advantage of being in English and is a little snappier with the shorter running time. But I find the new soundtrack a little too noticeable in places like the heavy handed rock of "Witch Hunt" during the tank battle. The narration is also oddly absent from scenes involving troop movement and conflicts making the actual events of the war hard to follow. After all why only concentrate on the human relationship drama when the events of war are the core of the movie? Aren't the tanks important too? But really, even with the thirty or so missing minutes, and the slightly tweaked plot it's still the same movie so the Australian version is probably the one to see first. That is, if both versions weren't so completely impossible to get hold of!