Sunday, August 25, 2013

Starchaser: The Legend of Orin

Starchaser: The Legend of Orin; animated science-fiction, USA/ South Korea, 1985; D: Steven Hahn, S: Joe Colligan, Carmen Argenziano, Anthony De Longis

On the planet Trinia, Orin and all the humans around him have known only one kind of life: living in the underground and mining minerals for their ruler Zygon and his robots. Upon finding a magical sword, Orin is stimulated to break the rules and dig up, thereby discovering surface for the first time in his life. He meets cynical smuggler Dagg and is shocked to find out that here the case is vice-versa: the robots actually work for humans. He meets and falls in love with Aviana, discovering that Zygon is actually a robot who forced all the humans to work underground while preparing the robots to fight and take away the power all across the known universe from humans. In a duel, Orin kills Zygon and leads his people to the surface.

Even though many have compared this unusual cult animated science-fiction film with "Star Wars", its adult, raw and savage tone is more congruent to some of Bakshi's lascivious animated films for grown ups whereas its storyline - humans working for robots instead of vice-versa, mirroring the inversion of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat - reminds more of Karel ńĆapek's visionary play "R.U.R." about robots starting a rebellion and taking over their masters, whereas the subplot of humans living underground and not knowing for anything else outside is reminiscent of Plato's allegory of the cave. The sole film is very bipolar for today's standards: the first 25 minutes, crudely and disgustingly showing the harsh living conditions underground, are garbage and exploit some of the worst cliches of cartoons for grown ups, whereas the main hero is bland, but as soon as the cynical smuggler Dagg and female robot Silica show up, "Starchaser's" level is raised by at least 50%, and luckily those two excellent characters stay for a very long time afterwards, up until the end of the movie.

There is one great little sequence where Dagg wants to exchange a crystal for gold in a tent of suspicious merchants; when the merchants don't want to let him go without taking Orin, too, Dagg just ignores them and advises them to let him and Orin go because his spaceship outside is programmed to blow up the whole tent if he doesn't leave it safe and sound. Some ideas are just plain refreshingly humorous (Dagg finding out fembot Silica's main program is found in her metal butt, so he goes on to re-program her from there), though rare, whereas the animation and some solutions for action sequences are great (a spaceship "barging in" in front of another spaceship, in order to get itself caught by the tractor beam instead and free the latter). A strange film that is not for everyone's taste, but has a lot of redeeming virtues in the second half that makes it worthwhile and a storyline set-up to have a point and make a full circle.



Christopher Sobieniak said...

At least you enjoyed this film a bit. It should also be pointed out it was also as mentioned in the poster to be the first 3-D animated film of it's kind. I never saw it on the big screen when it came out, though in Japan a 3-D version was released for a short-lived videodisc format called "VHD" at one point (leading to someone re-formatting it as an anaglyph DVD I bought once from a black market source). The film also employed the use of computer vector-based graphics for the vehicles seen throughout that would be plotted out on paper first and then transferred to cels for the final production. The Disney studio would later use this technique in films like the Big Ben sequence in the Great Mouse Detective.

Marin Mandir said...

Yeah, I heard it was suppose to be in 3-D.