Deaf Crocodile Films: The Son of the Stars (1988) - Reviewed

Image courtesy of Deaf Crocodile Films

After making the quirky and colorful Delta Space Mission (1984), Romanian directors Călin Cazan and Mircea Toia tried to keep the animation industry going with their follow-up, The Son of the Stars (1988). Whereas Delta Space Mission was cartoony and playful, The Son of the Stars feels more serious, enhanced by its use of rotoscoped animation.

The year is 6470, and the story starts out observing Roxanna and Alex, young parents on a space mission for exploration. They have an inquisitive young son named Dan, who has an affinity for controlling machinery. The entire ship is run by a sentient AI computer named B.O.B., depicted as a literal giant brain encased in glass, not unlike Mother Brain in Metroid. One day, they receive a distress call from within the Van Kleef Belt, an interstellar version of the Bermuda Triangle. While on an expedition to locate the source of the SOS signal, the parents get stranded, and Dan is left on his own on the ship to fend for himself.  Their craft is caught up in the snare of the Van Kleef Belt, and the ship has to make an emergency landing on Doreea, a nearby planet.

Once Dan exits the ship, he is accosted by a dangerous cat-like creature but is saved by bouncy beanbag-looking aliens. They wipe his memory and raise him like one of their own. These aliens have special mind powers that include both telekinesis and telepathy, and Dan is able to learn both of these skills quickly. As he ages into a young adult, Dan has to come to terms with his past and figure out how to use his abilities and cunning to get off the planet and save other species trapped there.

Upon first watching the film, many people will notice the similarities to Star Wars (1977), and it doesn’t hurt that Dan bears more than a passing resemblance to Mark Hamill. Once the narrative passes the halfway point, it veers into more existential fare with high-concept soft sci-fi tropes that feel more arthouse than space opera. The main antagonist is more of a theoretical idea than a concrete villain, and Dan is a space wizard on a mission to kill God by the end of the film. The decision to use rotoscoping for the style doesn’t hamper the surreal visuals; it adds a bit of uncanny valley to see the semi-realistic human movements next to the alien lifeforms. The soundtrack is a synthy masterpiece with incredible sound design. The music was composed by Stefan Elefteriu who is still pumping out the jams.

The Son of the Stars has a wholesome message about different cultures working together to overcome a particular problem and the idea that abilities can be internalized and used for the greater good. The plot thread it establishes in the beginning, the distress call from stranded astronaut Andra O’Neil, is sidelined for most of the film and only addressed briefly at the end. It seemed like it was supposed to have more impact on the story but wasn’t expanded enough. Outside of this and some pacing issues in the film's last half, The Son of the Stars is a mesmerizing and entertaining animated film that reaches for the stars and achieves greatness.

Extras: The commentary by Samm Deighan is fascinating and educational as she talks extensively about the historical context of the animation scene of '80s Romania and other works that tie in thematically with the film. Stephen R. Bissette's included booklet covers similar ground with more emphasis on literary works from around the same period.

Image courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome

Deaf Crocodile Films extras:

  • Region A Blu-ray
  • New restoration by Deaf Crocodile from the original 35mm negative
  • New commentary track by film journalist Samm Deighan
  • New interview with co-director Călin Cazan
  • New booklet essay by Stephen R. Bissette
  • Blu-ray mastering and authoring by David Mackenzie/Fidelity in Motion
  • English subtitles
--Michelle Kisner