Picked by popular vote through my facebook and Google + feeds. It was up against some other classic movies, some of which would be very easy to mock and tear apart in a review. Instead a few folks voiced the opinion that they wanted me to do a review on one they remember as being a generally good movie. Instead of feeding me an easy review they gave me one that would actually take some effort. This made me rather happy. So now lets gone on with it.
Considered by many to be one of the classic science fiction/science fantasy movies The Last Starfighter still holds a special spot in my memory from watching when I was young. Back then I marveled at the cutting edge special effects that were done using a computer instead of models and sets. The story was one of a typical teenager getting a chance to save the world and live his dreams. I sat down to watch this movie again after many years with the hope that it still lived up to some of my good memories.
First off we'll discuss the special effects. This is one of the first movies (if not the first) to use a computer to generate a good portion of the effects in the movie. It was 1984 and they used the current state of the art Cray X-MP computer to do this. What they accomplished is astonishing for the times, hell if you ask me a lot of it looks better than some of the stuff the SyFy channel vomits forth on a regular basis. There is still the feeling of a video game when watching it but maybe that was done on purpose seeing the connection with the video game 'test' done in the story.
Other affects such as the various aliens, sets and a few props also fair pretty good. The sets being one of the weaker parts of it all. A few props are kinda obvious as well, the digital board out of an old wristwatch for the language chip for instance. The makeup jobs are done rather well along with having some decent designs to fall back on.
The story is still pretty decent. Yes there is some of that 80's cheese in there but that is to be expected. A few things I found pretty hilarious though. When Alex beats the high score on the video game the entire trailer park come up to cheer him on and celebrate it. Really? Did people really do things like this? Frankly I'm starting to wonder if this is the start of people thinking that accomplishing tasks that are have zero impact on the real world are important. Like when people are bragging to their co-workers that they are in the best raiding guild on the Black Rock server or that they can ride the Toms Twister four times in a row without puking. Really? This must be one hard up for entertainment trailer court.
Some parts of the story are pure brilliance though. Having Alex replaced by a Beta Unit while he is gone adds a whole new aspect to the story that most wouldn't have thought of. Then the associated humor to go along with him just made it that much better. Some of Alex and Grigs discussion while in the Gunstar also come across really well. Giving you the feeling that human empathy isn't just limited to humans.
Pacing and directing wise the movie scores rather well. Some of the scenes were obviously filmed from specific angles due to constraints of the sets. Can't build everything on a limited budget and it can't all look good either so get what you can and trick your way around the rest. Everything built up rather nicely, humorous scenes seemed to be in just the right places and we're all ready for the final fight when the time comes. Top this off with it being mostly family friendly with only a few scenes of violence and a couple of 'frisky' type shots.
The worst thing about the movie is the lack of a sequel. After all they set it up rather nicely for one. One of the bad guys gets away, the Frontier has been breached and Alex has to help rebuild the Starfighter ranks to defend all the various worlds that resided in the protection of the shield. But the movie wasn't a blockbuster, it seemed to do decent, but only just that.
All in all I give this movie a four out of five. Now if only the eighties would get out of my head. For some reason I have the song from 'The Last Dragon' going through my head with “You are the Last Starfighter” as the lyrics.