October 17, 2015

Vytor: The Starfire Champion, Final Thoughts and the Film Cut


Okay, dear readers, I'm going to give you a choice when it comes to my final thoughts on Vytor: The Starfire Champion. Short version or long version.

Short version:

This show blows.

Long version:

This show blows. Make no mistake, it's pretty to look at, with fluid, beautifully rendered animation, and that damned theme song is an earworm. But aside from that and a few random moments here and there, I can't think of a single positive thing to say about it.

The voice acting varies between mediocre and dreadful, but I don't know that Olivier could've done anything with those awful, awful scripts and their turgid dialog. The characters themselves more or less fit the classic archetypes, but I don't think in our nearly five years here that we've ever come across a hero more vapid nor a villain more inert. It's not that Vytor has a bad personality, he has no personality. He's like a block of wood dressed up like the bassist for Winger. As for Myzor, he certainly looks the part of an animated 80s baddie, with his big muscles and hideous face, but dude has some serious issues with procrastination. He talks a lot of shit, but then he typically just sits there in his lair watching Vytor and company run circles around his henchman. Can you imagine if this guy had been matched up against a competent hero? He-Man would've had him locked up in the dungeons beneath Castle Grayskull by the first commercial break.

The supporting characters don't fare much better. I mentioned in our first review that I felt Skyla had the most potential, but she never grew and was quickly shoved off the side. Vytor's fellow Terrons made him look like Mr. Personality, and none of Myzor's toadies moved the needle very much. Only Pyra, Myzor's daughter, showed any real potential. Naturally, she wasn't introduced until the fourth and final episode.

Details are tough to come by, but it seems Vytor: The Starfire Champion never aired in a traditional sense, so I suppose it's tough to fail when you don't even get a shot. But even if it had gotten a chance, there's just nothing in this flat, generic pastiche of much better shows that would've hooked kids. I'm sad to say that it deserves its obscurity.

Wait, you mean they edited and rejiggered Vytor into a movie? And we have to watch and review it? Ugh! This is like one of those times when you flush the toilet and think you're done and then a single turd comes floating back up to the surface.

I feared all we were going to get here were the four episodes simply edited together, but thankfully that wasn't the case. Yeah, the story still flows in the same basic chronological order, but there are trims (Thank God!), along with a bookended prologue/epilog by the spirit lady thing (I don't remember her name, don't care enough to look it up) as well as some dialog inserts by the characters referencing her additional info. Truthfully, all the prologue does is take info we eventually learn and put it at the beginning, but it does surprisingly make it feel more like a feature. Oh, and there are several new voice actors, but we'll get to that in a minute.

My aversion to all things Vytor aside, I was surprised by how much better those first two episodes played spliced together with their various trims. Everything flowed rather organically, feeling like one continuous story. We're not talking a complete one eighty in terms of quality or generic entertainment value, but it's an improvement. But then the trouble began.

The third episode, focusing on the Spirit Tree, seemed like such a sidetrack to me going in that I was convinced they were going to eliminate it altogether. Unfortunately, I was wrong. If we'd watched the movie first, this would've been the moment where Noel and I collectively went "WTF?". Everything comes screeching to a halt, and though it appears to be the most heavily edited of the episodes, it still feels like an awkward and unnecessary deviation. If you've read our review of the fourth episode, you can only imagine what a strange capper it would make to a movie seemingly meant to be one complete story. Pat Benatar - or whatever the Hell her name is, I don't care at this point - has been prophesized as one of the three chosen - whatever they are, I don't care - and thus her introduction is in a totally different context in the movie. The end of the movie, just as the end of the final episode, has Pat Benatar going off with the Trashers without revealing her true identity to Vytor and Skyla. We then get a rushed addendum by the spirit lady telling us that the three chosen ones eventually fulfilled their destinies everything was all sunshine and rainbows forever and ever. Again, if you imagine watching the movie first, you'd probably have been left staring blankly at the screen for several minutes afterward. If you're going to re-record the dialog anyway (more on that in a sec, I swear) then why not tweak the story so that Pat Benatar tells Vytor who she is and why she's going off with the Trashers? At least then there's some completion to this opening arc. But as it stands, the ending isn't an ending, and it feels jarring.

Now, the newly recorded voice tracks. The new inserts aside, I don't know for sure how much of the dialog is changed from the series, but I do know many of the voice actors change, or seem to. Myzor for sure isn't Peter Cullen this time, and whoever it is, well, he's no Peter Cullen. Skyla's lines have definitely been re-recorded, but it sounds more or less like the same actress, this time making Skyla sound a bit less like a Valley Girl. Vytor for sure is a different actor. That or the original actor radically changed his voice for the movie. Either way, it's not an improvement.

