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Western Animation / Starchaser: The Legend of Orin

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Starchaser: The Legend of Orin is a 1985 animated Space Opera film. The story follows Orin, an escaped slave who must free his people from the Dark Lord after being able to wield a sword that Only the Chosen May Wield. Helping him along the way are a cigar-chewing smuggler, his neurotic Robot Buddy, a sassy fembot, a governer's daughter and something of a Fairy Companion.

Just from that synopsis one would think that this has something to do with a certain famous and successful space saga. Indeed, this film is very similar in terms of story and design, but has since become a Cult Classic.

Tropes that appear in this film:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The blade that belongs on the Hilt, which cuts through everything in those moments when it actually appears. And when Orin finally understands what it means that there never was a blade.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The man-droids are a bunch of bickering, barely organized scavengers. This works against them.
  • Arm Cannon: Zygon's least humanoid robots have laser guns in place of hands.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Subverted. When the other Kha-Khans show up and invite Orin to leave his mortal form and join them, he basically says I Choose to Stay.
  • Bald of Evil: Zygon's more humanlike Mooks are all entirely bald.
  • Bigger on the Inside: From the outside, the Starchaser's entrance ramp seams to lead into its cockpit but on the inside they're two different rooms.
  • Black Humour: There's a lot of this in the film. Really, what can you say when one of the funniest scenes is an analogy to rape?
  • Body Horror: The man-droids are cyborgs composed of robot and human body parts. Rotten human body parts, which must be constantly replaced.
  • Book Ends:
    • The film begins with the Furnace of Life (actually the entrance to Zygon's fortress) opening and shows it again in the climax of the film.
    • On a similar note, Zygon wears his helmet in both the beginning and climax of the film, until it gets destroyed by Orin.
  • Captain Ersatz: This may take a while:
    • Orin is Luke Skywalker.
    • Dagg is Han Solo.
    • Aviana is Leia.
    • Zygon is a mixture of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.
    • Zygon's troops are Stormtroopers. They can't aim.
    • Arthur is C3PO.
    • Expands to inanimate objects and vehicles as well, as the Hilt is a lightsaber, the Starchaser is the Millenium Falcon, and the bi-pedal tank during the crystal raid is an AT-ST.
  • Cigar Chomper: Dagg.
  • Cool Sword: Orin's sword. The blade is normally invisible, and can be willed into existence by Orin when he needs it to defeat evil (it notably fails to appear when he tries to stab Dagg during their initial meeting).
  • Covers Always Lie: One poster for the movie features Orin, Aviana and Kallie riding on flying horses. No such thing ever happens in the movie nor do horses ever appearnote  so why they’re even on the poster is a complete mystery.
    • The poster also boasts that the movie is “A magical movie experience in the tradition of Snow White and Dark Crystal” when the movie couldn’t be any more different from those movies. They could’ve said that it was in the tradition of Star Wa- oh wait...
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Kha-Khan, of whom Orin is the latest incarnation. In this case, though, he's as much Moses (leading his people out of bondage) as Jesus. Orin is formally invited to join his forbearers in the end, but he declines, at least for right now.
  • Cyborg: The Man-Droids, and in the most grotesque ways. It's not even clear whether they started their existence as organic beings or robots.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dagg, at all times.
    Orin: (spotting Aviana being taken aboard one of Zygon's ships) "There she is!"
    Dagg: "Well, that's great. How the hell are we going to get to her without getting our heads shot off?"
    Orin: (determined) "We'll just have to do our best!"
    Dagg: (unimpressed) "Gee, why didn't I think of that?"
  • Death by Pragmatism: Toward the end, one of Zygon's officers realizes that things are going badly and tries to run away. This puts him right into the path of a crashing spaceship.
  • Death Seeker: Hopps, Elan's grandfather. In the movie's opening, Elan tries to persuade him to dig more slowly, as he's too old to keep up such a pace. Hopps tiredly retorts that he's been digging for 70 years, and slowing down now will only prolong his suffering.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Silica uses her "charms" to help the heroes get the drop on Zygon's mooks at one point.
  • Eternal Hero: Orin is the latest incarnation of the Kha-Khan, a messianic figure with mystical powers who has appeared throughout galactic history to save humanity from evil.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: This film is very dark and violent, especially by 80’s cartoon standards. An old man is killed by burn damage from a laser whip, a slave is crushed by a cave in, and a young woman is strangled partly on screen, the man-droids (who are already frightening before things get violent) end up being killed pretty graphically, desert men being nuked, and so on.
