Now this is a deep cut. I credit the eccentric programmers at HBO back in the 80s for introducing me to this exciting feature, which borrows liberally from the Star Wars mythos to tell the tale of an escaped slave who finds a magic sword and frees his people. STARCHASER also features a lot of undeniably Christian imagery, as well as some offensively stereotypical middle-eastern villains.
It’s a shame, because most of this movie is a hoot. My pet hypothesis about STARCHASER is that a group of animators with a history of producing Christian fare went off the reservation to make this salty, violent, sexy and decidedly PG-13 space opera. Once again, you can see a melding of fantasy and science-fiction tropes, along with a golden-hearted scoundrel (Dag), as well as some monstrous cybernetic villains who provided partial inspiration for THE ODD’s human-machine hybrids the psychoskags.
I also love the opening act of STARCHASER, in which the hero finds himself part of a slave caste that’s told they must always mine down, because “up is hell!” The leader of the slave colony impersonates a dark, very Mola Ram-esque deity that keeps the slaves in check. Eventually, the hero escapes his enslavement only to find that the world above is far more complicated than his home.
Needless to say, this imagery contributed to my eventual movement away from religion. I actually find it fascinating that this project carries such a strong Christian message with it, given the way it dismantles faith so easily in its opening scenes. (Maybe that was the idea.)
STARCHASER also features some wonderful production design. In conceiving the world of THE ODDS, which includes a subterranean city that combines hundreds of different architectural styles – from medieval ramparts and towers to corrugated steel shanties – all under one vaulted brick ceiling.
In STARCHASER, we’re treated to one of my favorite sci-fi tropes: a planetwide city. People of all different ethnicities (and stereotypes) pack the city, all of them clad in an array of costume choices. Such imagery figured heavily into my invention of the post-deadblast world.
(Side note: You’ve also got to hand it to a movie that includes a sexy female android that’s actually, literally called a fembot. Oy – we’re not talking about cutting-edge sexual politics here.)
There are many other cartoons that figured into my creative makeup, including THE SECRET OF NIMH and any number of Disney features. But STARCHASER combines science-fiction and fantasy in a way that resonates with me, all while telling great stories that extol the virtues of friendship, courage and truth. I must’ve watched it a million times when I was a kid.
Not a bad way to spend a childhood.