Last Starfighter: 25th Anniversary Edition (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (9th October 2009).
The Film

Iím the last person who looks back at the 80's with any sort of wide-eyed wonderment. There are plenty of great movies that came out of the 80's, but itís hardly the under appreciated lost renaissance of art that a fat guy in a Bowser shirt might make it out to be. I like to think that I can watch any movie that came out between 1980 and 1989 with objectivity. However, when it comes to a film like "The Last Starfighter," I feel like it did come out of a lost age of film, a time when certain movies had a grasp on the word ďadventureĒ. "The Last Starfighter" is a classic adventure movie that I always held to the highest regard, and Iím glad to say that it holds up amazingly well on Blu-ray.

"The Last Starfighter" was a movie that was released in the early 80's, and was one of the first movies, along with "TRON" (1982), to successfully integrate this strange new thing called ďvideo gamesĒ into the main narrative. The story follows Alex (Lance Guest), a young-adult who lives in a run down trailer park, and the only thing he wants is to escape. While Alex doesnít have the means to escape to the real world, he spends countless hours escaping into the virtual world of Starfighter, an arcade cabinet that rests within the trailer park. Alex spends so much time playing the game, he eventually gets the high score, and to show how little is happening in the town, the whole population shows up to cheer him on. Little does Alex know that the Starfighter arcade cabinet is a recruiting tool used by an alien species to find starfighter pilots to aid them in their war with the evil Xur (Norman Snow).

The movieís main strength doesnít lie in itís campy plot however, but in the characters themselves. While this plot would be enough to carry a sloppily written film, here screenwriter Johnathan R. Betuel leaves me entirely charmed. The dialogue of the film is far from realistic, but it is just damn entertaining. The script is aloof and light toned enough that you never take the movie too seriously, but at the same time, you never really think that you are watching a movie. Seeing Alex interact with all the aliens he meets upon his arrival on Rylos base is to this day one of my favorite scenes in a sci-fi adventure movie ever.

Alex is joined by a variety of equally well written and charming characters, from his alien teacher Centauri (Robert Preston), to his girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart). However, that height of acting in terms of auxiliary characters is served up by Snow as the evil emperor Xur. He hams it up for sure, but in the most perfect ways possible. Xur is just the perfect pitch of cartoon-villain, with an evil black suit to match.

Maybe I sound like Iím gushing, and perhaps I am. "The Last Starfighter" is just one of those movies I saw when I was a little kid, and my love of it has only grown over the past few years instead of wilting away. In the spirit of adventure movies like "TRON", "The Goonies" (1985), and "Enemy Mine" (1985), I canít recommend this movie enough times.

Video

"The Last Starfighter" is presented in a 1080p 24/fps HD Widescreen 2.40:1 transfer mastered in VC-1 compression, and I have to say, I was moderately surprised at how clean the film looked. Maybe itís because I grew up watching the movie on a crappy VHS copy taped off of HBO, but I was very stoked to watch the movie in what I imagine to be the cleanest image possible. Maybe the transfer isnít the best, but I found it more than suitable for what I was watching. There were a few instances of noise and artifacts, a rarity in this day and age of high-profile Blu-rays, but in the end, the picture quality was smooth sailing about 99% of the time.

Audio

"The Last Starfighter" is offered in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, as well as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, with optional English, English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish subtitles. I have to say, I looked ahead to the newly re-mastered audio with great anticipation, and I was slightly disappointed. The sound of the film comes out clear enough, but considering my attachment to this movie, I wanted it to swell my entire system up, and at times, it just didnít encompass my entire set-up.

Extras

"The Last Starfighter" comes with some impressive extras that really seem to cater to hard core fans of the movie, offering an audio commentary, a making-of featurette, and a multi-part documentary, one produced earlier and a newer retrospective one, a plethora of image galleries, some trailers as well as being D-Box compatible and BD-Live accessible. All are detailed below.

First up is the feature-length audio commentary with director Nick Castle and production designer Ron Cobb. I found this audio track to be jovial and entertaining, as the two filmmakers sat back and acted like a couple of old veterans telling entertaining war stories, although minus the horrors of war. The two are very reverential of the material, and make it seem as though they had a blast making the movie, and miss the time they spent on it. However, my girlfriend, whom was in the next room, overheard some of the more technical moments of the commentary, and shouted out ďNERDS!Ē in a pejorative way. Take that as you will.

Next up is "Heroes of the Screen" featurette which runs for 24 minutes and 19 seconds, and acts as the retrospective look back at the movie, interviewing cast and crew. The story chronicles the film from inception to production, and along the way, the cast and crew recount the impact the movie had, and project that they really still love the project. One specific part of the feature that got me was the story of screenwriter Betuel writing the film while he was still working as a cab driver. As an aspiring writer, that sort of stuff gets to me, and if for anyone whoís interested in perusing a life in film production, this is the sort of stuff that will make your heart melt.

"Crossing the Frontier: Making of The Last Starfighter" documentary is broken up into a series of videos composing an older making-of, one that was made still some time after the filmís initial release, but some time before the newest retrospective. Here many of the same people are interviewed, but they are much younger, and arenít quite as reverential to the material, but at the same time, still seem to be caught in the limelight of their achievement that is only so far behind them. The segments are:

- "Introduction" which runs for 1 minute and 27 seconds.
- "Filming the Movie" which runs for 10 minute and 33 seconds.
- "A New Era of Visual Effects" which runs for 18 minutes and 8 seconds.
- "Reflections" which runs for 1 minute and 52 seconds.

Next up is a series of image galleries that are presented in the fashion of movie-slide shows rather than images the viewer can skip through. I love the pictures here, as they offer an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the movie, but I wish I could go through them at my own pace, or at least I wish they were accompanied by some of the movieís amazing score, as watching pictures for sometimes up to a half hour in complete silence can get unnerving. Nonetheless, the picture galleries are:

- "The Cast" running for 3 minutes and 35 seconds, in which the filmís main actors are shown practicing movements and trying on costumes.
- "ďStarfighter Arcade Game" running for 5 minutes and 42 seconds, in which the actual game cabinet is shown up close and from different angles.
- "Starfighter Command" running for 28 minutes and 54 seconds, in which the amazing amount of work that went to a center-piece of the movie is showcased.
- "The Starcar" running for 11 minutes and 5 seconds, in which production stills and early sketches are shown of the vehicle.
- "The Gunstar" running for 10 minutes and 14 seconds, in which the star fighters of the movie are shown in detail, and in prototype form.
- "Ko-Dan Armada" running for 12 minutes and 2 seconds, in which all the movieís bad guys are showcased up close.
- "Alternate Ending" running for 5 minutes and 56 seconds, in which the filmís original ending, which was filmed in a theater, is shown, explaining why they re-shot it.
- "Anatomy of a Starfighter Computer Generated Image" which runs for 5 minutes, shows the preliminary stages of the computer graphics used in the film.
- "Promotion and Merchandise" running at 3 minutes and 57 seconds, in which we are privy to a host of crew shirts, as well as unproduced action figures and board games. As soon as I get rich in real life, I know what Iím hunting down.

Also included is a teaser trailer for the film which runs for 1 minute and 33 seconds, and a theatrical trailer that runs for 2 minutes and 47 seconds.

Finally the disc is encoded with D-Box motion code for those with the equipment and you can also connect online with BD-Live for those with a profile 2.0 player.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: A- Overall: A-

 


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