  • God Guise: Zygon masquerades as a fearsome deity to further cow his slaves into obedience.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The fate of a lot of the villains, particularly Zygon, who is cut in half and falls into lava.
  • Hand Stomp: Zygon does this to Orin when he's hanging over the lava at the end.
  • Healing Hands: At the end, Orin, who has proven himself to be the Kha-Khan, cures Kallie's blindness with a touch.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Elan's elderly father attacks the Mine-Masters to keep them from learning about the hilt.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The desert dwellers that bought crystals from Dagg hid a Time Bomb in the chest containing his payment. When the heroes discover this, they fly back to the desert camp and return the chest to its previous owners, who barely have time to share a look of dismay before they get obliterated by their own bomb.
  • I Am the Noun: When Zygon's true nature is revealed, he proudly boasts that he isn't just a robot: he is the robot.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Zygon's guards can't hit anything.
  • Indy Ploy: Lampshaded when Aviana and Mizzo are visiting Zygon, and she gains access to his pyramid only by having Mizzo blast an Obstructive Bureaucrat robot.
    Mizzo: "I hope you know what you're doing."
    Aviana: "So do I."
  • Innocently Insensitive: Early on, Orin asks Dagg why he risks his life stealing crystals, and the latter replies "Because, my little Water Snake, the tax collectors of this galaxy turn an honest worker into a slave". Orin doesn't call him on it, but that's a rather insensitive metaphor to use when you're talking to a guy who was literally a slave for almost his whole life.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Zygon makes an allusion to a planet which is probably Earth, but doesn't mention it by name.
    Zygon: "Thousands of years ago, on some obscure planet, a primitive chess computer was the first inorganic mind to beat man."
  • Jerkass:
    • Dagg, and how! He softens a bit during the movie though.
    • Raymo, Orin's fellow slave who willingly collaborates with the minemasters. He's no less eager to make Orin and Elan suffer than the slaving robots are.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down:
    • Dagg does this to Orin when they meet. In fairness to Dagg, Orin had just tripped, and Dagg had every reason to want to keep him pinned until he could figure out what this wild-eyed lone human is doing in a Mandroid-infested swamp.
    • A minemaster does this to Kallie, Orin's little brother, after the cave-in near the beginning. Orin attacks the robot and almost gets killed in retaliation before everyone is interrupted by the summoning to Zygon's mass.
  • Laser Blade: The usually-invisible blade to Orin's Hilt. Eventually it turns out the hilt was just a placebo and the power to create the blade...It Was with You All Along.
  • The Legend of X
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Rilean Pictures announced a live-action remake in 2012, to be produced by Jonathan Saba and Juan Iglesias.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: It's a fairly standard example, copying Star Wars with humans and only one veiled reference to Earth.
  • Lovable Rogue: Dagg is what you'd get if Burt Reynolds had been cast as Han Solo (and permitted to be a little more edgy).
  • Magic Feather: The Hilt, it turns out. The magical blade was a power Orin had by himself the whole time, and he unleashes it with no placebo to finally defeat Zygon.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Zygon's entire robot army.
  • Messianic Archetype: Downplayed, but present. Orin saves his people and even cures the blind.
  • A Molten Date with Death: Happens to both halves of Zygon at the end, as well as several Minemasters.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The Hilt. For most of the movie, it's merely an Expy Laser Blade. Then at the end, Orin frees his people from the Mine-World by hurling the Hilt at the ceiling, which somehow causes a colossal fissure to open.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • The leader of the man-droids has a skull like face with large red eyes
    • The last man-droid Dagg kills has a skeletal face with sunken-in, barely visible eyes.
  • Oral Fixation: Does Dagg ever finish his cigar?
  • Plot Hole: The crystals are very volatile and ignite by laser fire, and yet the slaves mine them with what seem to be laser jackhammers. Unless that's the point...
    • Orin reacts at one point like if he knows what vacuum is. How would he know if he's been a slave in a subterranean world all his life?
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Zygon and his minions' outfits and insignias are mainly those colors.
