Last Starfighter, The
As a kid growing up in the 80’s, I always felt I was well versed in 80’s, kids’ films. Of course, a few titles were bound to slip through the cracks and one such title is LAST STARFIGHTER. Somehow, the kid that managed to find obscure titles like MONSTER SQUAD and CLOAK AND DAGGER never managed to see one of the quintessential kids’ movies of the decade. But like the old saying, “you can never go home”, well…sometimes you can’t revisit movies that you should have viewed when you were 20 years younger.
Before I even get into my thoughts on the film, I want to get one thing crystal clear; the effects in LAST STARFIGHTER are horrible. I’ve read reviews around the net and listened to fans speak highly of the special effects in the film and I don’t understand the positive praise. When I judge special effects, I make it a point to not compare the effects to anything that came after the film, but rather judge the effects on movies that were released before. Logically, special effects should get better with time. So in this case, I compare this film to movies like STAR WARS, ALIEN, 2001, and others. With that in mind, LAST STARFIGHTER is full of boxy, obvious computer animation that is nothing short of distracting. I understand the movie didn’t have the budget of a STAR WARS or ALIEN, but don’t let the memory of the film convince you the effects are even halfway decent.
But if you can look past the bad special effects, there’s actually a decent movie in here. I fear that it’s too dated to be enjoyable to today’s Pixar generation, but the basic message of the film is a positive one. The film centers around Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), who gets recruited into an intergalactic war when he masters an arcade video game on earth. Although reluctant to leave his trailer park and abandon his family, he decides to join the cause and defend the galaxy from an evil tyrant. So the theme is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can be anything you want to be. That’s a great message, especially for our current generation.
And I can’t believe I’m actually suggesting this, but LAST STARFIGHTER is a film that should be remade. It’s a dated film, but the message and basic story structure is even more relevant to today’s kids that spend hours and hours playing video games. This really is every kid’s dream; for some mysterious figure to approach you and tell you that the hours you’ve spent playing Spaced Invaders (is that still around?) was actually a test to see if you can fly a spaceship. It’d be like Bill Parcells asking you to quarterback the Miami Dolphins because you’re great at Madden Football.
But even though those of us that remember the 80’s can appreciate this, I really don’t think anyone else will. It’s a severely dated film that has miserable special effects by any standard, but especially when compared to today’s films.