|BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS
|Copyright 1980 New World Pictures
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 6 May 2001
- Shad - Richard Thomas! Still typecast as a farmer's boy infected with an adventurous spirit, but now he has an outdated spaceship to play with. Allowed to fight with the galactic scum and fall in love after finishing his chores.
- Nell - This is the artificial intelligence program that controls John Boy's ship. She's a little touchy about her age and don't even mention all the extra hydrogen she is carrying around on her hips. Self-destructs.
- Nanelia - Considering that she grew up on a space station only inhabited by her father and dozens of androids it is unsurprising how quickly she falls for Chad. Very proficient at hanging from the ceiling, which is a little worrisome with her social background.
- Space Cowboy - George Peppard! A gnarly old gun runner who throws his hat in on the good guys' side and dies with his boots on. Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be intergalactic arms merchants...
- Caymen - Reptilian who hunts creatures that actually inhabit the darkness of deep space. Check out the ship he uses, it even looks like a whaling vessel adapted to zero gravity. Blasted to smithereens during a suicide run on the main enemy battlecruiser.
- Nestor - We meet five parts (bodies) of this being. Imagine that everyone in the world was a part of one communal intelligence and organized into nodes of five. A neat idea, but watching one "person" eat a hot dog while everyone else chews is weird. After the battle is over Nestor has five empty slots to fill.
- Saint-Exmin of the Valkyrie - Sybil Danning! Bred in a warrior society, she revels in the excitement of battle, even when her own end comes. Blessed with a strong sexuality, half the time you cannot tell if she is talking about fighting or f... ...um, sex.
- Gelt - Robert Vaughn! The man from "I'll whoop your butt without moving anything except my eyes." Turned into BBQ.
- Sador of the Malmori - John Saxon! Merciless warlord who uses his flagship, a cool Corellian Corvette/Star Destroyer conversion job, to bully people. He wanted to live forever, but didn't.
|While "Star Wars" might have been a subtle adaptation of "Seven Samurai" (read the note below before writing me), this makes no attempt to hide its pedigree. In the original we know why the bandits were demanding a huge portion of the farmer's harvest: food was a precious commodity (it still is of course, but starvation is rare in developed countries). For years you might wonder why Sador, a ruler possessing high technology and a powerful battlecruiser, would even bother with an agricultural planet. I'm right there with you, it does not make a lick of sense. Try reading A Deepness in the Sky by Vinge for a better model of why technological societies might devote resources to warfare. I'd suggest reading A Fire Upon the Deep first though.
Having made his demands known (something to the effect of "your rice is my rice") Sador threatens to use a stellar converter and destroy Akir if the populace does not obey him. For those of you not familiar with a stellar converter, I shall try to explain. It is similar in operation to a little doctor. You don't know what a little doctor is either? Doesn't anybody read anymore? Forget it; suffice to say that if they do not give up a portion of their harvest the planet will be blasted and rip itself apart on a molecular level.
Among the pacifist horde is an old warrior named Zed. He is blind and unable to make war, but his fighting ship still has her weapons and sense of wit intact. Nell was obviously designed by someone with a sense of humor. From the front she appears to be blessed with bountiful bosoms, while a side view takes on the silhouette of a female centaur lying down. (Look, the ship has breasts. Get it?) A young man named Shad sets out aboard Nell with one goal in mind: find mercenaries willing to help him defend Akir.
First stop is a massive space station, the workshop of Dr. Hephaestus. The cyborg is overjoyed to see Shad! There are only two humans on the station, the doctor (poetic license, he has a human brain) and his daughter. Other than that the entire population is made up of artificials. They might be androids, they might be mimes, they sure are not human. Farmer's daughters are renowned for their eagerness to please the male sex. Move over Bobbi Joe! You don't have nuttin on a girl raised on a satellite in deep space. No sireeeee! Obviously Hephaestus would like the young man to stay and entertain his daughter, thus filling the halls with little hoodlums. Shad has different plans though, he wants to save his planet - not scold some brat for "unplugging grandpa again." With Nanelia's help he escapes the Satellite of Love.
By a series of fortunate circumstances and dogged determination the defense fleet is assembled. Creatures join for all sorts of reasons: desiring revenge on Sador, a need to prove themselves in battle, and even Space Cowboy's reluctant sense of honor. Then there is Gelt. He is rich with wealth gained while working as a mercenary across the known galaxy. Plenty of money, but nowhere to spend it since everyone hates him. Sador and Gelt are alike in a couple of ways when you get down to it, but while the petty warlord desires power for the sake of power, the petty mercenary finds refuge in killing because that is all he knows.
