Toho’s Battle in Outer Space followed another of the studio’s alien invasion films, The Mysterians. The re-use of the spaceships (simply re-painted) confused many into believing Battle was a sequel. It’s not, and believing so would only taint the so-so quality of The Mysterians.
Battle opens with the destruction of a Japanese space station, one that not surprisingly looks similar to one in The Mysterians. Despite the rousing opening, atypical of Japanese sci-fi films, Battle’s pacing stops to a crawl after the aliens make a brief assault on a train.
The audience is immediately thrust into an international summit, the world’s leaders meeting to discuss the alien invasion threat. None of the characters are developed, and it is not even clear which ones will be important to this story. The theme of the film, that of the world’s nations coming together to save the planet, is clear and just. Sadly, this is hardly a film that will bring the world together.
It takes over twenty minutes until characters are fully established, and then begins a slow trek to the moon, admittedly a spectacle in 1959 prior to actual space travel. Once there, the lunar surface continues to drag the slow plodding film down, as the multi-national cast pilots two vehicles to their alien base. Why the aliens, who obviously see the humans coming do not attack is a mystery.
By the time the characters reach their destination, audience participation in this story is gone. None of the developments are intriguing or exciting, and the assault on the alien base is a direct repeat of one from The Mysterians, although mercifully shorter.
Eiji Tsubaraya’s special-effects department finally gets to show off when the remaining aliens make their assault on Earth. A rather poor New York skyline is destroyed and forgivable, as the upcoming Japan destruction is spectacular. Unlike other alien invasion films, these aliens (from the planet Natal, oddly now the name of an Xbox 360 camera technology) cut off gravity. Japan is sucked into the air in fantastic style, and the miniature work is superb. Had the film established a line of tension, this would have been the release.
Questions still remain, notably why the aliens wait to assault the Earth after the moon landing team departs. They wait so long, the Earth builds a fleet of spaceships and laser cannons to fight back. Also, why the humans stand by letting cities be destroyed while the invaders let loose is anyone’s guess. They hold off on their mothership-destroying laser until the assault has ended. That’s not smart, and neither is this movie.