From Vinegar Syndrome’s supplied publicity materials:
“A wild and surreal outer space adventure. A mid-80’s mash-up of The Empire Strikes Back, Alien, and Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan. In the year 6470, a husband-and-wife team of explorers receive a mysterious distress signal from an astronaut who disappeared decades earlier. They leave their son aboard ship to search for the missing astronaut – but fate intervenes, their own ship crashes – leaving their son alone – or is he?”
Though I’ve never been a huge fan of animation, I will admit to a fondness for those projects that are a bit more Science Fiction and Fantasy in nature. The late 1970’s and early 1980’s saw a good number of space-based Ips which were quite good in depicting space exploration and adventure, though a few of them kinda/sorta lost their way in crafting stories a bit too dumbed down – likely so that they’d appeal to the ‘youngest among us,’ expanding their audience share with Saturday morning viewing potential – and I tuned them out. But it’s very, very cool when I can rant and/or rave about something I’ve never seen before, which is the case with The Son Of The Stars.
From what I’ve been able to ascertain (mind you, there isn’t a whole lot written about this project on the Information Superhighway), Fiul Stelelor – its original name – was Romanian effort that combined influences from a variety of sources – Star Wars, Flash Gordon, and more – and hasn’t had much (if any) notable screening outside its native country. Still, it definitely looks like something very much conceived and executed in the 80’s – for me, it’s stylistically very similar to Filmation’s good-and-bad Flash Gordon incarnation (1979-1982) – though I’d have a hard time putting it alongside contemporaries because of its narrative sensibilities … or lack thereof.
Directed by the team of Calin Cazan, Dan Chisovski, and Mircea Toia (as per IMDB.com), Stars doesn’t quite have a tightly constructed plotline, though its synopsis might lead audiences to believe otherwise. Yes, we’re introduced to a young hero – Dan – and we’re taken along his journey from childhood to manhood – seemingly where he’ll find hero status – but it’s a series of curious twists and turns that account for his maturation process. Essentially left parentless on the planet Doreea, the boy has to learn an all-new way of life: his adoptive parents – a species that speaks telepathically and can both move objects telekinetically as well as create them out of thin air – prepare the young man to eventually rise up and throw off their oppressor. It would seem this region of space is ‘governed’ by an entity kinda/sorta beyond both space and time, making him/her/it understandably hard to find, only showing its face/facelessness conveniently when/if he/she/it wishes.
If my issues with this construct isn’t clear enough, then perhaps Stars felt more like a story put together in progress, with no clear blueprint for precisely how it was going to take audiences from its rather specific set-up to its ‘throw everything included the kitchen sink’ finale. To the makers’ credit, they keep the action flowing: about the time Dan understands his place in this corner of the universe, a bit of new exposition emerges to show that it ain’t quite so, and Stars bobs and weaves in a somewhat different trajectory while still maintaining its focus on a spectacular space battle showdown that only animation could deliver back in its day. (Well, unless you were George Lucas …)
Well … it didn’t quite ‘stick the landing’ as well as I had hoped, but it still made for an interesting diversion. There’s something to be said for Stars’ obvious ambition; wherein other storytellers might’ve pulled it back a bit, this team dialed it up to eleven. Hell, Dan even manages to (somehow) get the girl in the end, and that’s got to count for something, am I right? I’ll leave you to figure whether or not you thought it was effective or not. As for me? I enjoyed it perfectly fine.
The Son Of The Stars (1985) (aka Fiul Stelelor) was produced by Animafilm Studio. DVD distribution (for this particular limited edition release) is being coordinated by the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome. As for the technical specifications? First, I’m no trained video expert. Second, I viewed this product via a popular web-streaming portal. As I’ve stated before, I unfortunately do not live in a home that has perfect streaming speeds – curse you, internet service provider! – so occasionally some of the imperfections I might experience I owed to that and not the original source material. I can assure you that what I viewed appeared to be very good product about 95% of the time; there were some small issues with image clarity that may or may not have been part of the original source. I’ve no way to know for certain.
Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then I’m happy to provide for you what I’ve read online about this particular package. Vinegar Syndrome has this available with either a limited edition slipcover or without (depending upon whether you wish to save a few bucks). This disc itself is an all-new 4K scan reportedly from the original 35mm negative and sound elements, and the restoration was overseen by Craig Rogers and Tyler Fagerstrom on behalf of Deaf Crocodile Films. The disc also boasts an audio commentary track hosted by film journalist Samm Deighan; a video interview with co-director Calin Cazan; and a collector’s booklet with an essay by comics artist and publisher Stephen R. Bissette. (As I was only provided a streaming link, I cannot make any statement on the quality of those materials, so consider this ‘buyer beware.’)
Recommended, but …
The Son Of The Stars (1985) (aka Fiul Stelelor) is one of the weirdest animated flicks I’ve had the good fortune to watch and review. It isn’t a bad viewing experience; it’s just a bit … well … ‘wacky’ is the only way I can describe it fully. The narrative kinda/sorta ebbs and flows with the main premise changing directions more than once. It feels a bit like a ‘stream of consciousness’ poem … or a story told by a kid entirely made up right from cloth. Still, it has just enough charm – and enough commitment to clearly being something inspired – that I’d encourage a single view for ‘Children Of The ‘80’s’ or diehard Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiasts. Just don’t expect it to make perfect sense in all places.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome provided me with complimentary streaming access to view The Son Of The Stars by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.