Wednesday, January 2, 2019

SCI-FI WAR MOVIE: The Last Starfighter

                “The Last Starfighter” is a beloved sci-fi movie from 1984.  It was directed by Nick Castle and written by Jonathan Beutel.  Beutel got the idea when he saw a boy playing a video arcade game and associated it with the King Arthur sword in the stone story.  The movie was the first feature film to use CGI instead of models.  The movie had an amazing 27 minutes of effects. 

                Alex (Lance Guest) is a whiz at a video arcade game called Starfighter.  He lives in a trailer park.  One day an alien named Centauri (Robert Preston in his last film role) arrives and takes Alex to his planet.  His high score in the game has made him a prime recruit to pilot a real starfighter to help defeat the evil Ko-Dan who are threatening the benevolent Star League.  While Alex goes through training, he is replaced by the clone Beta Alex for comic relief.  Beta Alex has to interact with Alex’s girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) with humorous effect. (Additional scenes involving Beta Alex were added because of positive test audience responses.)  Meanwhile, Alex and his navigator Grig (Dan O’Herlihy) must single-handedly duel with the entire enemy armada.

                “The Last Starfighter” is a charming bit of fluff.  The premise is very creative, but the rest is standard sci-fi fare aimed at 14-yearold boys.  What stood out is the state of the art visuals and it is nostalgic to watch the movie today.  However, the effects seem cheesy now.  It’s like you are watching a video game.  The plot is full of clichés.  The reluctant warrior.  The evil villain.  A fight against all odds.  The con-man mentor.  The woe is us destruction of the base.  The screenplay plagiarizes a bit from “Star Wars”, but that is not surprising.  It many ways it is a low rent “Star Wars” knockoff.  Unfortunately, that tells you the acting is average, with the exception of Preston.  The dialogue is not campy enough.  And the movie is just not that suspenseful.  The happy ending is to be expected, but Alex’s victory is guarantee because he has the “Death Blossom”.   Seriously, how can you lose with a weapon with that name?

                As far as it being a war movie, the strategy and tactics are actually fine.  The bad guys launch a surprise attack a la Pearl Harbor.  The invasion is defeated by taking out the command ship, which is typical in sci-fi war movies.  There is a special weapon, although everything else is standard.  The enemy has nothing scary.

                If you are a nerdy gamer, this is the movie for you.  Not only does Alex’s gaming skills give him a chance to save the Universe, but he has a hot girlfriend. 


1 comment:

  1. I agree with you - I consider this the first of the "feels like watching someone else play a video game" genre of movies, not just in special effects, but also as to the plot. Others might argue that TRON precedes it but TRON is more of an adventure story in which video game sequences happen from time to time.

    For what it is, though, it is well made. The special effects are good for the time and the film moves along quickly, as a film of this type really ought to do. I was entertained, even if the underlying premise of the film does not make complete sense.


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