Wednesday, July 9, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: CAPTAIN OF COSMOS (1984)

Let's talk a little about bootlegs. In the 80’s, Hong Kong-based film producer Joseph Lai put out infinity ninja movies: Secret Ninja, Leopard Fist Ninja, Ninja Thunderbolt, Ninja Champion, Ninja Terminator, Ninja Dragon, Ninja Lumberjack, Ninja Mailman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Ninjas… if the word “Ninja” was in the title, Lai probably produced it.

But his antics weren’t just limited to Ninjasploitation… he also wanted in on anime bootlegs! Most of these wouldn’t be made in Hong Kong, though. He’d buy them from South Korea and distribute them in the most obscure places around the world. Through his actions, the world was able to get that fabled endurance test it always wanted called Space Thunder Kids!

If Dr. Forrester/Pearl had this thing... the Satellite of Love would be in deep trouble.


Some reviewers on the web have scuttled these faux-anime oddities, but today, I’m going after something even more infamous. This is Captain of Cosmos:

Will this happen in the movie? Place your bets now! 

On the DVD cover, we have a skirmish involving a Gundam unit and an unrelated mech in the air behind it (it's probably from a Tatsunoko-produced anime from the 80's, but it's not a Valkyrie). Also, Char Quattro Bajeena getting intimate with a young lady in the the upper-right corner, who seems to a mix of Four Murasame and Yellow Dancer from Genesis Climber Mospeada.


As the credits begin with total silence against stock science fiction images. That's right: for the first twenty seconds of the film, there is no music at all... then we get hit by what sounds like R2-D2's reaction to being spun around at 100 MpH. This is followed by an early-80's Korean disco number sung by children. As the credits roll, it seems that the idea that people on the Korean Peninsula had names like "Mae Jin-Hee" or "Kwon Tae-Min" was misguided; lots of people in both countries go by names like "Roy Thomas", "Jerry Collins", and "Tony Lewis"!

Aha! A flimsy name-change! This movie'll just be a feature-length RickRoll! Not falling for it!
(Wow, that was a dated reference!)

Our narrator (who vaguely sounds like Tristan trying to hide his trademark Bullwinkle voice) tells us that it's the distant future and space travel has advanced to the point that people can visit other planets faster than ever before. Unfortunately, this inevitably resulted in a series of wars... but luckily, there's a group of people called the Cosmos Warriors out to fight for peace.

No sooner does our narrator stop talking are we shown a dogfight where a Prince Lotor wannabe in a silly mask is trying to shoot down...


Hm, for some reason it looks like a Zeon normal suit (a combination flight/space suit, in case you ask) with a different color scheme. Probably just a coincidence.

The dogfight continues with both pilots trying to see which one has the least accurate targeting computer. Not-Lotor manages to wing him and the crippled fighter (leaving a smoke trail in space) is forced to land on a rocky planetoid. It makes sure not explode until its pilot is at a safe distance.

Then, Not-Lotor suddenly up next to the marooned pilot and tries to kill him with a dagger, saying that he doesn't have a "chan". Not a "chance", a "chan"; thank you, audio flub!

With the pilot backed up against a cliff, Not-Lotor stalls for a long time instead of going for the kill. Someone finally gets fed up, because a laser bolt hits the pilot. Who? Not-Lotor's boss...


...Rita Repulsa's cousin Betty! Betty is the ruler of a place called the Green Empire; a place nobody knows about (and knowing this movie's obscurity, I'm not shocked).

The scene ends abruptly shortly after we first see Betty and we cut to a space liner giving a tour. One little boy gets all excited and announces that he's "Captain of the Cazmus" (not "Cosmos", "Cazmus", so we can rule him out as our protagonist) and despite being "the greatest", trips over someone's foot. Most of the passengers bust out laughing (He's, like, four-years-old! You people are mean!). Then, we meet this dude:


I hereby dub thee: Obi-Dore Merlinwood!

I think he might be suffering from Youngblood's Disease, since he's squinting ninety-percent of the time I see him. We DO get a close-up of his eye, which is open long enough to show us a vision of Betty and her forces. His warnings to the passengers and the stewardess get laughed off.

Ultimately, Obi-Dore gets last laugh when the ship gets attacked. He busts through a window to use his magic wand on Betty's centaur army. Yes, they're all out in space without protection. Thank goodness this film is operating on Space Ghost physics, otherwise Obi-Dore just doomed a whole ship!

