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Starchaser: The Legend of Orin

Entry updated 14 August 2023. Tagged: Film.

US/South Korean animated film (1985). Young Sung Production Co. Ltd.. Directed by Steven Hahn. Written by Jeffrey Scott. Voice cast includes Carmen Argenziano, Tyke Caravelli, Joe Colligan, Anthony De Longis, Noelle North, Les Tremayne and Thomas H. Watkins. 101 minutes. Colour.

The slaves (see Slavery) who dig for crystals in planet Trinia's mines are told by the god Zygon (De Longis) that this is the only world and Hell exists above them: they are urged to "dig harder or die" whilst overseen by cruel electric whip-wielding Robots. Then one day young Orin (Colligan), finds a sword that plays a message from a long-bearded white-robed old man who assures any listener that there is a universe above the mines to which they can escape, for "he who possesses this sword possesses the power of Truth: find the blade and you will find your freedom" ... at which point the blade vanishes (though. whenever convenient, the hilt still produces an invisible blade able to cut through metal). Orin and his girlfriend Elan (North) exhort their fellow slaves to seek this universe, but most believe the teachings of the mine's Religion: in the end only the pair leave. They enter the crystal processing plant, to be confronted by Zygon – revealed not to be a god but a mauve skinned humanoid – who kills Elan, though Orin manages to reach the surface. He escapes from a group of Mandroids – decomposing Cyborgs who see him as a source of spare parts ("I want his hair") – and is found by cigar-smoking smuggler Dagg (Argenziano, doing a Humphrey Bogart impression), who takes him to his Spaceship, where he also meets Arthur (Tremayne), the ship's highly-strung Computer. A glowing light begins to hang around Orin: he calls it Starfly. Foiled in an attempt to steal crystals, Dagg is forced to retreat using "fembot" office worker Silica (Caravelli) as a shield; after learning Silica's personality circuits are in her backside, Dagg re-programmes her to love him. Arriving on the planet Bordogon, Dagg goes to a city of thieves where he dumps Orin and sells Silica to a slaver – but circumstances reunite them and they have to flee.

Afraid Orin will reveal his illegal slave mining operation, Zygon has sent robots in pursuit: they shoot down the ship and Dagg is captured, but Orin is found by Aviana (North), daughter of the Supreme Governor of the Bordogon System, and her fussy robot companion Mizzo (Watkins). She recognizes the hilt from her history lessons – it had been used in the past to crush tyrants, but was lost after the last, Nexus, was defeated. Orin, Aviana and Mizzo now travel to Trinia to confront Zygon, who arrests them: he takes the hilt, explaining he is Nexus, an Android, working to restore his empire by building a robot army. He says this is Evolution: robots replacing humans. Zygon mobilizes his fleet to take over the Bordogon System, planning to use the Governor's daughter as a shield, but the jailed Orin is brought the hilt by Starfly, enabling him to escape with Dagg and steal aboard Zygon's flagship. They take it over and Starfly shows them which buttons to press to destroy the rest of the fleet by detonating their missiles. Returning to Trinia, Orin goes into the mines to free his people but Zygon attacks him: Orin is nearly defeated, but then Starfly – who can now speak – tells him he does not need the hilt ... he is able to produce the blade through force of will, slicing Zygon in half. The mine is now collapsing (on the surface Silica having accidentally caused the stores of crystal to combust) but Orin somehow knows he must fling the hilt at a cave wall and, sure enough, a passageway forms, so he leads his people to the surface (an analogy with Mosses parting the Red Sea might be intended). Also, Orin cures his young brother's blindness just by touching his eyelids.

Six Starfly lights now appear and transform into glowing figures, previous bearers of the sword: Orin is told he can give up his human form and join them, but he says not yet. The figures turn back to lights and ascend to join a constellation of Stars shaped like the hilt (and not dissimilar to a crucifix either). The credits roll.

Starchaser: The Legend of Orin was one of the first full-length animated films to be released in 3D. Its debt to Star Wars (1977) is substantial, with some Sword and Sorcery (see Clichés) added for good measure; in terms of art style, the Comic strip magazine Heavy Metal seems to have been an influence. There is some good artwork and the Mandroids section, though largely irrelevant to the plot, is ghoulish fun; otherwise, for much of the time, the absurdity and laziness of the Pulpish storytelling is marked but can be enjoyed. Unfortunately, it is marred by sexism and racism (see Race in SF; Women in SF). Silica is clearly modelled on the sexy robot artwork of Hajime Sorayama which was popular in the 1980s, and she provides several opportunities for Fan Service: the results are silly rather than erotic. However, her non-consensual reprogramming is unpleasant; robots – though fully sentient (see AI) – are slaves, a situation that is unquestioned: Aviana even goes to a slave market to buy a new maid and tries to buy the protesting Silica. We also get racial stereotyping, most prominently of duplicitous Arabic traders and their black guards – additionally, there is a marked tendency for people identified as good to be white, with the bad or morally ambiguous darker-skinned. [SP]


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