  • Refusal of the Call: Played with. Orin escapes the Mine-World with all the determination befitting a rebellious slave in a sci-fi flick. Shortly afterwards, though, when he is captured by the man-droids, Orin can briefly be heard apologizing for escaping and promising to go back to the mines if they will spare his life. By then, of course, it is far too late.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Elan is somewhat-shockingly killed near the start of the movie. She's soon replaced by Aviana who has a similar look and the same voice actress.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized:
    • The slaves push all of the minemasters into the lava when rebelling at the end. Not that anyone can blame them, after literal millennia of brutal enslavement.
    • On the villains' side of things, Zygon is attempting to start his own revolution of sorts, is perfectly prepared to kill, maim, or torture to get his way, and has kept the entire population of a planet enslaved for thousands of years because of his dislike for humans.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: This movie is a huge example of this trope, as its various robot characters express just about every emotion that could possibly come up in an animated action b-movie (sarcasm, hysteria, cheering, evil laughter, frustration, indignation about being reprogrammed through circuits located in their metal asses, getting seduced by feminine robots, and so on).
  • Robotic Reveal: When Orin slashes Zygon's cheek with the sword. Orin is shocked at this, but it really shouldn't have been a surprise, as he already knew that Zygon leads a private robot empire and is strong enough to do a one-handed Neck Lift.
  • Robot War: Zygon's ultimate goal is the subjugation of all organic life, but unlike most examples of this trope, he hopes to defeat humanity in one quick, unexpected strike.
  • Sapient Ship: Arthur, the AI that controls the Starchaser, is clearly sapient and often bickers with Dagg.
  • Scenery Porn: After escaping Mine-World, Orin gets to see some very beautiful environments... until he meets the man-droids.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Zygon's Mook Lieutenant, Major Tagani tries to do this at the end, but takes a spaceship to the face the second he makes it through the door.
  • Serial Prostheses: The Man-Droids' hat.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Aviana.
  • Stripperific: Zygon's outfit, which one review joked looked like something an evil overlord might wear if he moonlighted as a Chippendales dancer.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: At one point, after his minions have once again failed to catch Orin, Zygon lambasts their intelligence, rhetorically asking if he needs to personally reprogram every robot.
  • Swamps Are Evil: The man-droids live there, so this trope is in full action.
  • Take That!: A rather unsubtle one used not in the movie but on some of the promotional posters as a tagline: “The Search for the Force is Over. The Adventure is About to Begin.”
  • A Taste of the Lash: The minemasters really love using their laser whips against underperforming slaves.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Zygon gets bisected and falls in lava. The lava is boiling for several seconds as if to reassure us that he's gone for good.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Orin accidentally opens a hangar's airlock, venting all the robots into space.
  • To the Pain: The laser torture is described in such terms:
    Zygon (to Dag): "Try to imagine a needle, the thickness of a human hair, slowly thrust between your eyes and penetrating your skull."
  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: One of the earliest animation projects to blend traditional animation with computer-rendered models for the vehicles and some other effects.
  • Venturous Smuggler: Dagg is a smuggler who makes his money by stealing shipments of crystals from Zygon's mines and selling them to criminals.
  • A Villain Named "Z__rg": Zygon.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: While aboard the flagship, Orin and Dag hide behind a corner as some robot guards walk past, heading somewhere. After this, they jettison the flagship's ground forces, then storm the bridge and kill the admiral and his crew. But where did those guys walking past them go? Not into the main bay with the main forces, nor to the bridge. They're just forgotten about.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: When Orin escapes the Mine-World, his first sight of the "magnificent universe" above brings tears to his eyes.
    Orin: "It's not a lie... it's NOT A LIE!"
  • Villain with Good Publicity: When Aviana and Orin arrive at the mines again, she greets Zygon as the facility's administrator when he meets them at the hangar, and seems to be on the fence concerning Orin's claims about the slave mines. It's not until Orin slashes Zygon's face with the Sword and reveals he's a robot that she realizes Orin was telling the truth.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Silica is reprogrammed without her consent, and the heroes sure do kill off Zygon's Mecha-Mooks rather wantonly, despite them having distinct personalities and sentience. No wonder Zygon hates humans so much!
  • Whole-Plot Reference: It's an obvious ripoff of Star Wars. There are a few changes that keep it from being a direct copy, but the plot (to an extent) as well as many characters, locations, and sequences are clearly lifted straight from Star Wars. Even some of the sound effects are sampled from Star Wars, such as the Starchaser sounding exactly like the Millenium Falcon.