I liked the TV show. I really did. I was sixteen, and somehow G.I. Joe and the Thundercats weren't cutting it for me in the entertainment department. For what it was, Robotech was way ahead of its peers.
Robotech: The Movie might've been okay in concept, but the actual execution was awful. "A" Robotech movie, maybe, but not THIS Robotech movie. With the original show, the three series that comprised it were seen in succession. Here, we have two unrelated anime intercut, and it shows. One of the components, Megazone 23, was shot on 35 millimeter; the other, the Southern Cross series, was on 16 millimeter. The design sense was radically different between the two anime, as well, and of course characters from the two shows never interacted, even though Harmony Gold had about ten minutes of new animation made for the ending-since Megazone had originally ended on a cliffhanger, and its sequel had completely different character designs, they needed to wrap things up somehow, after all. You'd think-or wish-that they'd had the sense to make some new footage bridging this character gap. (Note: the english dub of Megazone part 2 that was dubbed by Harmony Gold for the Japanese market and has been floating around for ages contains this extra footage at the beginning, even though it cannot possibly fit into the continuity of the original story. Not only that, but the footage as it's seen to be edited in the Megazone part 2 prologue is edited differently in Robotech: The Movie itself, and by "differently" I mean "much worse.")
It could be expected that the resultant film would bear little or no similarity to the original Megazone 23, but it also utterly fails to fit into the continuity of Robotech. Supposedly taking place between the Macross and Southern Cross series, we have the Robotech Masters showing up five years before they "finally reach earth" AGAIN at the start of Southern Cross. (I say "supposedly" because the Robotech Masters start off by mentioning how "the masters that came before us failed to recover the blah blah blah," as if to imply that it actually came after the Southern Cross series, just to help smooth out our sense of comprehension.) The fact that one of their ships is brought down on earth and the Masters themselves speak to the head of the earth military makes one wonder how our heroes manage to completely forget that they've met, fought, and defeated these same enemies when they show up in the TV series. We also see Southern Cross fighters that aren't invented until halfway through that series showing up in this alleged prequel, and the same stock footage used for the "cloning of Zor" bits dropped into the later Macross episodes gets used again for the "cloning of B.D." part of this film.
Yes, that's right, the fascist militant antagonist B.D. from Megazone is now a good guy who is captured, cloned, and sent back as a saboteur, using the Zor Prime/Marlene plotline from the TV show YET AGAIN. What's hilarious, however, is that we never see any of this take place onscreen. The "good" B.D.'s voice is heard coming out of a mech early in the film, though we never see his face, nor do we ever see this alleged abduction take place. We then hear one of the other pilots yelling, "Look over there! They're kidnapping the commander!" without any of this occurring on-screen, since there was no actual animation depicting this wholly made-up plot point. To make matters hilariously worse, the dubbers apparently were incapable of recognizing B.D. when he had his sunglasses on and therefore had him played by a different actor in a few scenes, inadvertantly validating the heretofore ridiculous notion that Superman could actually fool anyone with such a seemingly feeble disguise. And while all the events onboard the space-traveling city in Megazone are now transposed to earth, they managed to leave in the part wherein the hero punctures the hull of the ship and drifts out into space without explaining what the hell just happened. If you hadn't guessed by now, the answer is "yes, the plot is a train wreck throughout." Characters are "introduced" in fleeting scenes usually culled from somewhere in the middle of the original film, the Tomomi character is seen viewing footage of the stolen transformable bike mech in the act of transforming several scenes before our hero discovers that it can, in fact, transform, and the villain is finally defeated in combat when the hero yells at him loudly. Not since the Ralph Bakshi episodes of the animated Spiderman have I seen anything that so actively fought our natural inclination to put successively presented scenes into a continuous story.
This film is best viewed the way one would view Plan 9 From Outer Space; no other way is likely to be enjoyable, even for (or perhaps especially for) Robotech fans. I'll point out in closing that while Robotech's creator Carl Macek has in interviews denounced the preposterous way in which the voice actors in the film constantly go "huh?" "wha?" and "eh?" throughout the whole film, the anime he's dubbing in present times (up through 2003) still contains this noxious approach to voice-over. Some folks never learn.
-review by Matt Murray