When the crew of the ship Palamino discover the long lost vessel U.S.S. Cygnus, they find it crewed entirely by robots except for the dangerously lunatic Dr. Hans Reinhardt. With the objective of plunging them all into a nearby black hole, to see what is on the other side, Reinhardt takes them all captive.
A pretty craven attempt by Disney to cash-in on Star Wars blockbusting success, this lightweight but well-written sci-fi adventure movie is well pitched at the very young. More discerning fans of the genre would do well to smother their indignation at the levels of general plagiarism floating around the deck of the supership Cygnus.
Just fancy it, two battered comedy droids called V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and B.O.B. (voiced with chirpy cowboy dispositions by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens) turn up with a side order in quips and tinpot heroics.
Maximillian Schell is also a good choice to play the obligatory mad genius, quelling the hammy exuberance until the appropriate eleventh hour when he cuts loose with his best Vincent Price on amphetamines. His nefarious scheming, all in the name of science of course, is abetted by the uber evil ‘bot Maximillian (in-joke ahoy) — quite Cylony if you look closely — who commands an army of soldier ‘bots with an uncanny resemblance to Stormtroopers. Never.
The good guys, led by a bland Robert Foster, are a bit long in the tooth for this kind of B-movie nonsense, leaving the film short on youthful zest and sexiness. But Anthony Hopkins does his best brainy oddball routine as the good scientist tempted by the offer of great discovery. He even gets some decent speeches on the ethics of science.
And here’s where the film might confound. Gary Nelson, who manages the special effects with aplomb, gets the idea he might be stoking up a junior 2001. The film becomes confused where it’s at, and where it’s going. Schnell’s gothic rants about meeting God at the end of a dark star are counterpoised with some zappy Disney-style escape thrills led by the intrepid cowbots. And, dash it all, we never get to see what’s on the other side of the hole. George Lucas brandishing a writ?
Disney jumping on the Star Wars wagon back in 1979 produced this fun and fairly well-written space adventure for kids.