The Last Starfighter
The Last Starfighter: Directed by Nick Castle. With Kay E. Kuter, Dan Mason, Lance Guest, Dan O’Herlihy. High schooler Alex Rogan conquers the Starfighter video game, only to find out it was just a test, and is transported to another planet. He has been recruited to join a team of the best starfighters to defend their world from the attack.
Recently released by Arrow Video in 4k / HDR and originally released in 1984 this film still holds up by ever measure that I could apply to it. The music is still unique and interesting, the plot is captivating, and the special effects are obviously from the beginning of the CGI era, but they still look great.
The basic story is that a young man in a trailer park so far away from civilization that there’s no light pollution from city lights gets good enough at a video game that an alien organization takes note and recruits him to be a Starfighter. There’s a bunch of trailer park shenanigans, including a 80’s era trope of a young kid looking at playboy magazines, but for the most part this is a timeless movie that’s going to hold it’s appeal for a long time. I remember as a kid myself being freaked out by the clone’s freaky face, the laser drilling into the spy’s head, and being moved by the “victory or death” chant.
It’s definitely a kid safe concept, but there’s a whole bunch of un-kid safe stuff like the playboy and brain laser thing.
I get some very strong Wing Commander vibes from most of the in space stuff, not sure if WC did that intentionally or if they were both in the same genre. It wasn’t until the end of the film that we get a good sense of just how large the GUNSTAR really is. 10 stories? it’s huge!
The disk comes with some pretty cool special features:
interview with Catherine Mary Stewart, the main female character
interview with composer Craig Safan: intention to stay away from star wars music sounds
interview with writer Jonathan Betuel: struggle to stay away from star wars concepts, “bigger’s not better, emotional works every time”
interview with special effects supervisor Kevin Pike
interview with sci-fi author Greg bear about CGI production: he has a emotionally gushing explanation of the computer generated graphics and the company that made them “Digital Productions”
interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance on reconstructing the Starfighter game, which never actually came out.