For anyone interested in joining the obscure but still existing Leiji Matsumoto fandom without going through the 113 episodes of Galaxy Express 999, this movie is the perfect lifesaver. Not only does it tell the same story with all its basic components but it also adds enough changes to interest already initiated viewers without providing any less of a good informative foundation.
Adapting material from a show that spanned more than 100 episodes into a movie of merely 2 hours sounds rather chaotic in terms of narration but the execution itself is just fine once you look past a few rushed segments. This is probably due to the fact that the main storyline of the original series only required a fifth or so of the total runtime to be told properly.
This time, however, the animation has been improved profoundly both in terms of movements, backgrounds and character designs. I remember Pluto as particularly beautiful with its melancholy graveyard underneath the ice and it's quite refreshing to watch updated versions of Harlock and Emeraldas participate in their space battles. The Leijiverse has always been a universe whose heroes are style over substance, but their style is by no means something to underestimate. When it comes to music the soundtrack puts a skilled orchestra to diligent use whilst unfortunately recycling the habit of re-using most of its beautiful melodies. It's still very enchanting though.
Just like most Matsumoto tales this is more or less a coming-of-age story that raises plenty of questions regarding the nature of humanity itself and whether it means something on its own. These reflections might disarm you temporarily and cause you to forget the childishness of the movie; there are more logical flaws than you could shake a stick at and most revelations don't really make any sense. Some of the plot devices aren't even explained properly and instead forces the viewer to silently accept all the inconsistencies.
Still, the basic storyline is more than acceptable and the absolutely badass Harlock and Emeraldas are perfect heroes in a movie likely to appeal a somewhat younger audience whilst never really excluding adults. If you replace the original series with this movie you'll be missing out on several gems whilst simultaneously being spared from several atrocities and mediocrities. Regardless of what you choose I hope this review managed to be helpful.