Man, the 80s sure were rad, but more than that, they were rife with a new dimension for kids movies. With digital graphics, breakthroughs in animatronics, and Star Wars breaking through the Nth dimension, there was no limit to what movies for the kids could accomplish. They were given massive budgets, all-star casts, and that extra warm and fuzzy feeling. I’ve done a couple reviews on these 80s films, including the excellent film The Dark Crystal. These films are interesting, because they are trying for something timeless by using the technology available to them to make movies that go beyond the time it was made and into the furthest reaches of the imagination. And movies like Star Wars and even to a lesser extent Labyrinth succeed in creating pristine worlds of their own, separate from our regular, hum-drum universe. The Last Starfighter, today’s feature, has an interesting way of melding the two through the fad that’s all the rage with the youngsters these days; video games! It works not only because the plot is paced well and keeps the action and fun coming, but also because of the breathtaking (when put into context) special effects from 1984.
Alex is just a regular dude living a regular life. He’s a repairman in a dilapidated-yet-spirited trailer park. After being denied money for college, Alex decides to pour all of his time into drowning his sorrows by shooting up heroin. Oh, wait! I was flashing back to Christine E. Sorry! What I meant to say was that Alex drowns his sorrows by playing one of those new-fangled arcade consoles! He gets surprisingly good at the game he’s playing, called Starfighter. I mean REALLY good. So good, in fact, that the guy who made the game comes to him personally! And, strangely enough, he asks him to get in his cool-looking Delorean wannabe for a ride. Alex complies, having nothing better to do but die a slow, elongated death in the trailer park, and WHOOSH! Away they go, off on an intergalactic adventure, because the car was not so much a car as much as it was a spaceship. And the arcade game was not so much an arcade game as much as it was an intergalactic flight simulator. And the owner of said arcade game was not so much a guy as much as he was an alien. And this alien informs Alex that he might be the galaxy’s only hope against the evil Ko-Dan Empire, who wish to invade the planet Rylos (where all the good guy live). Alex finds that he has the aptitude to become a Starfighter, a defender of the forces of good with the power to save the planet of Rylos from unspeakable evil. Can a regular ol’ repairman take on the responsibilities of protecting a civilization? Or is this going to be too much for poor little confused Alex?
Whew! Long intro, huh? I would love to go into detail, but I’m honestly too dumbstruck about the graphics to talk too much. I cannot believe the date this came out. 1984? Even in the early 90s, CGI did not look this good. With over 20 minutes of cool and expensive-looking computer animation in this movie, we have come across a real rarity here. It’s like what they only imagined video games could be like one day. Seriously, take a look at all the other films to come out in the 80s, and name one that comes CLOSE to the level of detail on this CGI. It is WAY ahead of its time, and I appreciate its willingness to pioneer a relatively untested artistic medium. Keep a close eye on the firefights here for some real jaw-dropping 80s animation.
The story is pretty damn good for a kids movie. Wish-fulfillment, aliens, evil empires,cool spaceships; what else does a kid want? Its main ingredient that makes me want to come back for more, though, is its heart. There’s an awful lot of admirable characters here. Rylos is inhabited by a motley crew of aliens that make you smile. They’re good, and not only in a cartoonish, over-the-top way compared to how the villain is evil (think Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!). The core of this film is about real morality, CHOOSING to be good, and not having it thrust upon you. It’s a message I can get behind, no matter how overly simple it is. Pretty good for director Nick Castle, AKA Michael Myers!
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one. It really grows on you the longer you watch it. No matter how old you get, there’s still the possibility to get sucked into adventure. And I got sucked in, in a big way. The simplistic story, the rush to preserve righteousness over pure evil, and the earnestness of Alex himself all converge to make this a better-than-average movie for the whole family. It’s not very smart, it’s not very subtle, and it’s certainly not very funny. But I got something out of watching The Last Starfighter, and that’s an important factor at the end of the day. I give it 8 Delorean wannabes out of 10. Check it out!
Tomorrow I will continue Goregirl’s request-a-thon with Drugstore Cowboy! And keep checking throughout the day tomorrow for a special announcement!