(1984)

He didn't find his dreams... his dreams found him.

A video game expert Alex Rogan finds himself transported to another planet after conquering The Last Starfighter video game only to find out it was just a test. He was recruited to join the team of best Starfighters to defend their world from the attack.

You have been recruited by The Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.
The Last Starfighter is directed by Nick Castle and written by Jonathan R. Betuel. It stars Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Catherine Mary Stewart, Dan O'Herlihy and Norman Snow. Music is by Craig Safan and cinematography by King Baggot. Story sees Guest as Alex Rogan, an everyday teenage boy who upon breaking the high-score record on a trailer park arcade game, suddenly finds himself recruited by an alien defence unit to fight an evil army out in space.
The advancements of computers and all their devilish electronic off shoots have rendered many of the pioneering effects films of yesteryear as rudimentary antiques. Where once films like "Tron" and "The Last Starfighter" blazed the trail that many would follow over the years, now they seem, if you believe the multitude of new era reviews for them, to hold only nostalgia value to video game players who were still at school in the early 1980's. That's something of a disservice, for although they do indeed rely in the main on effects work and razz dazzle 80's credibility, the stories are enjoyably fantastical and not without thought and merit.
The Last Starfighter is one of the better ones because it manages to be both an exciting and sweet picture, one that is completely disarming. Certainly it marries Spielberg homespun values with George Lucas operatics, but in the form of its teen protagonist it also dots the fantasy canvas with angsty worth. So much so that now when one revisits the film with older eyes, we can appreciate more fully that young Alex is in a rut, the crossroads of his life, a life he's struggling to make sense of. Also more appreciation can now be made of the relationship Alex has with Grig (O'Herlihy), his flight navigator up in the galaxy, someone whom he calls a Gung-Ho iguana! This relationship is nicely drawn, here is where Alex finds not only his friend, but also his father figure, something he doesn't have the privilege of down on Earth.
Whilst up there fighting an intergalactic battle, Alex on Earth has been replaced by a Replicant Beta Model to ensure he is not missed. Here is where much of the film's fun is gleaned from. Interesting to note that originally this arc in the film wasn't to be that huge, but test screenings encouraged director Castle into a rethink. And the film is the better for it as the Beta tries to keep the flame going with the girlfriend (Stewart adorable girl next door type) and ensure he's not found out by any Ko-Dan spies! Here Guest earns his corn, it's a very good duel performance from the youngster and it's a shame his career never really took off post the film's release.
However, none of this means the film is full of depth, it still remains a very simple story full of fantastical incredulity. But the underlying message of improving oneself, not settling for second best, is rich and puts some potency in the narrative. Still, it's safe to say that most tuning into The Last Starfighter want whizz bang space adventure frolics, which thankfully we do get. The effects are of course variable, though not as cheap looking in High Definition as one expected, while the action is nicely constructed by Castle and his team. The villains led by a Po-faced Norman Snow make their mark, while Robert Preston, a legend to Western and film noir fans in the 40's and 50's, gives a wonderfully sweet and affecting turn as Centauri, the game inventor who whisks Alex away to the planet Rylos for his life changing challenge.
More than just a film for nostalgists and gamer types, Last Starfighter is pretty solid entertainment from its core to the outer layers. 7/10

Universal Pictures, Lorimar Film Entertainment by Nick Castle, Jonathan R. Betuel.
Stars: Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Kay E. Kuter.

Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Keywords: flying car android trailer park laser gun shapeshifting space marine fighter pilot games alien 1980s arcade game universal translator

07/13/1984

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