Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Last Starfighter (1984)

I remember a lot of movies from my childhood.  Some hold up pretty well.  Others don’t.  I think in a lot of cases, I was more easily entertained.  Take The Last Starfighter.  I remember liking it.  It wasn’t one of my favorites, but I was entertained by it.  I recently had the chance to rent it from Netflix to see how it held up.

The movie centers on Alex Rogan.  He’s an average kid in a trailer park.  His one hope to get out of there is college, but he can’t seem to secure the funding.  His one distraction is a game called Starfighter.  He’s pretty good at it.  In fact, he beats the game’s high score of 1,000,000 points.  (To give you an idea of how boring it is in this trailer park, everyone gathers around to witness this with great excitement.)

It isn’t long before Alex is visited by a mysterious man calling himself Centauri.  Centauri is the one who designed and placed the games as a test.  He takes Alex for a ride, promising a surprise when they reach their destination.  It turns out that a war is on and the game is testing for those with The Gift.  Those that pass the test on their respective planets are recruited to become actual starfighters.

Alex immediately wants to go home. The game said nothing about being recruited for an actual war.  So, Centauri begrudgingly takes Alex home.  After Centauri leaves, Alex is attacked.  Fortunately, Alex is able to call Centauri back.  They go back to the military base only to find it attacked.  Alex is now the only starfighter left.  It’s up to him and his navigator, Grig, to defend the galaxy.

The movie deals mostly with Alex being recruited and eventually fighting.  There’s no real commentary on war.  The closest thing is Centauri being reprimanded for recruiting on Earth, which is an unaligned planet.  Even the fact that Alex was essentially tricked into fighting is downplayed.  This is something that may have been dealt with if the movie had been made into a TV show or something.  Each week would have been some aspect of war.  It’s also possible that the movie was aimed at kids.  With the exception of one or two scenes, most of the violence is video-game violence.  Even the fighting with real ships is kind of cheesy by today’s standards.

When I first watched the movie, it seemed like a pretty decent story.  (I suppose for a 9-year-old, it was.)  Watching it now, it seems more like it was meant to set up either another movie or a TV show.  (There are rumors of a sequel to the movie, possibly detailing the adventures of Alex’s child.)  Yes, Alex saves the day.  He returns to Earth to get his girlfriend and let everyone know he’s ok.  In this regard, the story seems incomplete.

Had there been a TV show shortly after the release of the movie, I probably would have viewed the movie differently.  The story would have made more sense in that context.  As it is, I’m wondering if a planned sequel was cancelled or if the movie was released unfinished.  (Both scenarios have happened with other movies.)  If a series came to television based on this movie, I’d definitely give it a chance.

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