Nostalgic thought hasn't been kind to this Buck Rodgers rip-off. Its long and boring, and the special effects are too cartoony to be affective. Blah.
The premise sells the film. The script is quite well written. Too bad its executed at a tranquil pace that doesn't stand the test of time like other 80s classics in the genre.
While revolutionary at the time of release, the special CGI effects utilized to bring the space battles to life are horribly rendered. They immediately tear you away from the drama. At least the practical effects seen in Star Wars were tangible. This thing looks like it's toggling between a live-action drama and a Saturday morning cartoon half the time.
Arcades were at the height of their popularity in 1984. At the time, no joystick enthusiast could envision the leaps and bounds electronic gaming would take between then and now. The rudimentary graphics system supported by these new video machines proved quite enthralling for the time. Participants weren't too finicky about the look and feel of gameplay. It's no wonder that the few films parlaying these technological advancements into storytelling would be just as visual simplistic and equally stimulating. Tron had already successfully plundered this advent in entertainment two years before the similarly themed The Last Starfighter showed up at theaters. A Star Wars rip-off, it may have seemed advanced for its time. But in this day and age, it looks and feels about as exciting as a game of Space Invaders. The film is noteworthy for being one of the first to utilize CGI technology in its creation of special effects. The Last Starfighter greatly suffers because of this. Whenever we cut away from the humans, the film starts to look and feel like a cheap 80s Saturday morning cartoon. The script was quite inventive for its time. Instead of being sucked into a videogame ala Jeff Bridges in Tron, our hero Alex has been summoned to the deep recesses of space to fight a war that threatens the entire galaxy. The videogame at the local trailer park is not really a video game at all, we soon discover. It's a training device used to seek out the best star pilots in the galaxy. And Alex has the highest score of anyone in the known universe. He hopes to go to college one day and make something of himself, but his single mother is hardly making enough money for that to happen. So he spends his days pining away for one of the local trailer park hotties and playing the Starfighter game parked outside the convenience store. Soon, he is rocketing into space, gearing up to battle an evil star-wide malfeasance so that he can restore order to the weakening Star League, protectors of the entire galaxy. In the meantime, a robot doppelganger handles Alex's homework, his beleaguered mother's wants and needs, and his first kiss for him back on planet Earth. Director Nick Castle seems to be aping the joyous cul-de-sac humanity that Steven Spielberg so lovingly captured with his films at that time. But everything, including the humor, seems a step off. It makes for an interesting experience, to say the least. This might be one of the most lackadaisical kid-friendly experiences of the 80s. Which makes for a slightly boring ride through nostalgia. Those that saw and loved this film upon its release will definitely hold an affinity for its c*mbersome ways. But new comers are likely to scoff at its goofy, almost stoner-like quality. Its not one of the 80s' best. Heck, its not even one of 1984's best. But some still herald it as a classic in the video game genre.
This 25th anniversary edition comes with two excellent doc*mentaries about the making of the film. And yes, we do get to learn what happened to Lance Guest, the star who seemed to drop of the radar soon after The Last Starfighter's release. "Heroes of the Screen" takes us through the evolution of the script and through the filmmaking process itself, including a look at the new special effect called CGI used so garishly within the narrative. "Casting the Frontier" gives us an in-depth look at the characters in the film and the actors behind them. There is an archival image gallery for folks that like slide shows. And to top it off, director Nick Castle and production designer Ron Cobb aren't shy about discussing some of the film's downfalls in a fairly entertaining full-length audio commentary.
The film is presented in its original anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. In color. The runtime is one hour and forty-one minutes. It has been rated PG.
The film is presented in Dolby Digital English 5.1. Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
The cover is clean and classy, utilizing key artwork from the film. We see Alex standing in front of what looks to be an X-Wing fighter rip-off of some sort. He is starring at the title, shocked to discover that he is, indeed, the last Starfighter. The silver and blue hues make this a streamlined package that is sure to catch your eye. If it weren't for the "25th Anniversary Edition" banner slapped across the top of the keep case, you might think this was a new sci fi classic.. On the back we get a look at one of the main Aliens, as well as the ever-sexy Catherine Mary Stewart. There is also a scene of space battle, but it looks way cooler than the actual special effects seen in the film.
THE FINAL WORD
Longtime fans will revel in the two doc*mentaries included on this new 25th Anniversary Edition. And the film has never looked better. So yes, it is worth replacing that old non-anamorphic Universal edition that came out around the time DVD was invented. New viewers and modern day video game players will probably find the film to be a slow trudge through boring terrain. This is definitely a film that could use a remake. Stat. Don't buy this unless you remember it fondly as a kid of the 80s. Otherwise you'll feel like you waisted your money.