Starchaser: The Legend of Orin
Dir: Steven Hahn
How did the makers of Starchaser: The Legend of Orin not get sued by George Lucas? Maybe it’s because nearly every element of Star Wars and Indiana Jones were borrowed from a multitude of films, book, comics and pulp fiction stories themselves, so the bearded one let it slip, or maybe he liked it, or maybe he just never saw it. To be fair, not many people did it seems, certainly whenever I bring it up in conversation with other cinephiles there is generally only ever one other person who knows what I’m talking about. However, when you meet that one other person, that’s it, the rest of the night is just the two of you, getting over excited and chatting over each other at a million miles per hour, not only because you’re thrilled to meet someone else that has actually seen what is the best, most forgotten animation ever made, but because they also love it. Everyone who sees Starchaser: The Legend of Orin loves it because it’s just too awesome not to. It borrows aspects of films such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Battle Beyond the Stars, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, is clearly influenced by books by Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, and is animated in the popular style of the time. It was also the first animated feature to be shown in 3D. Starchaser was everything you could want from an 80s cartoon. When the robots weren’t scary they were either camp or sexy, just how us kids liked it back then. It featured aliens, cyborgs, robots, a talking spaceship, a ‘chosen one’, an invisible sword, lasers, explosions, lots of escaping from places about to explode as well as the classic get the girl, kill the baddie and save the entire universe plot. Our parents had no idea how adult some of the content was (they still don’t), which also made it a talking point in the school playground. It was Star Wars made in the style of Heavy Metal – an awesome combination with a hint of the cool stuff L. Ron Hubbard wrote without any of his Dianetics nonsense. The main character Orin, a slave minor born into a fabricated underground world where the god Zygon forces people to dig for crystals, looks a cross between Big Trouble in little China’s Jack Burton, Axel Stone from Streets of Rage and any lead guitarist from any 80s rock group. When Orin escapes his underground world he meets a smuggler called Dagg Dibrimi, they save each other’s lives and come stuck with each other for the duration of the film. It is basically Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, although Dagg acts like George Pepard’s Cowboy from Battle Beyond the Stars and looks more like Michael Ironside than Harrison Ford. Dagg’s spaceship is voiced by a robot who moves around the ships console – just like Max in Flight of the Navigator but I should point out that Starchaser came out the year before. The film gets weird very early on but in a really good way. When Orin and Dagg escape from Zygon’s base, they accidently bump into a female admin robot and use her as a shield against the lasers that are shot at them. Once safely on their ship, Dagg reprograms the fembot – who up until that point sounded like Wilma Flintstone – into a sexbot. For some reason the reprogramming has to be done through her backside, which she wiggles around for most of the film. Orin gets Obi-Wan style guidance from a magic firefly when things get tough and Orin soon falls in love with a Princess (who is practically Teela from the animated series of Masters of the Universe) forgetting his girlfriend who literally only got killed hours before in the process. It’s a fast paced story that I’m not sure makes perfect sense but the gang save the day, free the people and Orin, who is discovered to be a Ka-Khan (a Jesus type being), cures the blind and makes them see again. Interestingly a Ka-Khan is a high-honoured priest in the church of scientology, so I wonder whether this was actually an attempt at brainwashing from a young age. None of it is original and yet there is nothing else like it, it’s one of those bizarre little cartoons that made growing up in the 80s so beautiful and helped mould me into the nerd I am today – probably more so than Star Wars did in many respects.