We have a movie review a little outside of our usual cycle by one of our users, Ian Finley. We’re running this outside of the usual weekend cycle because of all the blockbusters coming up, and because this is a film that got a semi-recent DVD release.

Cast and Crew Information

Written by John Sayles, Anne Dyer and John Sayles

Directed by Jimmy T. Murakami and Roger Corman

Richard Thomas as Shad
Robert Vaughn as Gelt
John Saxon as Sador
George Peppard as Cowboy
Darlanne Fluegel as Nanelia
Sybil Danning as Saint-Exmin
Lynn Carlin as the voice of Nell

Full cast list here.

Availability Information

DVD
Blu-Ray

Premise

In yet another Kurosawa-inspired movie, the overly peaceful planet Akir is is threatened by Evil Space Lord Sador. They have one week to submit to his rule, or be destroyed. Shad, an inexperienced youth, must gather mercenaries from Beyond the Stars (get it?) to help protect Akir.

Low Point

Lets face it, this isn’t a spectacular movie. Detailing all the low points would take WAY too long. In short, though, the acting is not great, the story is rehashed, the SFX are pretty bad… you get the idea.

High Point

1. Has some truly humorous moments. The stand-out for me is when Cowboy has alien hive-mind Nestor try a hot dog for the first time.

Cowboy: You like it?
Nestor: There’s no dog in this.
Cowboy: Mmm mmm.
Nestor: Hydrolized vegetable protein, soybean meal, niacin, dextrose and soduim nitrate flavouring.
Cowboy: Yup. That’s what we call “meat” back home.

2. Some of the aliens are actually interesting and diverse – not all of them act like funny-shaped humans. The visual effects don’t bear this out but still.
3. Lynn Carlin does a fantastic job as the voice of Nell, Shad’s snarky space ship.
4. In fact, the supporting cast do a good job.
5. The fact that this is James Cameron’s first Big Job is somewhat of a milestone.

The Review

Originality 3/6. Rehash of The Magnificent Seven, which in itself is a rehash of Seven Samurai, plus the fact that this movie was clearly trying to cash in on Star Wars. It does have a couple of ideas I found somewhat interesting. For example, Earth clearly exists, but is not really a focal point. One of the characters (Cowboy) happens to be from there. The diversity of the mercenaries is also somewhat better than expected.

Effects 2/6. This movie was apparently James Cameron’s big break. And that’s the best thing I can say about the effects. This movie came out in 1980, but the special effects are pretty bad even for that. And not just the visual effects, sound effects, too. Like when they show a satellite, it has to be making those ’70s bleep-bleep-bleep sounds.

Story 3/6. Yeah, it’s a rehash, but it’s told in a fairly engaging way $B!D (B when the pacing isn’t downright crawling. Also has some remarkable -Y´What The Hell¡ moments. For example, Shad is actively out looking for help %G– %@ not an easy task. When approached by a space amazon who offers to join him and fight for his cause, he casually dismisses her. Then he meanly dismisses her. Then she shows up anyway and nobody bats an eyelid.

Acting 3/6. The main cast (namely Shad) aren’t fantastic, but the supporting cast do a good job. You’ve got George Peppard, Robert Vaugn and John Saxon occupying major roles, as well as an B-Movie Queen (obligatory scantily clad) Sybil Danning. As mentioned above, Lynn Carlin’s voice-only performance really stands out.

Production 2/6. Again, this seems more like a early-mid ’70s movie than something from the ’80s. I remember watching this movie when it came out and thinking it was kinda bad even back then (and I was a kid!). One of the reasons I rewatched it was to see if it really was that bad.

Emotional Response 3/6. Some of the supporting characters are truly likeable and interesting, and some of the tragic occurrences are a little sad. But since there is not a single unpredictable moment in this movie, it’s hard not to see the whole thing coming.

Overall 4/6. This movie is firmly stuck right between “So bad it’s good” and “just bad”. I’m giving it a push towards the former because it does have some good moments, if you can overlook the pacing and SFX.

In total, Battle Beyond the Stars receives 20 out of 42. But watch it anyway.