Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight

I'm generally a sucker for early 80s animation, and I often find myself in the group that enjoys watching the exploits of Captain Harlock and Lum as much as I enjoy characters from newer anime. Even though the animation during that time was a lot more primitive than what's seen in current shows, the stories and characterizations won out over the occasionally flawed artwork. However, some shows from that era should have been left there never to return. Odin has been resurrected recently with a DVD release, and that frustrates me, for there are far, far better shows that will probably never be licensed in America, let alone have a home on the bright shiny disc of wonders. For Odin is not merely bad, it's woefully awful. I had heard bad things about this title, but no one ever said anything other than it put viewers to sleep. I figured it might just be an aversion to 80s anime...but I was very, very wrong. There are two versions of this movie available: the International Cut, which runs around 90 minutes, and the Director's Cut, which runs a whopping 139 minutes. I watched the Director's Cut, but I have to recommend the International Cut without even viewing it for the sole reason that if you must watch this title, you'll want it to be over as quickly as possible.

The plot isn't much, but that's all there is in this show, really. The new spaceship "Starlight", which looks very much on the outside like a boat that would have sailed the seas in the 18th century, is setting out on its maiden voyage. As they prepare to try their new near-light drive, they receive a distress call. A ship has been attacked, and the crew of the "Starlight" goes to investigate. They wind up on the far side of Uranus, a great deal farther than they expected. They pick up a young girl who survived the attack, which turns out to have been orchestrated by this massive computerized society. Meanwhile, there's all sorts of stuff about mankind originating with a race on the planet Odin, and the crew mutinies in order to go visit this place. Along the way, they must overcome adversity after adversity to find the origin of the species.

I'd never read a review on this title that actually explained why it was boring, and perhaps everyone was too busy falling asleep to realize why this picture is so mind-numbingly mad. But there are plenty of reasons, the least of which is the artwork, which is actually pretty good at times. It is the least troublesome of all the movie's elements, even though the character designs are certainly dated.

What hurts this movie terribly is that there is no main character. The characters fall into two groups: less important and more important. The less important characters merely repeat their orders and die on cue. The more important characters give some of the orders, occasionally check with their superiors on how to deal with a situation, and they do not die, unless they have planned out their deathbed speech to encourage the crew to complete their mission. (Funny how people in movies can be dying for hours, yet are able to give their final speech with full clarity and then immediately die without the benefit of a coma.) Even the most important characters have virtually no background, no history, nothing that makes them important. If they were shooting for an ensemble piece, they missed the point of what writer/directors like Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson do: they make everyone interesting so that the audience wants to know more about every single one. No one here is even remotely interesting, and that rips the movie apart.

Did I mention that this is an action movie? Oh, it wants to be. There are a lot of lasers being fired off and mines being blown up and general violence everywhere. The problem is that all of it is deadly dull, and it takes over 35 minutes before anything actually happens anyway; most of the action is in the second half. We've already established that what the characters do means nothing, but even then some set pieces could save the show. Instead, it seems the writers deliberately ripped off every science fiction film they could think of and threw every possible scenario at the Starlight to conquer. Remember the flyby of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where it feels like you're going to see the Enterprise in your dreams because the sequence is just so long? This entire movie feels like that, even the action sections. It's like a bad video game that you're forced to watch your cousin play when it's raining outside. There's nothing interesting going on, and nothing you can do to make it any better. What makes it even worse is that several of the sequences are set to a piece of early 80s "heavy metal" music. That's just one piece now repeated several times-not a whole album, but just one weak Motley Crue rip-off played over and over again. Perhaps they spent so much money making a 2 hours and 20 minute movie that they had no money left for the soundtrack.

This is not the worst part, however. The final kicker in Odin is that the ending is completely ambiguous. Although the main threat in the film is no longer a concern, the whole thrust of the film isn't even complete by the end. After sailing around for an eternity with these utterly useless characters, you'd think we'd at least get some final payoff...but it never happens. In fact, the reward for numbing your rear through this thing is to watch the aforementioned rip-off band performing during the end credits. It's a cringeworthy moment when you realize that not only will there be no resolution, but that a Gene Simmons look-alike is going to end off the movie looking like a fool in a bunch of makeup, fake fog, and bad lighting. The alternative, of course, is to shut off the film at this point, which is a very commendable action.

The only thing letting me give this movie a passing grade (and a very low one at that) is that the animation itself is not bad, and there are a few interesting sequences. I usually reserve my F rating for movies that not only are really bad but are either unwatchable or are totally offensive, which Odin is not. It's pretty close, however. Find someone's used tape of this film if you must, but don't make a casual purchase of the DVD. This is just a disappointing title all the way around.

Odin -- violence -- D-