Monday, July 15, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- The Last Starfighter

Today we have the 1984 film The Last Starfighter. It was released the same year as The Terminator, and although not as popular, it has garnered a strong following over the years.

The story begins at a trailer park in the American southwest. Alex Rogan (Lace Guest) longs to escape his mundane existence, and he sees a college scholarship as his ticket out. Unfortunately, his hopes are dashed when he receives a rejection letter from the university he had them pinned on. All is not lost, however! Earlier in the evening he beat the high score on Starfighter, the arcade game at the trailer park, getting the residents weirdly excited (I seriously think that was the best thing to happen to them all year up to that point). Alex soon gets a visit from a mysterious yet charismatic man in an even stranger car. The man identifies himself as Centauri (Robert Preston), the creator of Starfighter. He invites Alex to go for a ride with him. Alex accepts and gets into the car with a total stranger, evidently deciding that after the rejection letter, he was screwed anyway. To his utter shock, the car picks up seemingly impossible speed and blasts off into space. Centauri explains that Starfighter is a test to find the best pilots in the galaxy, and Alex Rogan is the best candidate he's ever seen. Meanwhile, the hopelessly awkward Beta Unit (also Lance Guest) is left behind in Alex's place back at the trailer park, where he wastes little time getting himself into trouble with Alex's love interest Maggie (Catherine Mary Sewart) due to his ignorance of human culture.

Anyway, Centauri takes Alex to the Starfighter base where the latter is told he's been accepted as a pilot to defeat Xur (Norman Snow) and the Kodan Armada, just like in the game. Realizing he's being asked to risk his life for a cause he doesn't believe in, he refuses. Unfortunately, he discovers Xur has sent assassins after him to the trailer park. Furthermore, if the Kodan Armada is not stopped, they will surely attack Earth. Seeing no other option, Alex agrees to become a fighter pilot to protect those he cares about. With the lizard Grig (Dan O'Herilhy) as his co-pilot, Alex mans the guns of their starfighter and heads off to face the enemy.

The Last Starfighter had impressive visuals when it debuted in 1984, and in my opinion it has stood the test of time; it looks and sounds particularly good on Blu-ray . The story of love and finding your place in the world (or galaxy) is one we can all relate to. The movie also has compelling characters (although Xur is a disappointing villain). From Centauri's commanding personality to Grig's deadpan humor to Maggie's girl-next-door appeal, the characters keep you engaged throughout. I think this film can be effectively summed up as down-to-earth version of Star Wars, although I honestly prefer this over George Lucas's epic series--especially the prequels.

You can pick up The Last Starfighter dirt cheap on Amazon, and I strongly recommend doing so.

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