With such an eclectic group there is going to be plenty of strange social interaction. I mean, you have Shad trying to interest Nanelia in a little romantic biology for crying out loud. The woman has spent her entire life in space and studied the sexual behavior committed by hundreds of races. Imagine going on a first date with someone who is thirty, has never had sex, but who has watched every weird tentacle hentai, bondage, and transvestite porn movie ever made. Maybe you're that adventurous. Space Cowboy also has a belt that dispenses scotch, water, and ice. I want one...
Inevitably the battle does come and, though hopelessly outmatched by their enemies, the ad hoc force puts up a splendid defense. Watch in amazement as tiny ships charge the main battlecruiser, dodging hammer blows from the Malmori flagship's guns. Reminds me of playing Quake II, fighting a well armed foe with my dinky laser pistol. Sometimes it works, but Jack be nimble, Jack be quick. He had better, else someone will put a railgun projectile up his wazoo. The tactics employed by Space Cowboy and his militia on the ground leave a little more to be desired. Everybody just sort of runs into the open and opens fire. Don't blame Cowboy, he was out of his element without an old Plymouth Fury to convert into a tank.
Both sides pause briefly to lick their wounds, then it's back to the meat grinder. In the end only Nanelia and Shad are alive, though Nell (they're inside Nell of course, after a while the whole premise stopped disturbing me) has been badly damaged by a nuclear missile and is being drawn to Sador's ship by tractor beam. Of course they rig Nell to blow, then both humans scramble to get in the escape pod. The old gal had some problems during her self-destruct countdown. Was that due to the EMP damage or did she have an SX chip to start?
The characters are lots of fun, the story is good (duh - "Seven Samurai" is fantastic), and the special effects are above average. In fact, lots of the model work would later be used in many other movies... ...including this one, over and over. I had fond memories of this film as I popped the new DVD into my player and they did not fail me.
NOTE: I am familiar with "The Hidden Fortress" and know the hype. Now, acknowledge that it is reasonable for someone to have watched the films and found good similarities between the "Star Wars" trilogy and "Seven Samurai." Enough George Lucas fanboys have argued the point with me and they always resort to saying, "But he said the movie was based on 'The Hidden Fortress.'" I have a response: "It's called original thought, you should try it some time."
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- The Mormon Tabernacle Chorus is made up of androids.
- Evolution does not encourage the development of an immune system.
- Weddings should be conducted indoors (or, even better, underground) if your planet is under siege.
- Someday radioactive isotopes will be used as currency.
- Reflective safety vests are effective as antitank weapons.
- Laser weapon wounds should not be treated with an antiseptic vegetable paste.
- Static globes are actually the control units for space battlecruisers.
- 6 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A PEOPLE WITHOUT A CLUE!
- 15 mins - Thank goodness that the docking tunnel was just the right size.
- 20 mins - Well, it sure is good to see mimes earning their pay.
- 25 mins - Ewww! You just got a face full of powdered ambassador!
- 30 mins - So who is broadcasting the destruction of a planet? Fox?
- 56 mins - Are you people using a synthesizer for national defense? What is this? Mutual assured '80s music?
- 71 mins - That guy was unfortunate enough to be born with an artery in his ear.
- 80 mins - Your brain is not wired for three fingers, plus buying gloves is going to suck.
- 57 mins - Nuclear missiles rapping, rapping at my cortex core...
- Sador: "Yago is expert at inflicting pain...while keeping the patient alive."
Nestor: "It is good to have skills."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Sador: "I possess a stellar converter, the most powerful weapon in the universe, you cannot resist me."
||Shad: "You know, I thought I did pretty well back there. I mean, you're still in one piece aren't you?" |
Nell: "Sure you did. If they ever hold a contest for running away you'll be champion of the universe."
||Nanelia: "Only two sexes? On Bilandic it takes three and Kitsel.." |
Shad: "Oh no, just two. Just males and females, that's all."
||Nestor: "There's no dog in this." |
Nestor: "Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soybean meal, niacin, dextrose, and sodium nitrate flavoring."
Cowboy: "Yup, that's what we call 'meat' back home."
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|Caymen meets his cold blooded maker after attacking with a patented pig call (I don't really understand either). Does anyone know the lizard word for "divine wind?"
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