Alex Rogan is bored, bored, bored. He's also got a bad case of the adolescent "I want to make something of myself" blues. Alex lives in a trailer park in California with a large extended family of characters. Everybody loves him, everybody feels for him, but everybody thinks he's just a crazy dreamer who is heading for a life of disappointment.
Even Alex's sweet natured "girl next door" girlfriend wants him to come down out of the clouds and settle in with her for the long haul. So, in typical early 80s fashion, Alex escapes the monotony of his life by playing a video game, The Last Starfighter. Little does he know that the game is actually an entrance exam for an elite band of interstellar Starfighters, sworn to protect the galaxy from evil.
When Alex beats the high score on game, he is suddenly recruited into the ranks of the Starfighters, where he must decide if he's got what it takes to save the universe, or if he's just going to go home and whine some more about his life.
The Last Starfighter attempted to capture the excitement of Star Wars with the "it could happen right here" feel of E.T. the Extra-Terrestial. Though it was the first movie to rely exclusively on computer-generated imagery for all of its spaceship special effects work, the cheesy dialogue and truncated action sequences make Starfighter a silly movie.
Not quite as momentous as Tron and certainly not as sentimental, Starfighter is nevertheless perfectly watchable Saturday morning kids fare. The PG-13 rating is a reminder of kinder, gentler times, considering that the film consists of approximately two uses of the "S" word and the occasional hell, all uttered by Alex's much younger brother. The violence is incredibly mild by most standards.
CGI has come a long way, certainly, but credit must be given where credit is due. Digital Productions made a hell of a first impression with this film. Sure, there are segments that look incredibly cartoonish, but they're great looking cartoons. This anamorphic widescreen reproduction was done with care and attention to detail. Colors are crisp and natural where they should be and bright and spectacular during the space sequences.
The Dolby 5.1 sound was nearly flawless, with a perfect balance between dialogue, music and ambient sounds. Many times I find myself having to adjust the volume on my set constantly to compensate for badly mixed 5.1. That was not the case here.
It's always great when the team responsible for a movie loves it so much that they put 110% behind efforts to produce a "Special" or "Collectors" Edition. However, these guys are really, really dorky. The commentary track featuring director, Nick Castle and producer, Ron Cobb terribly overlaps the information on the "Making of The Last Starfighter" segment, narrated by Lance Guest (Alex). The Making of feature was informative, but neither the feature nor the commentary is terribly entertaining. The interactive menus were good looking and easy to navigate.
The disc also includes an interactive game for DVD-rom users, apparently. Alas, I haven't got a DVD-rom so I couldn't explore it.
My only reservation about buying this movie is the extremely high MSRP. If it comes down to around $20 I'd say snatch it up, until then....nah. (At the time the review was written, MSRP was $34.98. At the time of this site's revamping in early 2004, the price is down to $19.98, so we assume Amy is enjoying Alex and company on a regular basis. - ed.)
Amy Morrison, 12/3/00