Betty manages to kill Obi-Dore (poor fella, came and went in one minute), leaving the ship defenseless. She has a Torgo moment as she claims the vessel ("Now listen to my orders and do what I tell you!"), but as this is going on an escape module launches to find help. A centaur chases after it, detours to a barren wasteland, then hurl a javelin; the tiny spear is more than enough to reduce the craft to vapor (you read this correctly).



Now we go to a starcruiser with a Famicom-style paint job, where the REAL fun begins. We see an old man who facially resembles a dwarf, a bored boy who can imitate donkeys and dogs, and...

...no way.
Okay. Now we're getting into the heart of this movie's infamy.

For those of you who were oblivious to the fact over the past few years, I am a fan of Universal Century Gundam. I haven’t seen every nook and cranny of that timeline, but I'm aware of what's what. Expect me to reference this series a lot in this review. Let's take this apart piece by piece:



For those unfamiliar with the original series, the dude in the black costume and helmet is a recolor of the original (and most celebrated) masked pilot of the Gundam franchise: Char Aznable, the Red Comet. Char joined the Principality of Zeon's military with the secret goal to avenge the death of his father, Contolist revolutionary leader Zeon Zum Deikun, whose demise he pinned on the country's leader, Degwin Zabi (one of Deikun's associates during the Munzo Revolution of UC 0058). His revenge plans gradually took a back seat as his rivalry with Federation Ace Amuro Ray solidified. 

Char is as recognizable in Japan as Darth Vader and Spock are in the US.

Back on track...

Not-Char is sparring with...


A KYCILIA ZABI RECOLOR!?

Another one already? Ugh...



Rear Admiral Kycilia Zabi was the second-oldest of Degwin Zabi's children and his only daughter. She was Commissar of Mobile Weapons Development. Thanks to Char, she probably died the most grizzly death in the anime.

Getting back to the movie...

Not-Char and Not-Kycilia (they have different names in the movie, but I refuse to acknowledge them) practice sword-fighting and I can't make heads or tails whether they're particle blades, regular steel, or just glow-in-the-dark toys. At one point, amid all the acrobatics, Not-Kycilia's helmet falls off and -- SAYLA!?



Not another one...


Sayla Mass was originally a communications officer and medic on the White Base, she became a pilot half-way through the story. Gradually, it is revealed that she is Char's long-lost sister, Artesia Som Deikun.

Keep in mind, I'm not the one coming up with these mind-warping ideas. This was made well before I was born and in a completely different part of the world.

Anyway, more acrobatics, it's shown that you can stand on the blades of the swords, so we can conclude that they aren't discount store versions of lightsabers. Speaking of lightsabers, Not-Char is randomly attacked by... uh...


...what Darth Vader would look like if only three bucks were used to make the costume and was given a baton. He tries to spar with two and fails miserably. It's revealed that buckethead is...


...the scratchy voiced kid from earlier. But he's not really a kid, but a robot! I hereby dub this character the Bob's Small Boy (BSB). Stick around later and I'll show you how to build your own! So Not-Kycilia KySaylia (pronounced Kiss-Say-Lee-Yah) tells BSB off and their costumes shift from recolored Zeon officers' uniforms to black versions of the Earth Federation's. As she makes her speech, BSB goes doggy-style and bites KySaylia's butt. BSB only did it because KySaylia he said he's a human and not a robot. A 'bot with denial issues.

There's an easy way of resolving this argument: give him a beer so he can refuel his power cells. If he throws up, he's a real boy! =)

Anyway, BSB throws a temper tantrum, demanding to be called a boy and -- WHAT!?


Okay, first the dude in the palette-swap normal suit.
Then, the Char recolor.
Then, the Kycilia recolor.
Then, we learn that the Kycilia recolor is also a Sayla recolor.
Then, the uniforms change from Zeon to Federation and back again depending on the animators' already-lax standards.
...but this tops 'em all: Char Aznable... is Amuro Ray!


Amuro Ray is the protagonist of the original Gundam anime from 1979. When a botched Zeon reconnaissance mission at Side 7 made the One Year War go hot again, Amuro climbed into the the cockpit of the prototype mobile suit RX-78-2 Gundam to fend off the attack so that the colony's civilians could escape to the White Base. Amuro's actions at Side 7 would see him pilot the Gundam for the remainder of the conflict, fighting several Zeon aces along the way with Char Aznable being his most famous. His accidental killing of Lalah Sune, a young woman loved by both Amuro and Char, shortly before the end of the war cemented the two aces as enemies for life.

