MOVIE REVIEW : 'Lensman' Focuses on Jazzy Effects, Not Plot

"Lensman," a new Japanese animated feature (Westside Pavilion) transforms E. E. (Doc) Smith's popular series of science-fiction novels into a "Star Wars" clone. In some cases, only the characters' names and home planets seem to have been changed: The spunky heroine even sports a raisin-Danish hairdo.

Kimball Kinnison, an eager young pilot from a lonely farming planet, becomes involved in a galaxywide battle between the forces of good and evil when the mysterious lens of a Galactic Patrolman attaches itself to his wrist. What exactly the lens is, what powers it confers and how and why it affixed itself to the farm boy's wrist aren't explained in Soji Yoshikawa's script--at least not in the English adaptation by Carl Macek and Steve Kramer.

Untroubled by these plot points, Kinnison is soon zipping between planets, fighting the evil Boskone with some help from the lizardlike Worsel, pert Nurse Kris and the roaring Von Buskirk, a shaggy, boisterous alien who looks like a Zen painting of the Bodhidharma. Predictably, virtue triumphs after a one-on-one confrontation between Kinnison and Helmuth, the villainous Boskone ruler.

An excellent example of its genre, "Lensman" will delight the growing ranks of Japanese cartoon fans in the United States. The storytelling and character development are minimal by Western standards, but superior to the recent "Akira"; and the film offers the requisite array of jazzy effects, including explosions, ray gun battles, weird-looking aliens, rapid-fire editing and computer-generated imagery.

However, viewers who expect more from a film than a high-tech light show will quickly tire of trying to decipher "Lensman's" muddled storyline.

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