I was feeling unwell this afternoon so I took to my bed with a not-too-bad book on my Kindle, followed by a movie I watched on my iPad Air 2.
It was clear when I chose it that the movie wasn’t going to be very good, and I totally expected to end up abandoning it after the first 5 or 10 minutes. I surprised myself though by sort-of-enjoying it, while acknowledging its hokeyness.
The hero of Battle Beyond the Stars is the actor who played John-Boy Walton. His planet, mainly bare rock with a tiny oasis of green land, is threatened with destruction so he takes to space to rally an army and fight.
The farmers of the peaceful planet Akir are threatened by the space tyrant Sador (John Saxon) and his army of mutants, the Malmori. Sador’s huge ship carries a weapon called a “Stellar Converter”, which turns planets into small stars. He threatens to use the Converter unless the planet submits to him when he returns in several days.
That launches us into a bit over 90 minutes of space battles, ground battles and introductions to weird alien races.
The film was made in 1980, using special effects created by James Cameron:
Roger Corman hired James Cameron [who] became responsible for the special effects in Battle Beyond the Stars … This was Cameron’s first “big break” in the entertainment industry, and it helped propel his career.
… Cameron paid great attention to detail, and hardly slept for weeks while working on the film; however, his hard work paid off, opening the door for his later success.
The sound of the spaceships firing strongly reminded me of the original Battlestar Galactica, with the ‘pew pew’ sound. Meanwhile the aliens put me in mind of Star Trek, but also sometimes seemed reminiscent of other aliens I can’t quite put my finger on, though I’m thinking one rather lizardy race resembled one from Babylon 5.
There was some gratuitous sexism: the scantily clad Valkyrie with the enormous heaving breasts, for example, but it could have been worse.
There was also some moderately humorous stuff that was obviously intended to be hilarious. My favourite funny part though was when Nell, the damaged ship, was doing the countdown to self-destruction while our heroes escaped:
30 seconds and counting, Zed. 29, 28, 27, 24, 15, 22… did I… did I say 15? Even when the countdown was shifted to start at 10 the numbers still came randomly.
If you’re looking for a mindless movie in the sci-fi genre and you’re willing to suspend your critical thinking, then you could do worse than to watch this one.