In this movie, the protagonist isn't just the Red Comet, but his worst enemy as well. Wrap your heads around that!

Think this movie's insane so far? Guess what? There's still an hour to go! The only way this thing can get sillier is if Dozle Zabi shows up as the Hulk.

BSB keeps throwing a tantrum, which is thankfully interrupted by a distress signal. Wow, with all the shameless plagiarism I'd almost forgotten about the missing space-liner! ChAmuro (pronounced Sha-Mer-Row) and KySaylia head for their spacecraft and, for some reason, bring BSB along. Given the movie's track record, I half expected them to tell him to stay behind only for BSB to stow away in the trunk of their ship.

Also, their ship has two cockpits. It kinda makes think of a two-seat stroller at a grocery store or theme park that has two toy steering wheels. Which one controls the thing? I don't know.

ChAmuro, KySaylia, and (sadly for us) BSB take off. We get a reprise of the K-Disco song from the opening credits. ChAmuro opens his cockpit and flies to space-liner. Just as a reminder: you can breathe in space in this movie's universe. Of course, the sequence of him boarding the ship serves as filler so the film can make it over an hour in runtime.

ChAmuro can't find any passengers, but soon finds the fallen Obi-Dore Merlinwood. It seems that Obi-Dore was ChAmuro and KySaylia's teacher, but he's been dead for quite some time. Of course, this revelation brings ChAmuro down... hey, look on the bright side: at least he's where Youngblood's can't hurt him anymore.

Now all we need is Montgomery Scott playing "Amazing Grace".

With Obi-Dore's corpse set adrift in space and ChAmuro ready to avenge his teacher's defeat. The team returns to the USS Hasbro to break the bad news to their boss, who sends the team back out to find the villains.

"To heck with Thorin and his little group! With this battleship,
Smaug will be history and I won't have to miss Cannon this week!"

Eventually, the Hasbro picks up a distress signal and through a little recycled animation, the team is sent out again. The signal came from a planet of giant mushrooms where the space-liner's escape module landed.

The MODULE?

Only fifteen minutes ago did we see one, tiny javelin destroy it completely! Now it's grounded on this world, intact (with a new paint job, too!) and surrounded by centaurs. Given that the craft survived that, I doubt the centaurs' threats of vaporization would be effective either.

Some people try to escape, one dude lets his lips flap for two seconds until he decides to fight back against the man-horses. The prisoner revolt doesn't really get anywhere until one of the whips snap in two...


...and we learn that ChAmuro can change his proportions at will.

The centaurs are killed by the Famicom Fighter's whistling lasers. With the "riveting" fight between the Black Comet and the centaurs going on down below, BSB wants to go down an join in the fight. Yippee! Now he wants to be Scrappy-Doo!

ChAmuro's swordplay forces the centaurs to retreat, but to the delight of the incoherent crowds. He hops back on the Famicom Fighter (or as ChAmuro calls it the "Dragon", and for the sake of convenience, I will call it that from this point on to save from typing) and the team chases after the centaurs. Of course, the centaurs vanish into a green fog... but that doesn't stop Team Recolor! Thanks to his auto-chase system, the group is able to find where they went.

After a quick vision of Obi-Dore and filler imagery, the team passes a fleet of scale-model Zentraedi starships that combine into mines... and we see Not-Lotor and Betty again! Here we learn that, aside from having an axe that produces green teleport fog, she is a master ventriloquist, as she greet Team Recolor without moving her lips.

Also, it turns out that these mines... are not mines! They're weak lasers that shoot beams from their spikes that manage to cripple the Dragon, allowing Betty to take Team Recolor to... uh, the deep space version of Cloud City?

When ChAmuro refuses to bow to Betty, Not-Lotor tries to prove how weak the Black Comet is by swinging his sword at thin air before she tells him to knock it off. When KySaylia demands to know why she attacked the tourists we get an explanation:

Long ago there was an orange green planet that was more beautiful than Earth. One day, a sudden nuclear blast created a nuclear winter and flooded the land all at once, forcing the survivors to leave. When Betty's race discovered humans, they began kidnapping them for slave labor use in an effort to rebuilt their planet. The chief reason for them picking humans? Their intelligence.

Yeah, this is the species that still allows Family Guy to infect the airwaves and gave us Reality TV. CLEARLY a paragon of intelligence.

Of course, during the explanation, she calls BSB a boy... making him side with her. Yeah, Elroy Jetson's stunt double isn't just annoying... he's shallow, too.



