The Last Starfighter Still First-Rate Entertainment for Sci-Fi Fans

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The Last Starfighter on Blu-ray from Arrow

Borrowing heavily from STAR WARS and the arcade game craze (and pre-dating BACK TO THE FUTURE when it comes to that cool DeLorean-inspired ride), THE LAST STARFIGHTER had all the elements of great 1980s science fiction. A teenaged protagonist seemingly stuck in the middle of nowhere and no chance of leaving; a call to be a hero that he rejects and then has thrust upon him; a victory won against insurmountable odds; a girlfriend, a mentor, a family...everything to deserve remembering as one of the great 1980s films.

Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) live with his mom and younger brother in the Starlite Starbrite trailer park, wanting more from life than doing maintenance work for the motley array of quirky neighbors and going to city college with his friends. His two escapes from the world are his girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and an arcade console game sitting on the stoop of a ramshackle general store. He's played Starfighter so frequently that, on one fateful night, he breaks the record on the machine, to the applause of everyone in the park (which shows just how popular the videogame craze of the era was).

Later that night, upon finding out his application to another college had been rejected, Alex meets a stranger in a peculiar vehicle: Centauri (Robert Preston, "The Music Man"), who claims he invented the Starfighter videogame and came to meet the guy who broke the record. It's true that Centauri did invent the game, but what he withholds is that the game was a test -- a recruitment tool to find someone talented enough to pilot a real gunstar, against the real Ko-Dan Empire, led by the real Emperor Xur (Norman Snow). Alex is one of several different recruits, from several different aliens around the galaxy -- and when he finds out what's expected of him, he nopes right out.

This rejection turns out to be a lucky break for Alex. The Ko-Dans have broken through the frontier barrier protecting the Rylans, and their assault wipes out all the starfighters in one fell swoop. And they won't stop until every last starfighter is dead. Which means Alex has to die as well. When Alex learns from the robot duplicate Centauri left in his place that assassins will continue to hunt him down, he reluctantly returns to Rylos with Centauri, only to learn from his would-be pilot, Grig (Dan O'Herlihy, in alien-lizard makeup that would go on to inspire the look of the next year's sci-fi adventure, ENEMY MINE) that he is the last of the starfighters. Together, they hatch out a desperate Hail Mary plan to defeat the Ko-Dan and save what remains of Rylos -- and Earth.

While it has more than a few plot holes, like double-Alex claiming he can't go fight in Alex's place, because his kind aren't allowed to fight, THE LAST STARFIGHTER still delivers that excitement and energy today that it did in 1984. And while it ends up with Alex taking the next step into a bold, ongoing adventure, perhaps the best thing to happen to this movie is the lack of it ever having had a sequel.

This Blu-ray release from Arrow Video is an outstanding production. The 4K scan from the original 35mm negatives and 1080p presentation makes the movie pop right off the screen, even if it does make the pioneering CGI work a bit obvious (embarrassing only when an enemy craft crashes into a moon, and they're about the same size upon impact). We also get some unique bonus interviews with Mary Catherine Stewart, and a pretty cool spotlight on the Starfighter videogame that was developed after the movie by a hardcore collector and programmer.

Physically, this release also includes some terrific goodies, which include a 40-page booklet on the making of the film, and a folded, two-sided reproduction of the movie posters (a different one on either side). And speaking of double-sided, the very case cover is reversible, so that the owner can choose which front-facing image they prefer.

This Blu-ray release is highly recommended for action, adventure, imagination, and nostalgia.

 

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0