Blu-ray Review: The Last Starfighter | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 23rd, 2020  

The Last Starfighter

Studio: Arrow Video

Nov 10, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is an ambitious teen from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s desperate to escape the dusty trailer park he calls home, but also afraid to leave the only life he’s ever known, and the literal girl-next-door (Catherine Mary Stewart) whom he loves. His primary mode of escapism is the park’s lone arcade game, called Starfighter. When he bests the game’s high score, he’s whisked away to an alien planet by a fast-talking con man (The Music Man’s Robert Preston, in a bit of perfect casting) where he’s put in the cockpit of a real starfighter with a suicidal lizard-man, and tasked with saving the universe.

A family-friendly, sci-fi take on the Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone—with an arcade game cleverly taking the place of Excalibur—The Last Starfighter (1984) is one of those great, escapist adventure films that so many kids saw on video and have a soft spot for to this day. Thanks to Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray edition and its squeaky-clean 4K restoration, we know that the movie holds up to our childhood memories.

Part of the reason The Last Starfighter works so well is its dual story, as the action doesn’t completely leave Earth behind as soon as Alex does. While most movies probably would have focused on space combat and such, this one cuts between Alex’s induction into the starship fleet and the foibles of the robot doppelganger left on Earth in his place, trying to adapt to the life of an American teenager (while baffling Alex’s girlfriend and kid brother in the meantime.) This provides the movie with a lot of extra comedy—and, to be honest, is probably more memorable to viewers who haven’t seen the movie in decades than the space stuff.

The Last Starfighter was quite cutting-edge in its use of computer-generated images, with all of the ships and planets being generated graphics. (Obviously these scenes look incredibly dated now, but they don’t break the illusion—which is a success.) One of the primary extra features is an archival documentary with technical crew who designed those scenes, and were tasked with writing the software that generated the images at the same time they were up against deadlines to finish the movie. It’s worth watching to see how far we’ve come in 35 years, and to gawk at photos of the monster-sized computer they used to pull off the movie’s futuristic scenes. Other bonus features include all-new interviews with co-star Catherine Mary Stewart, screenwriter Jonathan Betuel, SFX supervisor Kevin Pike, composer Craig Safan, and arcade game collector/designer Estil Vance, who programmed his own recreation of the cabinet featured in the movie. Alongside three commentaries, an assortment of image galleries and promos, and other archival materials, and this is a great set for and Starfighter fan.



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