Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Son of the Stars, More Animated Romanian Science Fiction

In a galaxy far, far away, the principles of time and engineering are warped. It is known as the Van Kleef Belt and it is sort of like the deep space version of the Sargasso Sea. Ships that fly into never leave—and their crews cannot properly die. Dan’s parents mistakenly ventured inside and now they are lost in space. Their son must grow up on an alien world, where he finds his destiny in Calin Cazan & Mircea Toia’s The Son of the Stars, now available in a limited edition BluRay.

Back in the 1980s, Cazan and Toia took a shot at building Romania into a sci-fi animation powerhouse. They did not conquer the world, but their films are now attracting a cult following.
 Son of the Stars is their follow-up to Delta Space Mission and maybe a sequel, but it is hard to find a lot of connecting tissue. Whereas DSM was Star Wars crossed with 2001, Son of the Stars is Star Wars crossed with Tarzan. Our young Skywalker is a precocious little boy traveling through space with his interstellar explorer parents, Roxanna and Alex, until they pick up a distress call from Andra O’Neil, who is sort of a space-faring Amelia Earhart, who famously disappeared centuries ago.

Owing it to history and science to investigate, they follow her signal into the Van Kleef Belt, where their craft, the Argos, is damaged. Both parents manage to repair the engine, but their service module is lost, leaving Dan in the care of Bob, the ship’s AI. He lands on the planet Doreea, under the influence of the Van Kleef distortion, where Dan is raised by an alien race that look like Shmoos. They teach him to communicate telepathically and develop telekinetic powers (kind of like the Force).

It turns out they are not indigenous to Doreea either. They too were shipwrecked on the planet. Some of the aliens believe Dan has the potential to liberate them from the Van Kleef, which is not just a radioactive zone. It is a massively powerful evil cosmic entity.

As is the case with
DSM, it is hard to read a great deal of politics or ideology into The Son of the Stars. Maybe the regime was happy with a story in which a mortal rises up against a god-like figure. However, maybe you can discern echoes of a certain someone in Dan, the mortal yet something more, who is also destined to redeem humanity.

Son of the Stars is appealingly funky, rendered in a style that looks like equal parts Fantastic Planet and Jonny Quest. The alien environments are trippy and exotic looking, whereas the figures are not very life-like, but they have their throwback charm. With his medallion and shoulder-length blond hair, Dan could pass for a 1970s California lifeguard or yoga instructor, but that’s not all bad.

It is all safely PG, even maybe leaning towards the G-rated end of the spectrum, but
Son of the Stars still has a vaguely Heavy Metal or Fire and Ice vibe, because it has the trappings of a science fiction adventure, but it unfolds like a fantasy fable. Regardless, it is a lot of fun to watch all the genre elements Cazan and Toia pack into it (we haven’t even touched on the time travel yet).

Strictly speaking, maybe it doesn’t make perfect sense all the time, but who cares? It is a far-flung galactic epic, economically distilled into 79 minutes. Highly recommended for fans of Eastern European science fiction and retro animation,
The Son of the Stars is now available for order at the Vinnegar Syndrome site.