Starring: Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Dan O’Herlihy, Catherine Mary Stewart
Directed by: Nick Castle
Written By: Jonathan R. Betuel
Rating: PG (US) Running Time: 1 hr 41 min
Before personal computers and consoles became the primary tool for gamers, the best gaming experience was found at the arcade. Six foot tall brightly decorated boxes showcasing the latest games technology – ready to repeatedly take your 25 cent contribution in exchange for a few minutes of high quality pixelated action. The Last Starfighter begins here. With Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), a resident of the small isolated trailer park called Starlite, Starbrite. A day dreamer with big plans, and luckily for him, some ability with the only arcade game in the park.
But you see, it’s not a game. It’s a test! A test which Alex passes and before you know it, he’s whisked away to another planet and recruited into the Star League. Just as they are about to fly into battle against the evil emperor Xur (‘zur’). I ask you – who hasn’t secretly wished this would happen to them?
It’s all fun childish stuff this. Flawed, but incredibly charming. The effects have mostly stood the test of time, especially the space battle sections. Lance Guest is perfect as the reluctant hero, and Dan O’Herlihy is superb as Grig, his alien co-pilot. The only problem I have with The Last Starfighter is with how the film splits into two separate story’s in the second act. The first, and most entertaining follows Alex into space. The second stays on Earth with a beta unit (android designed to look like Alex). The second story just isn’t really necessary or that entertaining, and it cuts into the time we could be spending with Alex and Grig as they take on the Xur fleet! What would you rather see? An android being weirded out by Alex’s girlfriend, or epic space battles. I rest my case.
This is a silly space adventure film, and not to be taken seriously. Sure some of the visuals and makeup effects have aged a little. But if you’re willing to look past that, there’s still a lot to enjoy here.
The visual effects were about the best you could get at the time. If your local theater was showing this I’d suggest you take a nice nostalgic trip down memory lane and attend that screening. At home, an inexpensive blu-ray version of the film is now available.
All the battle scenes still look great, and the score by Craig Safan is the perfect soundtrack for this epic space adventure film.