“Howdy, Gelt. I’m from Earth. Know where that is?”
Justin’s Rating: Fraudulent title warning: this film doesn’t go anywhere beyond the stars. Stars were very much present throughout the flick.
Justin’s Review: Here is a helpful movie-making tip that I learned from this viewing experience: If you know that your film is going to be terrible, then at all costs attach it to a much more successful film to use as a bulletproof shield. If at all possible, grab onto two such films.
It absolutely astounded me, after watching Battle Beyond The Stars, to read how many critics actually praise this craptacular Roger Corman production without calling out the fact that it rips off both Star Wars and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Perhaps the critics thought that bashing this movie would in some way damage Kurosawa’s reputation, so I speculate that they elected to utter uneasy praise instead. There’s also much mention of John Horner’s score (which is pretty much the exact same as Star Trek II’s) and young master John Cameron’s model work on some of the ships, which further deflects the attacks of sensible film critique. But all that waffling from critics who refused to call a spade a spade left a bad taste in my mouth.
It may be campy and goofy, but Battle Beyond the Stars is not even in the same solar system as a good movie. Unless, somehow, your parents completely shielded you from Star Wars growing up, and this was the only space opera substitute in your morning coffee.
Our quaint tale begins on Akir, which I have decided to rename as Planet of the Wussies. It’s one of those standard scifi planetary utopias where everyone wears light pastels, goes around with drugged expressions of happiness, and there’s really no conflict or violent video games. Boring, yes, I know. It really shouldn’t have been any surprise to them when John Saxton’s Sador — which most certainly does not rhyme with Vader, except it does — takes his big-butt spaceship down there and declares the planet conquered and the people his personal slaves. Just to punctuate his complete domination, he uses his spaceship cannons to pick off four or five random bystanders (!) and vows to return soon to collect their crops.
These spineless Wussies are at a loss. The only guy on the planet with any backbone is also somewhat old and blind, so they’re not really working from a great stockpile of resources. Ultimately, a young, blonde, upstanding Lacrosse jock named Shad decides he’s going to take the planet’s only spare spaceship and go find some six-year-old who knows how to stand up to bullies. I kind of just assumed Shad was heading off to a community college to major in Wussie-weaving, but he actually makes something good out of his life.
So the first half of the film is Shad bouncing around in this vast cosmos of ours, recruiting a whole heap of mercenaries. He finds a woman raised on a space station populated only by androids (ACK! Awkward sex talk!), a lizard-dude who has a personal beef against Sador, some warrior lady who must’ve been cast on her bosom size alone, a space cowboy (named, appropriately enough, Cowboy), a stony-faced assassin (Robert Vaughn!), and so on. Despite Shad not really offering much in terms of payment to the mercs, each one decides lickety-split to go ahead and fight for the Wussies and their right to hide behind other people’s skirts and bell bottoms.
The second half of Battle Beyond the Stars is the titular fight, but this ends up being merely a series of clashes between bad special effects and bad acting. Make no mistake: no matter how many shields you want to throw up before this film, there’s really nothing that can hide the fact that the actors in it stumble over incredibly laughable dialogue and have to interact with special effects that are mostly poorly drawn animation. The additional fact that nothing in this movie is remotely original only distracts further from any possible enjoyment.
If you can get a pack of friends to watch this with you and tear it to shreds, then there’s lots of fun to be found; if you happen to watch this alone, as I did, it could very well break your soul.