Introduction to Battle Beyond the Stars
As I have said before, a group of nerds got together to watch a random sci-fi movie. This time, beyond all of our wildest imaginations, we got the ultimate example of why we even do this. While we expected another Starcrash or Space Mutiny fiasco, we got a real gem of a sci-fi movie. Filled with heart, humor, and great practical effects, this is The Magnificent Seven Samurai but in space. There’s not much more to build up to, so let’s just get on with the review. Welcome to 1980’s Battle Beyond the Stars.
The Story – Spoilers Abound
On the remote desert planet Akir there lives a society of former warriors named the Akira. Now pacifists, these farmers live in harmony with their planet and each other. Materially poor, according to one young Akira named Shad, the Akira’s “wealth is in [their] culture”. They live in a paradise of their own making after rejecting violence and war.
Suddenly, on one particular peaceful day, a massive starship appears in the sky, heralding the coming of Sador. Equipped with the most destructive weapon in the universe, Sador threatens to destroy Akir unless its people surrender within 7 days. To show his threat is real, he tells his snipers to open fire on the populace, killing many.
The people of Akir have a choice to make: surrender and become only the latest in Sador’s collection of conquered worlds, or learn to fight for their freedom. Shad agrees to leave Akir and recruit a group of mercenaries to help: Nanelia, the mechanic; Space Cowboy, the intergalactic trucker with a cargo full of weapons; Nestor, the multi-being that shares a consciousness and a desire to avoid boredom; Gelt, the assassin whose vast wealth is useless to him because no planet is safe for him to spend it; and finally Saint-Exmin, the Valkyrie who desires nothing but a glorious end. Additionally, on her way back to Akir, Nanelia manages to recruit Cayman, the Kelvins and Quepeg, hunters with a desire for vengeance against Sador.
When the group arrives at Akir, they begin shoring up ground defenses and training in the use of Cowboy’s weapons. Finally, they are ready for whatever Sador has in store for them. A fierce battle ensues, resulting in the deaths of many Akira, as well as (well, maybe?) all of the mercenaries except for Nanelia. She and Shad pilot his Corsair ship into the planet-killing superweapon, freeing the universe from Sador’s evil rule.
What Battle Beyond the Stars Did Right
There is so very much that this movie did right. I left some minor plot things out of the summary above because they’re just too good to spoil, but plot is definitely one of them. However, because this is, as I said, The Magnificent Seven Samurai IN SPAAAAAACE, I’m not counting that here. I’ll put the big 3 below, like usual.
Characters. Jeez. The mercenaries’ deaths are variously glorious and tragic, made all the more effective because you actually care about these characters. They’re all different, they all fly different kinds of ships that are pleasantly unique in their design, and most importantly, they all have a different reason for joining the fight. I literally let out a “nooooooooooo” for a few of them, and I never do that unironically.
The practical effects and costume design are great. Like I said above, ship interior designs are all unique which is cool, but more than that, the exterior models look great. None of that Space Mutiny garbage where the perspective’s all over the place and it just looks silly. The camera gets all up in these ships to give you a real sense of scale. None of the costumes are as iconic as, say, Star Wars’ rebel pilot uniforms, but this is not a movie where you’re going to find shiny cellophane garbage.
James Horner wrote the score. ‘Nuff said.
What Battle Beyond the Stars Did Wrong
The editing needed some work. While the pacing overall was quite good, the movie ends rather abruptly, and there are some times where I’m not sure that a scene needed to happen for 4 seconds just for it to cut away again.
This was a relatively low-budget sci-fi movie from 1980, so to be honest some of the special effects really need work. Nothing a little bit of love from someone like Adywan couldn’t fix in a fan edit.
James Horner score, but there was maybe a toddler working on the sound effects. Those lasers were rough.
This ranks right up there with some of the more surprising of the 80+ movies we’ve watched as part of this little experiment. Right up there with Solo and Starman, Battle Beyond the Stars is a heck of a fun time that we just didn’t see coming. This was the best thing we’ve watched in almost 6 months. If you’re a fan of space-y sci-fi movies, go watch this.