Recently I got to see the classic 1984 movie The Last Starfighter. I remember having seen it once on TV as a kid sometime in the 80s, and liking it then. What’s not to like about science fiction, video games, and cool spaceships?
This movie is a slight twist on a familiar theme. What’s familiar? Well, the essential story is about a young man who wants to be different than his peers, to go out into the world and do something worthwhile. He doesn’t want to go to the same community college all the other kids are going to, he doesn’t want to keep living in the mobile home community where no one is mobile. And he’s about at the point where he’s broken – it looks like his dreams of getting out are gone.
What’s the twist? Add science fiction to this theme. The young man is exceptionally good at a video game called Starfighter. Little does he realize that in beating the record he now has his ticket out of town, literally. His life is completely turned around, with the opportunity to actually be a starfighter, battling the evil Xur.
This is a feel – good movie for any age. There are interesting characters who make the story comical. There’s Louis, the main character’s little brother, quick with funny facial expressions. Everyone in the trailer park is funny in one way or another, from shotgun toting Granny to Elvira’s complaining. The best though has to be Grig, as his personality is revealed to us through his interaction with Alex Rogan, our hero.
Grig is the navigator and pilot of the ship Alex gets to fly. His enthusiasm and humor are enough to not only win the trust of Alex but also aids in helping Alex decide what he should do with his life at each moment. Go back home to earth where Xur has alien hit men after him? Stay and fight and have a very small chance of surviving?
Centauri is another character who is influential in the story. He is the creator of the video game that Alex beats, and he’s our first introduction to the frontier and Xur and Lord Kril. I couldn’t help but think of “Ferengi” from Star Trek – they would understand each other perfectly.
The special effects are good for 1984 technology. Good thing they didn’t think about communicators like Star Trek – having to physically go to a communication station gives our good guys time to stop the bad guys in this movie.
So if you’re looking for a fun way to spend 101 minutes, this might be something to check out. Who doesn’t like the idea that playing all those video games as a kid will actually lead to something worthwhile as an adult?