Movie of the Day – The Last Starfighter
May 14, 2012 2 Comments
What kid hasn’t dreamed that one day, all those countless hours of playing video games would suddenly become the one thing that could save humanity? Come on, you can hear the collective outcry of mothers across the nation telling their sons or daughters that playing video games is a waste of time and it could be spent outside, doing things that normal kids do. I certainly heard, but then again the outside was scary and video games were a safe alternative lifestyle for my reclusive nature. But one day, I wish I could prove the world that my great skills at playing Q-bert would come in handy if I needed to defeat some aliens on a block pyramid of some kind. But alas, that won’t happen, but the movie The Last Starfighter definitely put the fuel on the fire of our dreams that our quarter dropping, arcade playing skills would be needed to defend the universe. The 80s fucking ruled!
Trailer-park teenager Lance Guest regularly escapes from his humdrum existence by playing the video game Starfighter. His expertise at this recreational endeavor attracts the attention of affable stranger Robert Preston. Before he knows what’s happening, Guest is whisked by Preston into the outer reaches of the galaxy! It turns out that the Starfighter game is being played in deadly earnest in outer space, and that Guest is expected to join Preston’s Star League, then do battle with the wicked Kodan forces. Guest’s principal ally is the lizardlike Grig (Dan O’Herlihy–and we didn’t recognize him either). His great rival is the traitorous Xur (Norman Snow). The contrast between Guest’s earthbound life as the son of single-mother Barbara Bosson and his new position as Starfighter is daunting at first, but soon the boy is manning a spacecraft and zapping the baddies as though he’s been doing it all his life. (source)
The Last Starfighter was not a particularly great movie or original in the story that it was telling, but damned if it wasn’t entertaining on the most base level. I think the wonderment of being a kid and seeing a movie in which the hero is just some trailer park kid that is good at a video game, made it somewhat relatable to me, the video game part anyways and not the trailer park thing. Looking back on the movie, the fondness is still there, even with the hilarious looking CGI effects. I will give the credit the movie deserves, cause Disney took the risk in moving the marker for effects towards the computer realm and that was a big leap in filmmaking.
The film itself has some elements of Star Wars mixed into the proceedings. The intergalactic struggle and cause that recruits an Earth bound hero into the ranks of combat because of his leet skills at piloting a video game spaceship. It’s the sort of escapism that we longed for and imagine while playing video games. Those countless hours of schooling noobs at the art of games and being rewarding with a real life mission to save the world is the video game nerds equivalent of The Neverending Story. It’s the fantasy, wish fulfillment that we wanted and validation that we didn’t waste our live playing games and that they would have a real life payoff. Sure it might seem like pandering, but it was awesome to see this movie.
I will admit that it doesn’t holdup, but any movie that leans on the early uses of CGI will never truly hold up over time. It’s sad because we have become so ingrained with visual spectacles the the earliest uses of the technology we have become familiar with loses that early sparkle. For me, The Last Starfighter still holds up in the nostalgia factor, being the wish fulfillment that I wanted from a movie like this. Also giving me explosions, lasers, space battles and science fiction helps keep my erratic mind in check and attention span captivated. Some instances it is a forgettable, but for those in the gaming community, it is fantasy pandering and that is fine by me. Everyone needs a little escapism now and then.