This week’s classic feature was The Last Starfighter, paired with a concoction we called Grig’s Grog. The grog wasn’t great, and honestly, the movie holds a much higher place in my memory than it does rewatching it. The movie has its moments, and the story is good. It’s just not as good as I remember from my childhood.
The Last Starfighter is a 1984 Sci-Fi flick about a young man desperate to leave the rundown trailer park he grew up in and see the world (or at least go to a decent college). His only outlet to escape the daily chores helping around the facility is an arcade cabinet called Starfighter. Little does he know, Starfighter is really a recruitment tool by a rougish alien named Centauri, looking to bring someone from Earth back to help defend the Star League from the evil Kodan. Like every great 80’s flick it features loads of feathered hair, short shorts, striped socks, and all-American apple pie imagery.
Besides Tron, The Last Starfighter was one of the first movies to use heavy computer graphics. There were some practical effects, the starcar, and creature makeup mostly, and neither holds up very well by any standards. I wouldn’t even put it on par with any of the practical effects from earlier films like Star Wars or shows like Battlestar Galactica. It probably looked amazing when I was a kid, but seeing it today was a little disappointing. It’s something you have to really tell yourself to look past, because there is something to see if you can manage it.
What the movie lacked in good visual effects was more than made up for in its story. Who didn’t dream of winning a video game and going off to save the universe after watching this movie? I genuinely smiled when the entire park came out to see Alex (Lance Guest) get the high score, despite how cheesy it all was. You couldn’t help but love Centauri (Robert Preston’s last role), and Grig (Dan O’Herlihy) was so charming. The story is a pretty standard every man saves the universe, but delivered with all the charm and camp of your typical ’80s cheese-fest.
In doing some research into the movie to make sure I had my facts straight I ran into the possibility of a sequel. Seems that Gary Whitta (Star Wars Rogue One, The Book of Eli) is at least partially involved in the script, and shared some concept art that is pretty cool.
It’s hard to say what we’ll get, since the current trend of rebooting/remaking classic franchises seems to be hit or miss on the quality. The bar is admittedly already low with this film, but if anyone can miss it, modern Hollywood can. Here’s hoping they can at least give us a good-looking space flick without completely destroying what made the original worth watching.
We paired this with a concoction I came up with on the spot, and it was appropriately disappointing. Not enough flavor in any of the ingredients, but the color was fitting at least. If we shoot for another alien-like brew it will have to pack more of a punch on the flavor spectrum. Perhaps some sour apple schnapps to go with it to kick you in the tastebuds.
It’s still a good bad movie. It doesn’t really hold up against most of the science fiction we’ve had over the last couple of decades, but the story still holds up. Watching it with your kids and see if their eyes don’t light up at the idea of saving the universe after winning a video game. See if you can’t find that kid in you somewhere and just smile, and have a good time for an hour and a half.