Cartoons Go To the Movies – Bravestarr: The Legend!

Continuing the series of requests, this is the movie designed to kick off the launch of the Bravestarr toyline and TV show, but rushing the toys out fucked things up and meant that this came out of sequence and wasn’t half as successful as it should’ve been given the quality. Let’s have a look.

We start with the Shaman, a Native American warrior, on the run from the evil Stampede, who’s kind of a cross between a dragon and a dinosaur and a bull, partially cyborg, partially demonic, with only the top half of his body visible and everything else in a mystical pool of shadows. As we find out later in the film, Stampede conquered and destroyed Shaman’s planet in his hunt for power, also destroying his own race of bull-like creatures too, while Shaman’s people got away in totem pole-like spaceships. As Shaman readies himself for the inevitable battle to happen again, he sends off his young disciple Bravestarr to the protection of the Galactic Marshals, the lawmen of the universe, before crashing his ship on New Texas atop a mountain.

Also on New Texas, which is inhabited by diminutive Prairie People, is outlaw that will come to be known as Tex Hex, who has turned against his partner Angus McBride and is getting his ship full of kerium, a small crystal nugget substance that is the most powerful fuel in the galaxy. Bits of it are played for laughs, like with the evil Prairie Person Scuzz walking over McBride to chase off heroic Fuzz, but it soon gets darker. When Tex’s ship takes off it shatters part of the cliff that McBride is tied up on, sending him hundreds of feet to the ground, breaking his back and robbing him of the ability to walk. But, Tex has overloaded the ship, sending it crashing to the surface, and he and Scuzz both basically die, but are reanimated by Stampede. Tex’s transformation is horrible, with Stampede picking up the dead body like a mannequin, forcing unnatural movements on him, filling him to the brim with evil magic, and leaving him with the skeletal cowboy look and demonic powers and frightening cackle that he’s known for.

The rescue team that comes for McBride on Shaman’s call discover the kerium, leading all sorts, good and bad to New Texas to seek their fortune. Although it’s obviously an Old West influence, I think it’s pretty Dickensian too. Tex Hex recruits his army of terror, including the likes of the sleeping dust-blowing Sandstorm, snakewoman Vypra, robotic hick Thunderstorm, and Cactus-Head (all of them getting great alliterative descriptions like the latter being the “matter-changing mechanism of menace!”). They go into town, where you have people like gargantuan innkeeper Handlebar getting fed up of them terrorising the planet, but they don’t have enough power to stop them, meaning the call goes out for an ARMY of Marshals.

And, as the poster said, they got ONE.

But he was enough.

This is where the adult Bravestarr comes in, who has matured into a handsome, muscular, cool, skilled and highly efficient Marshal, who also has powers he’s picked up but is unaware at this time as he travelled through different constellations as a child, giving him Strength of the Bear, Speed of the Puma, Ears of the Wolf and Eyes of the Hawk. All that, and a dab hand with a neutrilaser, which Tex and his gang find out when they turn up to “greet him” and try to embarrass him, but end up embarrassed themselves. Where they turn it against him is in threatening new Judge J.B., the daughter of Angus, who has come along for the ride at the same time. In defending her they get to send him flying out of town, but to their detriment – there he gets to reunite with Shaman, who completes the teaching and imbuing of his animal totem powers to make him the ultimate warrior for good. That and sending him off to find a new “weapon”, meaning a trip to the Hall of the Equestroids.

There, he sees a gigantic horse cantering around and a massive rifle on an altar. Bravestarr goes to pick it up but is attacked by the horse, now in a human posture, and an incredible battle ensues between them, bringing the temple and the mountain down. The horse, Thirty/Thirty, is ready to go down with it and the rifle (Sarah-Jane), but Bravestarr rushes him out, saving his life. They forge a lasting relationship at that point, but Bravestarr returns to Starr Peak to tell Shaman he was unable to acquire “the weapon” from Thirty/Thirty, at which point Shaman tells him he wasn’t sent to gain “a toy”, rather to get the even greater power of friendship. It always has me tearful as I think too often we allow ourselves to be cynical and enjoy bad guys and bad behaviour, whereas as being good makes you feel good.

There’s a further assembling of the forces of good, as the Prairie People, often derided as critters, become a regular part of the growing Fort Kerium, and J.B. gets her own powers and weaponry to fight back against the outlaws. Bravestarr sends Tex packing, but Tex forms an even bigger gang, backed by Stampede, which leads to the final fight with Shaman giving Bravestarr his powers to fight Tex and Stampede, crushing Tex’s foot as he tries to stamp on him and piercing Stampede’s chest with the magic spear, seemingly destroying him, but as we know the series is following it’s only for now.

Filmation gets knocked for using stock animation and being very economic with their production assets, to the extent that owner Lou Scheimer voices half of the characters, but they were very smart with what they had. There’s a fantastic use of lighting for effect. An obvious Western influence is used for timing of scenes with corresponding music to create tension. They’re able to imply an epic scale through a mixture of angles and close-ups. It doesn’t feel like a mini-series edited into a movie because it isn’t. It’s a film that plays as an origin story but could also act as a finale, with room to continue in either case.

When you say Filmation, you have to think of He-Man first, because it was the most successful show they ever produced, but Bravestarr is the best show they ever produced, and of course it was their last show too. I’ll be looking at something later that links to that, but it’s a shame Filmation didn’t get to produce a proper sendoff film for He-Man with the scale and grandeur that Bravestarr got. I don’t deny Bravestarr being the one to get it, because it’s awesome, but just as we get the scene with Bravestarr giving J.B. a kiss, which seems to end abruptly before J.B. pulls him back in for a proper one, leg lifted, imagine if we got the payoff of the tension between He-Man and Teela in the same way.

Fantastic film, denied the success it deserved, and absolutely worth a watch.