It's difficult to talk about Starchaser: The Legend of Orin without acknowledging the fact that it's a massive rip-off of George Lucas's Star Wars movies (particularly Episode IV). Don't get me wrong, there's some original elements and ideas to it but they are buried under a mountain of very familiar characters, story and action beats. I guess the director and writer were hoping no one would notice? Or maybe they were pressured by the studio into making it like Star Wars in order to guarantee success? Needless to say it didn't work out and the film flopped. While ripping off someone else's work is hard to defend you've got to admire their skill a little. I mean, just look at George Lucas's own attempt to replicate the Star Wars phenomenon with the distinctly lacklustre prequel trilogy. It's a lot harder than it looks.
is set in on the planet Trinia in a galaxy far, far away. Our hero Orin
(Luke) lives in an underground mining community digging up precious
crystals for the evil overlord
(Darth Vader) and his robot soldiers. One day Orin
finds the hilt to a sword (lightsaber) and decides to dig his way to
the surface. He runs into zombie cyborgs and is rescued by Dag (Han) a
rakish smuggler and his female robot companion Silica (C3PO). They all
travel in Dag's ship The Starchaser (Millenium Falcon) to a rough town
full of criminals (Mos Eisley) where Orin is again rescued by the
Governer's Daughter Aviana (Leia). Aviana explains that Orin's sword
hilt is a relic from an ancient order of guardians called Ka-Khan (Jedi
Knights). Orin and his friends team up to break into Zygon's base (Death
Star) and save his people.
I'll say this. Starchaser
isn't a terrible film. It's got a reasonably brisk pace and it's full
of action sequences. Okay, it is a big rip-off but there's quite a lot
of fun playing 'spot the similarities'. You could easily make a drinking
game out of it. Like all the other 80s animated films I've covered,
this too is surprisingly
creepy at times. There's cyborg zombies who want to harvest Orin for
his limbs, Orin's grandfather gets whipped around the eyes
by a laser whip, Dag spanks his female robot and reprogrammes her to be
more subservient and Zygon even strangles Orin's girlfriend to death
during their escape early on. The film never really establishes a stable
tone at any point. It goes back and forth between childish
sentimentality and disturbing adult elements which makes the film very
uncertain as to who it is aimed at.
And this is only compounded by the fact the animation style is very similar to
a Saturday morning cartoon (which surely confused the
audience even more at the time). The
film was originally released in 3D but sadly you can only get it on a
plain old 2D DVD. They use a lot of (obviously) early computer animation
to draw the spaceships which sticks out a mile but I guess these were
the major bits that were going to be converted into 3D. The rest of the
animation is a pretty flat and uninspiring but there
are a few impressive sequences, particularly the enormous firey
portal where the miners dump their harvested crystals. As well as having a shaky tone the film also has a pretty weak story. The characters just seem to jump from place to place with little sense of a storyline unfolding.
dialogue is also clunky in the extreme. I mean what kind of speech is
this? "Thousands of years ago on some obscure planet a primitive chess
computer was the first inorganic mind to beat men. In a few hours I will
be calling checkmate in the last such game the humans and their kind
will ever play." Interestingly the film was written by Jeffrey Scott who
wrote a lot of episodes of the animated 'Dungeons and Dragons' TV show.
I used to love that show as a kid and this film definitely has a little
of that same vibe. Despite it being set over several planets and having loads of characters, it still feels very TV-ish rather than Cinematic. It's derivative and forgettable rather than original and memorable.
All in all, Starchaser
is an okay movie. Again, I think it would mostly appeal to someone who
grew up in the 80s and wants a trip down memory lane. Surprisingly, it's
been recently announced that a studio is looking to remake this film in
That should be very interesting, particularly given the fact that
Disney has recently bought Lucasfilm and is aiming to get a new trilogy
in the cinema soon without Lucas at the helm. Perhaps the new Star Wars and Starchaser will go head to head! Now that would be awesome to see.