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The Last Starfighter (Widescreen Collector's

A movie directed by Nick Castle

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How the universe was saved, with a great lizard performed by Dan O'Herlihy

  • Apr 11, 2011
Rating:
+3
"Greetings, Starfighter," says the mechanical voice of the video game. "You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-dan armada."
 
In The Last Starfighter Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is a teenager who lives in a desert trailer park "in the middle of tumbleweeds and tarantulas." He's reasonably smart, has a nice girlfriend and is a little shy. One evening he manages to set a world record on the flashy game set on the porch of the trailer park's ramshackle store. Alex soon finds out every word of the video game is true. Within hours he's been picked up by Centauri (Robert Preston), who takes him on an intergalactic visit to Star Fleet command. He learns the video game's purpose was to recruit potential Starfighters who have the skill and reflexes to take on the invading Ko-dan fleet. In fact, these Starfighters are all that stand between the Star League with it's mission of galactic peace and, in the words of Ambassador Enduran, "the black terror of the Ko-dan."
 
Alex is having none of this, even after he meets his lizard navigator, Grig (Dan O'Herlihy). Centauri reluctantly returns him to earth and tries to change his mind.
 
"Alex! Alex!" he says, "you're walking away from history! History, Alex! Did Chris Columbus stay home? Nooooo. What if the Wright Brothers thought that only birds should fly? And did Galoka think that the Ulus were too ugly to save?"
 
"Who's Galoka?" Alex asks.
 
"Never mind."
 
"Listen, Centauri," Alex says, "I'm not any of those guys. I'm a kid from a trailer park."
 
Centauri looks at him and shakes his head. "If that's what you think," he tells Alex, "then that's all you'll ever be." Meanwhile the Ko-dan, aided by the traitor Xur, son of Enduran, break through the defense shield and destroy Starbase, the gunships and their pilots. Alex finally decides to return and reunites with Grig. They prepare to join the fight. Then something occurs to Alex. "So...how many Starfighters are left?" he asks Grig.

"Including you? One."
 
Well, what would you do next? Alex decides to save the universe. That's what I would have done, too.
 
The Last Starfighter is a sweet-natured story of a kid up to his neck in a situation he knows can't be true, and then finds it is. And he rises to the occasion. Lance Guest makes a sympathetic young hero. Even better are the the older cast members who back him up (the actors playing the residents in the trailer park and the people -- things, I guess -- at Starbase) or who try to bring him down (the actors playing Xur and the evil Ko-dan.) Robert Preston as Centauri is a stand-out, all larceny with a heart, a fast-talker who does the right things in spite of himse -- itself.
 
Best of all is Dan O'Herlihy as Grig in full lizard skin and make-up. He manages to show humor, compassion, roaring enthusiasm, courage...you name it...just with his voice, his body language and his eyes. Without him, the movie would lack far too much.
 
The film also has an amusing, affectionate script and special effects that, to my eye, still look good even with all the advances since then in Computer Generated Overkill.
 
For shy kids who've ever secretly dreamed of doing something wildly heroic and then receiving everyone's praise, this movie probably has a lot of meaning. I'd think most adults might remember those days themselves, and get a kick from it, too.
How the universe was saved, with a great lizard performed by Dan O'Herlihy How the universe was saved, with a great lizard performed by Dan O'Herlihy How the universe was saved, with a great lizard performed by Dan O'Herlihy

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April 12, 2011
For some strange reason, this seems like my type of film. Well, good review!
 
April 12, 2011
awesome! Love that fighter ship! Thanks, Charley!
 
April 12, 2011
Great li'l film that never gets enough love.
April 12, 2011
I agree, this was so underrated.
 
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More The Last Starfighter reviews
review by . October 31, 2008
The Last Starfighter
'The Last Starfighter' is a 1980's cheesy Sci-Fi movie that manages to overcome the cheap special effects with its charming and enjoyable storyline. Alex (Lance Guest) lives in a community oriented trailer park with his mother. Girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) lives in another trailer with her grandmother. Life is a dead end here at the Starlight/Starbright trailer park, and Alex wants out. But Alex is thinking college, not space.     When Alex achieves a perfect score …
review by . November 24, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
THE LAST STARFIGHTER is definitely a product of the 1980s. The hair, some of the clothes, the video arcades, the cars, etc. Despite the time period in which it is set, it does a wonderful job of tying in to everything that's great about youth and the optimism of coming of age.    The movie tells the story of Alex Rogan (Lance Guest). Alex is a young kid living in a trailer park who dreams of bigger things and unlike many of those at home, is trying to pursue those dreams. He …
About the reviewer
C. O. DeRiemer ()
Ranked #33
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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Wiki

At the time of its original release in 1984, this modestly budgeted sci-fi excursion had the distinction of offering some of the first examples of purely computer-generated animation, an apt (and frugal) special-effects solution for a movie with a plot line rooted in computer games. Both the computer-generated visuals and the arcade game now look quaint, but writer-director Nick Castle's affable, good- hearted adventure holds up nicely, thanks to a clever premise--the title game is actually a test for prospective starship pilots, planted by embattled aliens under siege from an evil invader. When a restless teenager (Lance Guest) racks up an impressive score, he finds himself spirited away to the besieged planet and thrust into the midst of an intergalactic war. Apart from Castle's skill at contrasting his extraterrestrial settings with the mundane details of his hero's earthbound life, the movie gets lift-off from two thorough pros, Robert Preston, who makes the alien recruiter, Centauri, a planet-hopping cousin toThe Music Man's Harold Hill, and Dan O'Herlihy, the alien copilot, who suggests a scaly Walter Brennan. Older fans will snicker, but kids and young teens will find this rite of passage absorbing, while their folks will savor Preston's brash charm.--Sam Sutherland
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Details

Director: Nick Castle
Release Date: January 1, 1984
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Jonathan R. Betuel
DVD Release Date: June 8, 1999
Runtime: 101 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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