Lastly, I should make special mention of the movie's theme song. The damn theme song of the TV show was what got us here in the first place. When Noel was making his suggestions for this mini-Showcase, I chose Vytor based solely on it's catchy theme. Unfortunately, it's replaced in the movie by what sounds like a spoof of a Stan Bush song. Not one of the upbeat "You can overcome anything if you believe and use lots of Aquanet!" songs, but a slower, earnest, near-ballad, crooned with a croaking sincerity by a guy who sounds like he's pinching a loaf the size of a toaster. It's equal parts dreadful and amazing.

The bottom line is that Vytor: The Starfire Champion blows. It blows as a series and it blows as a movie. If, for some self-hating reason, you've actually purchased this abomination and have been watching along, I suppose you might as well complete the circle and watch the movie. Just make sure you don't allow yourself to hope that less is more.


I don't dislike Vytor. It's generic. It's bland. It's wobbly. It doesn't feel like anyone going in had a particularly clear idea of what they wanted to do with it beyond the typical tropes. But it's not terrible. Of the four episodes, I enjoyed half, and neither of the remaining two were insufferable. I enjoyed the whole of it more than I did, say, Pole Position, or Sectaurs, or Robotix. The designs are nice, the animation's okay with some moments that are especially good, the voice acting is good, the music is good whenever lyrics aren't involved. There's nothing particularly wrong with the show.

Why does it still not warrant a recommend? Because it's flat. There's literally nothing here you haven't seen before in countless other shows. The plot is a typical Joseph Campbell boiler plate, with all the wrote factors of destiny and a young hero and the people along his path. It's nothing new. The world building is interesting, but check out the four action toons produced by Gaumont in the 90s (Highlander, Dragon Flyz, Sky Dancers, The Magician) for very similar ideas and aesthetics which are much more entertainingly and absorbingly executed. Vytor himself is so cookie cutter as to never register with me. I love Skyla and Pyra, and a teamup show following those two would have been fantastic, but by focusing it all on Vytor, it's the thud of dropping a brick on a brick floor. It's just not interesting. Even his weapons, while fun, aren't that particularly cool looking, and all the focus on prances and tumbles makes the fight choreography more amusing than exciting.

You potentially have an interesting villain in Myzor. Part of a trinity of kingdoms, when he decided to take it all for himself, he destroyed one and drove the other into hiding. Even as he quests for ultimate power, he keeps his daughter sheltered from the realities of how he's ruined the world and paints everyone who's trying to stop him as enemies of enlightenment. This is interesting stuff, but most of it only comes in during the final episode when it's too little, too late. For the most part, he's just sitting there on his throne, shouting at monitors, just like Lord Dread back in Captain Power. This could work if his henchmen were compelling, but all we get are the bumbling Battle Droids Mutoids, and Dreadlock. Dreadlock is fine, but he has no story and retreats so often he's no real threat.

I'm not sure how they felt this was going to sustain itself as a series. Yeah, you could continue Vytor journeying off to a different part of the world each week, making new enemies and allies along the way, but there's only so far you can stretch this before it becomes wrote. The main cast is too thin to carry the series for very long, with Skyla getting nothing much to do aside from tech support most of the time. Pyra would be great to explore, but they confusingly had her run off instead of join the cast. At least they didn't bring Baboose along on their journeys. I just don't get what they thought they had here.

If this were a movie, no problem. Most of the staff already pulled of a similar type of work in Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (which I really dig, though I have several friends who question me on this). All the pieces are there for a fun, if typical, adventure that could be constructed into a one-off story. I'm guessing they realized this, hence the film cut. That said, I don't understand how they expect to make the episodes they actually produced work as a film cut. As I've pointed out in previous posts, this is not a miniseries like you'd typical get for a toon of the time, where said multi-part pilot was designed to then be spliced together for a VHS release. No, what we have here is a single episode pilot followed by three additional standalone episodes. How can this become a film without having to go back and redo large sections? Working the editing over in my brain, I could see breaking each episodes into pieces, putting a lot of the quest setups in the first half and the resolutions in the second half, as Vytor follows this chain of situations leading him away from Terron before using their conclusions to loop him back home, and sticking his capture and first encounter with Pyra in the middle, but this still leaves the story without an ending. Do you end it on the fight to defend his homeland from "Spirit Tree", or the battle to drive invaders out of "Aerion"? We have zero actual confrontation with Myzor to focus a climax on, and no major ones with Dreadlock, so regardless of how you cut this, it's going to be anticlimactic.

I've held off on watching the film cut until I could get all these thoughts down, so let me pause here while I go ahead and throw that on. As I'm going through...