Later, Team Recolor is thrown in a sciency-looking dungeon, where the prisoners threaten to go on strike if Betty doesn't release them from their slavery. Betty's response: disintegration!

This show of brutality is enough to quell the potential slave rebellion and make BSB betray Team Recolor... he claims his brain makes him have to obey those with great power (i.e. he's a dirty coward), but it's mostly because they refer to him as a robot. I would get upset about this, but BSB's personality and previous actions allow for a greater potential for him getting reduced to scrap by the end of the movie... and we only have thirty-two minutes to go. Pray for me.

Of course, his Benedict Arnoldism doesn't quite go the way he planned:

Not as humiliating enough for the likes of him, but it's a start.

It gets better, though: BSB throws his broom at Not-Lotor, who punts the little dink like a football:

Give the dude a raise!

Naturally, the entitled brat insults Not-Lotor behind his back... and gets overheard! He frantically tries to escape, finding the impounded Dragon in a hangar and bumps into...


..........

Movie... I was just kidding earlier. Are you so bankrupt on character designs that you'd use a joke for ideas?

Here we go again...


Vice Admiral Dozle Zabi was Commissar of the Zeon Space Attack Force. A very aggressive tactician, but also really dedicated to his family. Late in the war, when the Battle of Solomon turned against Zeon and his forces withdrew, he stayed behind in a little obscure mecha you probably didn't know about called the Big Zam and managed to put a big dent in the Federation fleet's numbers before the Gundam ultimately took it down. Even then, he still didn't quit: shooting the White Devil outside of the cockpit... with a regular machine gun! Don't believe me? Watch it for yourself!

Geez, five characters already. We're probably going to see a bearded Lalah Sune or a giant version of Kai Shiden's head playing a supercomputer at the rate we're going. Zeta Gundam wouldn't hit Japanese TV until the following year, so it's safe to conclude we won't see a Kamille Bidan recolor try to help ChAmuro and KySaylia fight Betty.

Back on track (for the rest of the movie... I hope), BSB lies to the Jolly Green Dozle (JGD), claiming he was playing around and was scolded for being noisy. JGD buys his alibi and agrees to be his brother... I guess he was still kinda hurting after the news of Green Garma's failed kamikaze.

They get into a big argument about which one is older, leading BSB to declare himself JGD's father... the scene's as pointless as a broken pencil. And I just noticed something during this whole thing, BSB acknowledges that he's a robot. So that means his demands to be called a boy was all an act and he handed Team Recolor over to Betty on purpose?

KYAAAAAH!!

Speaking of Team Recolor, there's one guy who's sick and dying in the dungeon. ChAmuro calls out to JGD to come take a look at the poor guy... the dying man gets a lashing instead. ChAmuro won't stand for JGD's Roots reenactment and fights him against a background that stays the same half the time. ChAmuro attempts to punch the giant in the gut, but hurts his hand and JGD punches the Black Comet so hard that he lands on the air against a blurry wall.

KySaylia joins the fray and kicks JGD in the face, only to be foiled by the guy's whip. All seems lost for Team Recolor when Not-Lotor shows up.

Betty wants to watch a gladiatorial exhibition with her best soldiers and wants a slave to volunteer to enter the fight and get himself killed. When nobody steps forward, he threatens pick an unlucky contestant... but eventually ChAmuro agrees to fight and satisfies Not-Lotor's sadism by punching out the other two options.



They go to the arena, where ChAmuro is back in the Zeon duds and KySaylia is bound to a stake behind him for some reason.

Betty promises that if ChAmuro wins, the slaves will be freed and the games will be outlawed. They were held only thirteen times, as one of Betty's soldiers tells BSB, but no one has ever won. The gate opens and... we learn that this story is in the Marvel universe.


As ChAmuro whips these Daredevil villains' sorry butts, BSB starts supporting Team Recolor again. Are we supposed to like this guy? If so, I never did.

ChAmuro wins, but Betty (surprise!) goes back on her word.

Things look grim when the Dragon shows up to blast Betty's arena guards with laser fire. The whole thing was a flimsy ruse: BSB had this planned from the start. Whoop-dee-doo. I'll take Nami's phony betrayal on One Piece over BSB's, thank you very much. It may redeem him marginally, but he's still an annoying piece of junk.

Betty panics and sends out an army of Not-Lotor clones to save her endangered kingdom. Team Recolor radios the Hasbro to come help. The Hasbro sets sail for Deep-Space Cloud City and her crew assumes battlestations while the K-Disco theme plays once more! The vessel arrives just in the nick of time to save the Dragon.

