January 23, 2014

Movie Review: The Last Starfighter

The other night I was scouring my shelves for a comfort movie. Something fun, enjoyable, light, and not depressing. As I searched and searched, and searched some more I came across a Blu-ray that I had not yet watched of a movie I have not seen in a long time. It was also a movie that fit the bill. The movie was none other than 1984's The Last Starfighter. Here is a movie that once filled a kid with joy and a little fright. It was a movie that thrilled a budding movie lover. It was time to see if it held up after all these years.

I fired up the disk and eagerly pressed play. As the adventure played out before me, I was very happy to find that it was still very enjoyable now that I am no longer that eyed little boy. Sure, I did not watch it the same way I did so many years ago, but it still held my attention and I was able to really enjoy watching as our starry-eyed teen was sucked into a war he wanted nothing to do with, but in turn found purpose and friendship.

I am pretty sure that most of you reading this are familiar with the tale of The Last Starfighter, but if you aren't, I really encourage you to find a copy a watch it. Just remember to leave your jaded eye at home. Yes, the movie has aged but it still works and is becoming something of a bygone era, a symbol of a simpler time. It is pretty fascinating to see just how much has changed in the, wow, thirty years that have passed since it was released.

As you can tell, this is not a review so much as it is a reaction to watching a movie after a long time has passed. However, to catch you up, it is the story of Alex Rogan (Lance Guest). He is a kid who has grown up in a trailer park with a single mom and a younger brother. He is something of a handyman around the park, always being called upon to help when things go wrong. With this being the case, he always finds himself on the outside looking in when it comes to the teens his age, never being able to join in the fun. This includes watching his girlfriend, Maggie (Catherine Mary Stuart), head off with the others.

Alex finds little happiness in his life and dreams of getting away and forging a new direction. His only means of escape is the video game at the nearby shop, Starfighter. He spends a lot of his time playing the game, getting better and better until he claims the high score. This is the key of the movie, it turns out the game was no mere game, it is also a test. A man named Centauri (Robert Preston, making his last screen appearance) and spirits young Alex away into deep space. The game was a test to find a great fighter pilot, new recruits to fend off a dangerous armada bent on destruction.

It is a simple story, but it captures the imagination and is certainly fun while still having a sense of danger, like anything could happen. It is a movie that has its eyes open to the wonder it presents, it never gets bogged in Alex's seeming dead end, it keeps looking forward and never lets cynicism in. It is a distinctly 80's movie and it is one to truly enjoy. With that said, it is not without some creepy moments, the one that always got me was Centauri's revelation in the car.

Now, plot aside, it is interesting to see how this has gone from representing a segment of society and become something of time capsule. The tight knit trailer park community, relaying messages to each other by shouting it along, how Alex's record breaking game was an event, the way they looked wistfully to the future. It is different now, there were no cellphones, there was still the idea of the arcade, it is just different. I love it for this. It may never be a favorite movie of mine, but there will always be comfort in it. We don't see movies like this anymore.

An interesting thing to note is that the film was directed by Nick Castle, the first man to play Michael Myers in the original Halloween. Following that film he became an accomplished writer and director, having worked not only on this, but on Escape from New York, Dennis the Menace, Major Payne, Hook, and August Rush. Not bad.

Overall, I really like The Last Starfighter. I like how it still works for me but in a different way. The movie still captures a sense of wonder, but just slightly different, very much like a time capsule.


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