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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.82%
Worth A Look70.91%
Just Average: 5.45%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 1.82%

4 reviews, 31 user ratings

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Last Starfighter, The
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by brianorndorf

"Greetings Starfighter"
4 stars

Perhaps one of the lesser known features from the summer blockbuster class of 1984, “The Last Starfighter” has developed a devoted cult following over the last 25 years. A handsome sci-fi adventure with an enchanting pioneer spirit, “Starfighter” is one of the few successful Spielberg clones, administering the usual routine of aliens and mouth-agape wonder with friendly determination and a perfect, just perfect, game boy screenwriting hook.

Living in an isolated trailer park with his mother and kid brother, Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is looking forward to college, where he can get away from the staleness of his life, trying to coax girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) to join him. Passing time playing a “Starfighter” arcade game, Alex manages to achieve an all-time top score one special night, which brings an intergalactic military recruiter named Centauri (Robert Preston, in his final role) to Earth. Taking Alex to the planet Rylos, Centauri informs the bewildered boy that his gaming skills are needed to protect a peaceful universe from the dastardly plans of the evil Xur (Norman Snow) and the Ko-Dan Armada. At first resistant, Alex soon agrees to join the fight, teamed up with navigator Grig (Dan O’Herlihy) and sent off in his very own “Gunstar” ship to save the universe.

Shoved into a marketplace populated with the likes of “Gremlins,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” and “Ghostbusters,” it’s no wonder “Starfighter” failed to rack up sizable numbers at the box office. Here was a mellow sci-fi extravaganza that resembled a Saturday morning cartoon, preserving a sappy coming-of-age atmosphere. It didn’t stand a chance against the razor-wire competition.

That gentle accessibility is what makes “Starfighter” the charmer it is. Unapologetically crunching Spielberg pills, director Nick Castle aims to create an epic journey-of-the-hero arc for Alex, using broad strokes from screenwriter Jonathan R. Betuel to pick the audience up in one big swoop of faraway dreams and interstellar combat. What separates “Starfighter” from hundreds of similar space operas is its commitment to character. Castle doesn’t hurry the film in the least, lingering on Alex as he processes his dead-end life and slowly fading opportunities for the future. Of course, this does keep the film from a roller coaster tone of blasting lasers and kooky creatures, but the care pays off by the finale, offering an authentic emotional jolt that Castle nurtures with unexpected panache, assisted by Craig Safan’s wonderfully jubilant score.

While holding tight to compassionate characterizations, “Starfighter” eventually does journey beyond the stars, though it takes nearly an hour to get Alex into a Gunstar -- an eternity in today’s industry. Here, Castle prizes the formation of cartoon villainy with Xur, but his heart remains with Centauri and Grig, played with divine old-Hollywood pluck by Preston and O’Herlihy. These guys are the impish personality of the piece, since Guest is only allowed to portray resentment and astonishment (and does it well). The pros steal the film. I especially enjoyed the interaction between Grig and Alex as they march into battle, soon becoming the galaxy’s only hope, armed with cleverness, courage, and this curious endgame weapon known as the “Death Blossom.”

Castle encounters “‘Rocketeer’ Syndrome” with the intergalactic material of “Starfighter,” spending too much time setting up the conflict and not enough paying it off. Alex only receives a few choice moments in the Gunstar, with a promise made at the end to continue the adventure in future sequels. That promise was not kept, and while endearingly patient, “Starfighter” could’ve used some more starfightin’ to fill the senses.

Of course, no discussion of “Starfighter” is complete without mentioning the special effects. Employing a groundbreaking use of CGI to create the fantastical fringes, machinery, and communities of the film, “Starfighter” immediatley scores nostalgia points with its buffet of rudimentary effects; certainly stiff, but smooth, ambitious work that provides “Starfighter” with an intriguing visual identity and Hollywood history appeal. It seems silly to knock the picture today for its yesteryear design, especially when “Starfighter” was working so diligently to push the envelope back in 1984. Sure, younger audiences might stare at the movie in complete disbelief, but I think those who appreciate the birth of an industry movement can still enjoy the effects for what they were mean to do at the time: amaze and baffle. Mission accomplished.

The only element missing from “Starfighter” is a true concentration on Alex’s adventures on Rylos and inside the Gunstar. A subplot with Alex’s robotic surrogate Beta (sent to fill in for the hero while he battles beyond the stars) is intended to bring some levity to the film, but it only provides an unwanted, unfunny distraction. Still, while muted to a certain extent and consciously family friendly, the feature is dependable ‘80’s escapism. Bighearted and unhurried, it doesn’t kick down doors, but “The Last Starfighter” makes for a pleasant 100 minutes that should’ve rightfully gone on to a few explosive sequels.

And always remember, may the luck of the Seven Pillars of Gulu be with you at all times.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2565&reviewer=404
originally posted: 08/14/09 08:46:23
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User Comments

9/19/12 Mike Miller rewatched this awhile back fun flick from the 80s 4 stars
12/09/10 PookyP A blast from my youth. almost Shakespeare. seen it 20 times 5 stars
12/10/09 joe it was an overall good movie. it was kinda too star tek like but generally good 3 stars
8/26/09 Laurey Martin A little goofy, but I really liked this movie. I even bought it for my kids. 4 stars
5/17/09 Anthony One of the best films of the 80's. I must have seen it 20 times. 5 stars
8/18/08 George Barksdale I have seen this movie 4 or 5 times, loved it 5 stars
8/05/08 L. Slusarczyk A movie thats fun to watch even if you dont want to admit it! 5 stars
8/05/08 E K Zimmerman An all time favorite that will likely be ruined by a remake. 4 stars
12/20/06 ramachandran this movie proves that the 80's was already very high tech, extremely inspiring movie. 5 stars
7/28/06 David Cohen An okay film 3 stars
9/03/05 Quigley what crap! what star wars plaigarism! what a stupid film! OK, i'm done. 1 stars
8/11/05 ES Loved this as a kid, aged now but you can't beat the scene with the death blossum 4 stars
8/09/04 kyotomatt I have loved this movie as a kid, teen, and adult. 5 stars
5/20/04 Don D One of the best. A good fun, feel good movie. 5 stars
7/03/03 snowconehead This happened to me in real life, seriously. 5 stars
5/23/03 y2mckay Fun Popcorn drive-in Sci-Fi made great by Preston and O'herlihy 4 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Good, imaginative fun. Appealing performances by all. 4 stars
10/12/02 Jaime Vasquez simple, efectiva..en fin buena para soñar si tienes 10 años y para recordar si tienes 30 4 stars
10/11/02 Erik Rosenbladt Awesome special effects for its day, still compelling today. 5 stars
9/20/02 Martin McFly This is one of my all time favorite 80s movies. Very much worth the DVD price. 5 stars
8/17/02 Matt Cherry I really like the acting. For the most part it comes across as real and unforced. 5 stars
8/09/02 Destruction Worker Yessiree, LS has got it all. Talking lizard-men and 8-year-olds addicted to pornography. 4 stars
6/30/02 honky harry set your cheese guns to stun 5 stars
6/28/02 Jim Robert Preston's swishy alien steals the movie 4 stars
6/26/02 Charles Tatum Fun, entertaining, and completely harmless 4 stars
4/02/02 Butterbean A goofy, cheesy coattail rider of Star Wars, but it's fun to watch 4 stars
2/23/02 Mark Lloyd Campy, but fun 4 stars
12/07/01 ZandoZan The Last Starfighter is... 4 stars
6/19/01 Dave good music score 4 stars
11/25/00 Jason Great Special Effects 4 stars
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  02-Jul-1984 (PG)



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