With her kingdom falling apart round her ears, Betty cries out to her gods for courage... but the gods have something different in mind: a falling pillar that comes less than a yard away from crushing her. Ha!

The Hasbro lands to rescue the slaves and ChAmuro rushes into the burning ruins to find Betty while screaming corny lines about "righteousness will always triumph over evil" and stuff like that. Takes out a centaur and kills a Not-Lotor clone. We don't actually SEE the clone die, the editing is really screwy here.

ChAmuro soon confronts Betty, but it isn't long before Not-Lotor jumps in and is killed by "the Captain's immense power".

At the point of a sword, ChAmuro orders Betty to surrender because there's going to be a big explosion soon... wait, was Not-Lotor a load-bearing boss from a game? The kind that destroys the building you're in when you beat it? I don't remember anyone setting Betty's castle up for sabotage. I don't know!

All looks hopeless for Betty when...

OH YEEEAH!!

JGD shows up and effortlessly subdues ChAmuro again... but he gets defeated when KySaylia and BSB show up out of the blue and run him over with the Dragon. He explodes, naturally. Doesn't even compete with how the real one went out.

ChAmuro catches up with Betty in the bowels of Mt. Doom, where she has the discretion to use her lasers to risk a cave-in. They eventually grapple, causing Betty to drop her axe into a pit of magma. The cavern starts to rumble, Betty tells ChAmuro that there's going to be an explosion (something ChAmuro announced earlier, but probably forgot about due to the fight with JGD) and SLOWLY falls off a ledge into magma below her.

ChAmuro gets trapped trying to escape and almost falls into magma himself. Fortunately, he falls as slowly as Betty, allowing enough time for KySaylia drops a line to save him. Team Recolor escapes from Deep-Space Cloud City as it explodes. Yes. It seems that a friggin' space station needed a system of magma in it!

They fly away, K-Disco plays again, movie's over.

Thank goodness we stopped before they showed a Gouf with Haro as its head...


FINAL THOUGHTS

This movie was painfully stupid. I guess the South Korean animators making all those crappy giant mecha movies like Space Thunder Kids and Raiders of [the] Galaxy were starting to catch onto their plagiarism of the Japanese shows that their government banned and decided to throw a curveball! Thought Sonic and pals were big victims of recoloring? Well, guess what? It happened to Gundam seven years before Sonic was even a thing! Only here, these weren't twelve-year-olds on DeviantArt using screencaps and stolen fan art, these were actual animators.

The plot made no sense and actors sounded like they'd woken up at 5:00 AM hungover and just decided to wing it (I can't be sure if ChAmuro's supposed to be a mix of Australian and Cajun or just a bored Ringo Starr). Audio issues leave me wondering what the extras are saying, the continuity reminds me of The Phantom Menace, and we are treated to one of the most ANNOYING sidekicks this side of the live-action Spritle. It's a pity he survived the film... eh, I'll say his warranty expired and he had to be recycled.


The original title of this movie in South Korea was Space Black Knight. It didn't even NEED a misleading cover, it was upfront about what it was knocking off! And would you believe that the Captain of Cosmos dub WASN'T the first time this monstrosity was seen in the English-speaking world?


Nope! There was an earlier dub of it called Johnny Destiny, Space Ninja! Nothing is known about this version at all. If you try to find out anything about it, all I can say is "good luck". (Hey, we came back to Mr. Lai's ninja fetish with this!)

At the end of the next episode previews in 2001 English dub of Mobile Suit Gundam, the tagline is "Who will survive?" After watching this movie in full, I can safely say that I did. The others who dare to sit through the brainless misadventures of ChAmuro and KySaylia, I can't guarantee anything.


I'm DLAbaoaqu. Full-on!


  • Space Black Knight/Captain of Cosmos/Johnny Destiny, Space Ninja (1984) and Space Thunder Kids (1983) are property of Joseph Lai and IFD Films
  • Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) is property of Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise
  • The Jetsons (1962) is property of Time Warner
  • Speed Racer (1967) is property of Tatsunoko Productions
  • Astro Boy (1963, 1980) is property of the Tezuka Productions




AND NOW, BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, INSTRUCTIONS FOR BUILDING YOUR OWN BSB!


2 comments:

  1. I have the PAL version of this VHS. I got it at some point in the late 90's/VERY early 2000's. It's AWFUL. w

    ReplyDelete
  2. Seeing Sayla in that outfit makes me wanna write a story about how Sayla becomes the new Zeon leader.

    ReplyDelete