The Last Starfighter is another one of those ‘80s movies few ever mention as their favorite, but you’d be hard-pressed to meet anyone of a certain age who doesn’t have warm, fuzzy memories of seeing it.
As for me, it was 1987 when a bunch of us piled into a car to catch Jaws: The Revenge at the Foster Road Drive-In (yes…I paid to see Jaws: The Revenge). The Last Starfighter was the co-feature, which I never bothered with during its initial run back in ‘84. Despite being touted as one of the first features where most of the visual effects were CGI (before it was even called CGI), the movie looked like little more than another Star Wars rip-off and seemed geared more for kids.
But The Last Starfighter turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. Of course, the story owed a considerable tip-of-the-hat to Star Wars, though the concept of an arcade game used by aliens as a recruiting tool certainly made it timely fantasy fuel (kids were rocking similar games at every mall and 7-Eleven in the country at the time). Alex Rogan (Lance Guest, who coincidentally also starred in Jaws: The Revenge) was a congenial, relatable protagonist, though the best parts belonged to Robert Preston as a fast talking alien huckster, Centauri, and Daniel O’Herlihy as Grig, a dedicated pilot.
|"No, we are not related."
While the special effects weren’t all that convincing even in the ‘80s, they gave it a unique aesthetic, and 40 years later, there still isn’t a movie that looks quite like it. I suppose the quaint visual appeal (perhaps the story itself) will be lost on younger audiences weaned on hyperkinetic action movies and video games. But to paraphrase The Last Starfighter’s biggest inspiration, the nostalgia is strong with this one. Those who first discovered the film at their local theater, drive-in or on VHS will find it a joyous blast from the past.
Arrow Video released The Last Starfighter on Blu-ray just a few years ago, which was apparently a big improvement over an earlier Universal disc. Not having seen either of those versions, I have no basis for comparison. However, it looks really good in 4K, though the format's higher resolution certainly exacerbates the artificiality of the special effects. Three audio options are also available, the most impressive being the DTS-HD 5.1 track. There’s also a large batch of entertaining bonus features, all carried over from the Arrow Blu-ray.
“MAGGIE’S MEMORIES: REVISITING THE LAST STARFIGHTER” - Interview with co-star Catherine Mary Stewart.
“INTO THE STARSCAPE: COMPOSING THE LAST STARFIGHTER” - Interview with composer Craig Safan.
“INCREDIBLE ODDS: WRITING THE LAST STARFIGHTER” - Interview with screenwriter Jonathan Betuel.
“INTERSTELLAR BEAST: CREATING THE SPECIAL EFFECTS” - Interview with Kevin Pike, who was actually in charge of the practical effects, not the touted CGI.
“EXCALIBUR TEST: INSIDE DIGITAL PRODUCTIONS” - A profile about the company that did the computer effects.
“GREETINGS STARFIGHTER! INSIDE THE ARCADE GAME””
3 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By actor Lance Guest & Jackson Guest; 2) By director Nick Castle & production designer Ron Cobb; 3) By Mike White.
2 VINTAGE MAKING-OF FEATURETTES
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET (NOT REVIEWED)
REVERSIBLE COVER (NOT REVIEWED)