  • The opening theme is heavily altered. Different music. Different lyrics. Different singer. It's not very good. Sounds like Stan Bush under anesthesia for dental surgery.
  • Actually, sounds like ALL of the music has been redone. Different sounds. Different voice actors. Looks like they threw out and redid the audio entirely. I'm not enjoying this cast as much. The performances are more awkward, more forced. Vytor especially sounds like Edward Furlong. And cutting out Peter Cullen is never a way to make something better.
  • Almost all of the dialogue has been rewritten. Mostly just tweaks and rewordings, but there's a few big alterations.
  • Lots of little edits, tightening scenes, reshuffling some shots. Like the dialogue, it's not really changing much and feels a bit arbitrary at times.
  • Opens with a new narration by Lyria and a monologue by Myzor, clearly laying out the history of what's happened and where we're starting the story.
  • There's a few bits throughout that still have the title logo bumper appear during a commercial break cliffhanger. What the hell.

"The Starfire Legacy"
  • The prophecy has been changed from just being about Vytor to being about "the offspring of three kings", bringing Skyla and Pyra into it.
  • The entire sequence of Skyla and Vytor being attacked by the tentacle monster, while still present in the title sequence montage, has been cut.
  • Baboose is now just Baboo.

  • The first few minutes have been cut, with Eldor and the attack of the spider droids. There's no droid attaching a tracking device to Windchaser, none of it being found by King Altair. The dialogue has been altered so that Myzor tracked the Starfire Ring itself. However, they still have the gag of Vytor planting the tracker on Dreadlock's vehicle with no explanation of where the tracker came from.

"The Spirit Tree"
  • They fade straight to this from Vytor leaving Aerion, with a voiceover where he's glad he made it home in time for the ceremony.
  • There's none of Targil showing off his boomerang skills, just going straight to Vytor's screwup with the trimerang.
  • Queen Claudia is now Queen Ragnar and her son is named Rocky.
  • Cuts the scene of Skyla hacking into the intercom to mess with Dreadlock and the Mutoids.
  • Cuts out Vytor's glider being launched from the giant crossbow and him retrieving the Spirit Seed. He just has it when he gets home.

  • As Vytor is pacing around in the opening, he's trying to figure out a way to find Myzor's daughter. How does he know about her? When he's captured, Dreadlock laughs, "Be careful what you wish for!"
  • A couple of the Trashers have accents, but most don't and none are Aussies.
  • The lead Trasher nicknames Pyra "Wrangler" instead of "Dazzler".

They don't change a thing about the ending - Pyra still goes off with the Trashers - just going from the shot of Myzor mourning the loss of his daughter to another Lyria voiceover about how, over time, he also lost his empire as the three kingdoms reunited and overthrew him. And there's not one, but TWO credit sequences. A brief one for all the new film crew, then the one from the tv series, again with the theme song completely redone by Doped Stan.

This was a confusing letdown. There's zero attempt to re-arrange the story into some form of a single narrative, which would admittedly be tricky, but not impossible. None of the cuts make any sense, as they don't alter or tighten the story in any specific way. All they seem to do is bring the running time down by 20 minutes, which would probably hurt the "film" more than help as there's more limits to where you can play a 67 minute feature as opposed to 85-88. Ending it the way they do is absolute bull. Having the series close on that open note was frustrating, but understandable. Having a film go out like that is absolutely infuriating. Worst of all, by swapping out all the music and voice acting with much weaker material, they just made the entire thing feel cheaper and sloppier.

I don't think the series is a failure. It's far from great, but I don't regret having watched it, and there are some nice moments. The film cut, though, that's garbage. They took something that's already broken and didn't fix a damn thing, just ruining it all the more. It's no wonder it didn't sell.

And that's the ultimate sign of where this series stands: it didn't sell. As far as I've been able to find, it never actually aired on television, at least not Stateside. The film played at a few festivals, but was never released in any wide format. Neither cut was ever released on VHS. The DVD seems to be the first and only time this project has become commercially available. Kudos to World Event for dusting it out of their archives and putting it out there. Sure, the master tapes could have been cleaned up a little, and there's no excuse for the long stretches of black which haven't been removed from the commercial breaks, but I'm still glad they've released it with some handsome packaging and a few bonus features. You can tell a lot of people at World Events still have some fondness for this thing they worked on back in the day.

I've mentioned it a few times, but seriously, if you want to see a more cohesive and entertaining animated adventure film with a similar look and feel, absolutely check out Starchaser: The Legend of Orin. Sure, it also has a bland lead, awkward world-building, and a fairly typical plot, but it has a lot of gusto, a fun supporting cast, an engaging script, and some really nice early blending of 2D and 3D animation.

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