The 80’s were a magical time for science fiction films, of course I am biased when I say this because being born mid-80’s I spent most of my youth (which would be the 90’s) watching films from the previous decade, but The Last Starfighter is one I had never seen, which might surprise some of you.
It’s the sort of film that is right up my alley, but I had never actually got around to watching it, until now.
The film is simple, teenager Alex beats the high score on an arcade machine and ends up being recruited into the Starfighters to save the worlds and all of that, it’s hardly the most complicated of plot lines but that is part of the appeal, the film didn’t need plots and subplots that all needed to be individually followed to make sense, that could just get confusing.
There’s a couple of problems with the film as far as I see it
First, as Alex is initially taken from his home to the Starfighter base no one actually informs him what is happening, it isn’t until everyone is chanting about Death that Alex gets the vaguest clue about what’s going on, so of course Alex baulks and runs back to Earth.
This would have been avoided by merely telling Alex from the start that there was a galactic threat and that he was one of the few who could combat it.
Secondly, there’s a couple of instances where the timing is perfect, it is just amazingly perfect timing that the day Alex goes up to space is the same day the big bad decide to launch their attack, just as it is perfect timing that the hit-beast tries to kill Alex just as Beta-Alex admits to Mags his existence.
But what the film has going for it is the great array of aliens, each face was unique and grotesque but each seemed pretty possible and realistic (well, realistic in a film at least).
The film taps into the fantasy that must exist in every gamer that maybe the game you’re playing is really just training for some greater cause or grand adventure that you merely have to unlock.
For the time the effects were amazing and though they don’t hold up today I’m man enough to appreciate the quality for the time.
Possibly the greatest moments in the film come from the Beta-Alex, a robotic copy of Alex left behind to fill in while he’s off-world, Beta is fully functional with Alex’s thought patterns and memories but he isn’t perfect, almost completely unaware of social conventions, it makes for some excellent moments.
Ultimately, despite the perfect timing that is required to make the film work (something I tend to prefer downplayed), this is a fun film and like I say, it certainly feeds into the desire that I had as a child that maybe the games I played were more than just a game and might serve some larger purpose, the acting is good quality, the humour shines through and the action is.. well action-y certainly.
You might just enjoy yourself.