To say that Star Wars and its sequels (and, to a lesser extent, prequels) changed the world is an understatement. It’s also a cliche that I write begrudgingly, because it’s such common sense. The Force, “Luke, I am your father,” Jar-Jar Binks — this is our world now, people. There is no escaping it.
But neo-Lucasians, fans who weren’t alive or aware when the first films were released, missed the direct impact the first/fourth movie had when it was released in 1977. The influence of A New Hope rippled through Hollywood — and the Hollywoods around the world. Many of the movies released as a result have “star” or “stars” in their title, like Battle Beyond the Stars, Starcrash, or The Last Starfighter. It’s an appropriate outcome for a move that was itself kind of a ripoff — George Lucas has openly admitted to being heavily influenced by the 1958 Akira Kurosawa movie called The Hidden Fortress.
Still, instead of homages, these film are, in Star Wars-appropriate terms, clones, lacking that somethin’-somethin’ that made Lucas’ project so popular. And some of the foreign fabrications are more comedy than action-adventure.
Star Odyssey, otherwise known as Sette uomini d'oro nello spazio (Seven Gold Men in Space), otherwise known as Space Odyssey, Metallica and Captive Planet, is one example. It’s the third film in a trilogy, which means Italian writer-director Alfonso Brescia must have pumped these suckers out, because Star Odyssey came out just two years after A New Hope.
In the film, Earth has made first, hostile contact with aliens. A black-caped villain named Kress purchases the planet (known to him as Sol 3) at an intergalactic property auction. Kress hopes to enslave the Earth’s billions of humans, eventually selling them off for a sweet profit.
Earth’s military isn’t having much luck keeping Kress at bay on its own, so it enlists the services of Professor Maury, a brilliant scientist known to balk at authority. He sets about getting his eclectic group of freedom fighters back together, eating into much of the screen time in the process. This assembly includes Maury’s niece, a soldier she’s dating, the flirtatious conman she’s really in love with, a pair of jailbird super scientists who wear super cool complementary outfits, and two gabby androids. Together, they fight to protect the Earth from Kress and his army of silver-clad humanoid androids.
Star Odyssey pirates many of Star Wars’ most distinguishing features, turning them into flimsy sci-fi tropes. Below is a casual list. See if you can spot more.
Wise older figure: Like Obi Wan Kenowbi, Professor Maury is a robed leader, although he mostly delegates to his underlings from his living room.
The snarky, sexy anti-hero: In place of Han Solo, we get Dirk Laramie, a morally ambiguous figure who manages to step up to the plate for the good side whenever he’s not flirting with Maury’s niece. He doesn’t have a Millenium Falcon or a furry sidekick, but he does have an outfit to rival Han’s iconic vest. Dirk comes clothed in a silk jacket and a skin-tight shirt with a bold spider embellishment, which must work on the ladies, because he gets the girl at the end.
The Force: Professor Maury and Dirk possess some sort of telepathic power that they use to influence other people and, in Dirk’s case, help a hot lady win a futuristic gambling game. This psychic ability isn’t as subtle as Star Wars’; when these guys use their power, you know they’re using it, because their pupils start to glow and there’s a loud sound effect to narrate the process.
Light sabers: Kress’ robot army, a group of bleach-blond Prince Valients in lamé outfits, defend themselves with glowing swords made up of some sort of energy. The weapons are as standard issue as the robots’ bangs, but they’re not color-coded. And yes, they make cool swishing sounds when flailed.
Droids: Professor Maury has a squat robot servant clearly influenced by R2D2, with less blooping and bleeping. The obsequious little guy is predisposed to serve drinks — handing them out with gloved metallic mittens — and isn’t as sassy as R2. Meanwhile, Tilk and Tilly are a walking, talking robot man-and-wife, less lithe than C3PO but with a full range of human qualities. We meet them after a survived mutual suicide attempt. Give these guys a shot, because they actually turn out to be the best part of the whole movie. They’re lustful, they have debates about race (technically robot race), and they’re crucial to saving the day.
Finale battle in space: While Maury waits safely at home, the rest of his group mans individual spaceships and takes off after the enemy — with some casualties. While not as epic as either of the Death Star fights, our team manages to get the job done.
Susan Cohen decided to leave her career in journalism to go back to school — for journalism. She's still not sure if she made a mistake. Visit susanjcohen.com to learn more about her.