BraveStarr The Movie (1987)
Film review #358
Director: Tom Tataranowicz
SYNOPSIS: On the colony planet of New Texas, the evil demon Stampede and his henchman Tex Hex have assembled a gang of outlaws and villains to take control of the planet’s rich supply of the valuable mineral kerium. The inhabitants request help from the Galactic Marshals, the peacekeepers of the galaxy, but are less than impressed when only a single Marshal named BraveStarr and a new judge arrive, the residents are less than impressed, and BraveStarr must prove himself by defeating Tex Hex and also fulfilling his destiny…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: BraveStarr the Movie (also known as BraveStarr the Legend) is a 1987 sci-fi animated film. The film is an extension of the BraveStarrcartoon series, but tells the origin of all the characters and how they met. The story begins with a Shaman telling the story of an evil creature known as Stampede and his plans to conquer the galaxy by mining the mineral Kerium, which is essential to space travel, on the planet of New Texas. He enslaves a rogue space mercenary called Tex Hex and grants him new powers to terrorise the planet. The shaman is unable to defeat Stampede, and when his ship is about to crash land on New Texas, he sends his young protege out in an escape pod with the promise that they will meet again and fulfil their destiny to banish Stampede. The way the story is told as a narration does go on a bit too long, and prevents the viewer from getting fully immersed in the story when it’s just being told to them rather than it playing out as it happens. This happens again about a third of the way through, and it just feels like the film takes a while to get into the action. It does take its time to establish the backstory, since the purpose of this film is intended to explain the origins of the characters and settings of the cartoon series, but even then the specific details are a little vague. Maybe the cartoon series fills in some of the gaps, but having never watched it, I cannot judged. When the film eventually does get going, it’s entertaining enough for kids, with plenty of action, colourful characters and a unique setting to enjoy. Nevertheless, it does try to push the envelope a little, and it feels a little darker and more menacing than other cartoons of the time, being set on this hostile world plagued with nasty looking villains who create a genuine sense of terror.
The titular character BraveStarr is an interesting character in terms of his design: he is a native american who is also a cowboy (space cowboy anyway…). The two roles are often placed in opposition, so it’s interesting to see a synthesis of these two tropes, and especially seeing a native American character in the lead role was practically unheard of (and is still quite rare). I think as a character that synthesises the two roles it allows children to see the role of native Americans as the heroes for a change. Whether he is an accurate or authentic depiction of native Americans is perhaps a more nuanced discussion, but honestly, as a kid’s show, it’s a good opportunity to introduce children to a more diverse set of heroes. The rest of the characters are also a varied bunch, with the main villain Stampede being a gruesome bull/skeleton hybrid, his henchman Tex Hex being a more typical cowboy villain, and a whole host of varied villains with different powers. Thirty-Thirty, BraveStarr’s part horse, part sidekick/partner is an interesting dual role character too, and his short temper and cavalier attitude give him some fun action sequences as well as some funny dialogue. Judge J.B. as the only female character also has a strong personality and exerts just as much authority as BraveStarr most of the time, as well as occasionally putting him in his place. then you have the native inhabitants of New Texas, a race of mole-people including Fuzz, who serve as the cutesy mascot characters. It all adds up to a large cast with some interesting and original characters for children to imagine in all sorts of adventures. Let’s be honest though, such a large cast is primarily aimed at selling lots of toys of all of these characters (the toys actually released before the cartoon so you can see where the priorities were).
The animation for BraveStarr isn’t especially great, but it’s okay for it’s time, and is consistent with the other cartoons that Filmation put out (He-Man, G.I. Joeetc.). The music however is pretty good, with an orchestral, epic feel that heightens the tension and the stakes. BraveStarr overall doesn’t stand out too much from the cartoons made to push merchandise that were rife in the 1980′s, but if you look a little deeper, you find an interesting and unique world populated with some similarly interesting characters, including the titular character. As a standalone film it is a fairly standard depiction of good vs evil, using the cowboy tropes and giving them a sci-fi twist. As a kid’s film it doesn’t really need to be much more than that. Some scenes (particularly the narrated ones) go on for too long and may not sustain younger viewers attention, but there’s also plenty of action and variety in the characters to rescue it. You don’t have to have watched the series to maker sense of the film (as I haven’t), but undoubtedly learning the origins of these characters would make it more rewarding. I don’t think films like this need to be anymore complicated than what is done here: they’re designed to sell toys, and this essentially provides a springboard for children’s imagination to make their own stories to play with said toys, so in this sense I can happily accept BraveStarr the Movie as it is, despite some flaws and a lack of appeal and originality for more mature audiences.