The other day I watched The Last Starfighter, which is a film that somehow, I’m not quite sure why, I’ve never managed to see before.
The Last Starfighter is best known for being one of the first films to extensively use computer graphics to provide the special effects, and it was always this film and Tron that were the standard bearers for many years. Whilst a modern games console could easily recreate graphics of the same quality today in realtime, back then this was a new technique and the end results were the state of the art.
A quick plot recap then. Alex Rogan is a teenager who lives and works on a trailer park in back-of-nowhere America. He’s bored with his life and desperately wants to leave to go to University and take his girlfriend Maggie with him. The only thing he has to occupy his time is an arcade game called Starfighter.
Alex becomes quite adept at the game, which it turns out is actually a training simulator for a real space fleet called the Rylan Star League, who are at war with the evil (of course) Ko-Dan Armada. Alex is whisked away in a space craft (which looks stunningly like a DeLorean with a big chunky extension on the back) by a chap name Centauri and is told he has been chosen to become a real Starfighter.
Alex is shocked by all this, and asks to be returned home. Whilst Centauri takes him back, the Ko-Dan Armada launch an attack which kills all the other Starfighters.
Back on Earth Alex is surprised to find the Centauri had replaced him with a robotic double so that he wouldn’t be missed, and is even more surprised when an alien hitman tries to kill him. He therefore returns to become the Last Starfighter and help defeat the Ko-Dan Armada.
Whilst the computerised special effects are what the film is most famous for, the more traditional make up effects are generally very good too. Whilst some of the aliens look a bit naff (I’m thinking particularly of the bug eyed alien hitman, who’s mouth is above it’s eyes) most look quite realistic looking. In particular Grig, who becomes Alex’s navigator, has a great reptilian look but still manages to convey a lot of emotion, whilst the prune like aliens of the Ko-Dan Armada are also quite interesting to look at.
All in all I’m glad I watched it. It took me back to a time when I used to look forward to the video rental shop finally getting some big Hollywood blockbuster in that I was desperate to see but which had been on at the cinema a year or two previously.