Monday, June 7, 2010


I’ll have to come clean here and admit this publicly, I have a soft spot for this movie. It may be a soft spot in my head, but for aside from the execrable first 10 minutes and the execrable last 10 minutes, it’s a pretty damned entertaining not-too-kiddy animated sci-fi flick. Granted it’s no HEAVY METAL (1981) or ROCK & RULE (1983), not by a long shot, but it’s a damn sight better than the dunderheaded HEAVY METAL 2000 (2000), a film that tried so hard to appeal to its perceived target demographic that it managed to insult the intelligence of horny 13 year-old boys everywhere.

The basic premise which serves as little more than a bookend for all of the action in the middle is that there is a world where all of the galaxy’s crystals are mined by slaves. Why these crystals are so valuable and important is never explained, but they are red and shiny and blow-up when hit by laser-fire. The slaves are kept in line by robots wielding laser whips and the crystals are “fed” to an angry fire “god” and much cruelty and pathos ensue. Our hero Orin (Joe Colligan) while mining for crystals finds a sword who’s blade disappears and apparently this is part of some prophecy that we find out about as the sword projects a hologram of an old man in a white robe who speaks of a quest and a world above! Prophecy, schmophecy! Let’s get to the action! All of this leads to Orin escaping from the mines, running afoul of the evil Zygon (Anthony De Longis), the planet’s lavender-skinned dictator, and hooking up with a sardonic smuggler named Dagg (Carmen Argenziano).

The “world above” is a cool, pre-1950s style alien swampland with very ‘80s style dangers. Here Han So – I mean, Dagg, helps Orin fight off a pack of “Mandroids”, cyborg zombies that steal body parts from humans to outfit on their mechanical frames. Dagg grudgingly accepts Orin’s company and takes him on a ride to a few other galactic hotspots, raiding Zygon’s ship for crystals and landing on another planet to sell them and the Government fembot he liberated while escaping.

It’s well known that animators spend an awful lot of time by themselves and nothing shows it more than the sexy fembot. When Dagg uses her as a shield to escape, he didn’t realize how annoying her persistent bitching would be when aboard his ship. Dagg clearly is familiar with this situation. Putting her over his knee, he fumbles around trying to find the “personality” controls. The ships computer informs Dagg that it’s located in her... “posterior region” (yes, he means fembot's curvaceous ass). Dagg grins, slaps a gag over her mouth and opens up her ass. After playing around in there a bit, suddenly fembot is purring like a sexy kitten… Can you see the pasty, lonely animators dreaming “if only real women worked like that”? When the ship touches down on a planet fashioned after an Arabian market (what could possibly be more alien than that?), Dagg ties fembot up and has her auctioned off as a slave. Of course she doesn’t actually get sold due to Orin’s interference, and fembot nuzzles up to Dagg in appreciation. What is Irving Klaw shooting second unit here?

During all this Orin becomes attached to Princess Le – err, I mean, Kallie (the galactic governor's daughter) who wants to tie Orin down and keep him from kicking some slaver ass. Finally she gives in and the whole team sets out to bring down Zygon's evil corporate empire, complete with epic space battles, tractor-beams and hand-capitation courtesy of an invisible "light" sword (hmmmmmm...). If it seems a little heavy on the STAR WARS pilferage, you are correct sir, though Orin's relationship with Kallie is surprisingly reminiscent of scenes with the young Anakin and Amidala from the new STAR WARS films. In all honesty, the characters, the action scenes, the climax, hell even the hallways of the Zygon's main complex are pretty blatantly lifted from the original STAR WARS films. On the other hand, there's a completely different style for many other elements that have a "Golden Age of Science Fiction" quality to them with Arabian bars, bizarre plantlife and non-bipedal monsters. 
STARCHASER pretty much died in the theater and that may have had something to do with the awful beginning and ending, or the completely misleading and absurd "A" sheet poster that made it look like some cloyingly cuddly MY LITTLE PONY IN SPACE type of kiddie flick. Or maybe it was just because the producers thought that it was a brilliant idea to make a 2-D animated film in 3-D. Basically you had flat 2-D images appearing to be overlapping at various depths so that the effect was like a pop-up book. Genius! As if that wasn't mediocre enough, the effects were computer generated and occasionally goofed, putting things that were supposed to be in the foreground in the back. Probably the most damning thing of all was that problems had plagued the production causing its release date to be pushed back, so that it ended up coming out about a two years after the public had become disillusioned and jaded by cheap 3-D flicks that were rushed into theaters. Almost immediately it seemed to find an audience on home video. Its quirky blend of modern and old school sci-fi, surprisingly good art direction, plenty of action and some now rather obvious and amusing political incorrectness, make it worth the watch if nothing else. As long as you can make it through the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes, you'll be golden.

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