Wednesday, July 4, 2018



#8 The Last Starfighter vs. #9 War of the Worlds

PLOT - In "The Last Starfighter", a league of planets is in need of ace starfighter pilots to face an evil empire. Arcade games have been set up on Earth to find potential starfighter candidates. A teenager at a trailer park gets the high score and is whisked off as a recruit. Meanwhile an android clone is left for comic relief and to interact with his girlfriend. There are some bumps in the road, but Alex proves to be an ace pilot without the aid of  "the Force". The plot is inventive in its setup, but pretty clicheish afterwards. It's basically a low rent Star Wars exploitation flick, but still fun. GRADE = C (7)

Spielberg's version strays far from the novel and the original film. It is the story of a father and his son and daughter and their adventures during the alien invasion. Hell of a way to bond with your kids and shed your reputation of being a ne'er do well. It is not so much a war movie as a trek-during-a-war movie. The plot has several big disaster scenes and enhances the horror element of the story. In Spielberg's typical quest for the family friendly ending (literally), the movie is rife with implausibilities and ridiculous human actions. GRADE = C (7)

STRATEGY AND TACTICS - In "The Last Starfighter", the Rylan Star League’s strategy is relying on its "Frontier defensive wall".  A wall in outer space? The enemy manage to sabotage the starfighter base (like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) and then plan to penetrate the wall. Alex is the lone Gunstar that can stop their command ship. The tactic is classic commando raid. GRADE = B (8)

Spielberg's movie does not dwell much on strategy and tactics since it concentrates on the trio of humans. There are no scenes of the President and the military dealing with the crisis. It appears the strategy is suicidal attacks on the tripods based on an atrocious scene where the Army goes straight at the incomparably superior aliens. The soldiers are joined by unarmed civilians! The tactics are simply frontal attacks. As far as the aliens, they are simply destroying and conquering. They don’t need finesse. GRADE = C (7)

WEAPONS - Alex's Gunstar is similar to Luke's X-Wing fighter (surprise!). It has a pilot and a weapons specialist. The armament is lasers, photon bolts, and particle beams. Alex's is equipped with a secret weapon called the Death Blossom which enables it to defeat a host of enemy fighters that are similarly armed. This is necessary because the good guy has to take on the enemy by himself.  GRADE = C (7)

"WOW" is set in present time so the humans have tanks and rockets. Nukes are not used. Christ, if we can't use them against an alien invasion, why have them? They would probably be useless anyway because of the alien force fields. This is a not a fair fight. The aliens have heat rays that disintegrate people. Thank God we are a germy people.  GRADE = C  (7)

SPECIAL EFFECTS - TLS was one of the first movies to make extensive use of CGI which means at the time it was amazing, but today looks dated and cheesy. It looks like a video game looks now. There are 27 minutes of effects in the film which is nice quantity. GRADE = C (7)

Since it is a big budget Spielberg extravaganza, the special effects are amazing. The initial destruction of the city sets the tone for mankind's doom. The alien craft are cutting edge effects. CGI and miniatures were used. The tripods were modeled after jellyfish. The aliens are creepy and not obscure in darkness. GRADE = A (9)

ANALYSIS: The opening match of the tournament is between a Star Wars knockoff and a Spielberg blockbuster. Neither is much of a war movie. TLS does conclude with a battle, but it is really more of a one ship raid. The movie concentrates more on Alex's recruitment and incorporation into the starfighter role and his clone's comic relief dealings with the trailer park denizens. It's a bit of fluff, but it earns good will from its target audience of people wanting a Star Wars type movie to tide them over until the next installment. WOW is on the other end of the spectrum. Being a Spielberg huge budget extravaganza, it has a much higher bar to jump. The movie may have the word "war" in the title, but it is even less of a war movie than TLS. Spielberg made an intimate invasion movie. If Cruise is going to play the rogue daddy role, you can't have him in a spaceship and you can't waster screen time in some other character. Although very popular, the movie requires the audience to disregard numerous stupid elements in the plot. I personally think much of the movie is ridiculous. Although I much prefer TLS, WOW wins the match mainly because of its effects.

WOW = 30
TLS = 29

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