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The Last Starfighter
As mentioned in the Monster Squad thread, this is a film from our collective childhood that actually stands the test of time. The effects haven't aged well at all--I've got better graphics on my screensaver--but for being the first film to go all out and give CG a try, they're OK.

It's really interesting that aside from a few real glaring moments, I still don't find the CG effects to be distracting. I mean, they're not good, but they don't take you out of the movie, either. I think it's due to the fact that the rest of the movie is done so well that the one hurdle they couldn't leap over at the time doesn't add up to too big a fault. Robert Preston and Dan O'Herlighy both deliver some wonderful performances--this was Preston's last film and it's certainly a nice capper to a great career. Lance Guest really manages to carry the movie, and I wonder why he never went anywhere (oh, right. Jaws: The Revenge.) What I love about the movie is just how well they take what would be an overly cute or just plain goofy premise (teenager is recruited into an interstellar war after winning a video game) and make a really engaging, entertaining film that actually has some thought put into it. The dialogue's pretty snappy as well, with most of the great lines going to Preston.

And then there's the score. The score is pretty goddamn fantastic, without a doubt, and it's frequently playing in my office--it really completes the movie.

I hope there's some kind of special edition in the future--the DVD has a nice transfer, but I'd like some more insight on how the CG process worked back then.

Originally Posted by g-dude

I hope there's some kind of special edition in the future--the DVD has a nice transfer, but I'd like some more insight on how the CG process worked back then.

You have watched the documentary, right?

It's okay, but I find the cheese factor pretty overwhelming. I understand it's a kids movie, but there are a lot of scenes that just don't work, many times involving the kid or the hot-but-uncharismatic Catherine Mary Stewart. It's an ok movie with a bit of fun.

But it's not as good as THE GOONIES
"actually stands the test of time. The effects haven't aged well at all"...
I thought it was OK, but didn't bring much new to the table. After Tron and Return of the Jedi it was a bit ho-hum.

Originally Posted by SneakyPete

"actually stands the test of time. The effects haven't aged well at all"...

The movie itself holds up very well. The effects don't. How hard is that to understand?
Even as a kid, although I liked the movie I thought the unimaginative (and cheesy) bad guys kept it from rating any better than "good." That said, I agree the movie holds up well enough.

Re: the effects, I remember reading someone's criticism of Van Helsing focusing on the special effects vs. story and characterization. He/she noted that the point isn't to create a werewolf so "photorealistic" that the audience actually believes you actually found and filmed a werewolf. That's impossible. The idea is to create a movie compelling enough to make the audience WANT to believe that it is a werewolf.

Originally Posted by Charlie Brigden

It's okay, but I find the cheese factor pretty overwhelming. I understand it's a kids movie, but there are a lot of scenes that just don't work, many times involving the kid or the hot-but-uncharismatic Catherine Mary Stewart. It's an ok movie with a bit of fun.

My thoughts exactly. Catherine Mary Stewart gets tossed in with Courtney Cox in the "attractive women with zero sex appeal" category. She was the biggest down side to "Night of the Comet" as well.
The effects were always great, they still are. I wouldn't say they've aged badly. We always knew they weren't REAL spaceships.
I enjoyed it, and the effects were pretty good for their time. Haven't seen it in eons, though.
this is a great film. the effects are NOT bad. They weren't supposed to look real...they were supposed to look unique and fantastical. to give the film a visual style no one had ever seen before. no one tried to pass them off as looking real. it could be argued that they don't look good, but it doesn't matter. they give the film a fantasy element that makes them work perfectly.
I agree that the effects do give the film a bit of whimsy, but the documentary shows that they actually had planned much more detailed, more rendered effects all around, but the Crey computers at the time didn't have the processing speeds to get everything done by the studio-mandated release date. CG animation was such a laborious process in its infancy that it actually took longer than stop motion did, which is why it took so long for it to catch on.
What made the effects work is that they kept the CG strictly to the space scenes, where a different look made sense. Of course, it probably wasn't possible to integrate them with live-action at that point, but still.
I don't know, I felt the sudden insertion of CG was very jarring at the time.
Great movie. I just finally bought it on dvd last week when I found it for $5. I had it recorded off television when I was a youngster.
The bad guys are successful too -- hammy bald guys named Xur with a sharp sceptre and lizard faced guys with 1980's electro-monocles.

Most importantly...ZANDOZANS!

Put me squarely on the "pro" side of this movie.

I think the effects aren't a distraction; yeah, when you get to the bottom of it, they definitely scream "early 80s" but it has so much other stuff going for it (namely the aforementioned Dan O'Herlihy and Robert Preston appearing to both be having a hoot of a time) that they're easily overlooked. The rest of the production design holds up pretty well; I'd agree that some of the personal stuff between Guest and CMS falls a bit flat; Guest in the "Beta Unit" role is pretty good fun, though.

Maybe I've always secretly wanted to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada, who knows?
That alien assassin thing freaked the hell out of me as a kid.

Many of you may have seen this before, but:

Bush Cites The Last Starfighter As Inspiration For Entering Politics
May 7, 2003 | Issue 39•17

WASHINGTON, DC–During a speech Monday, President Bush disclosed for the first time the pivotal role the 1984 science-fiction adventure film The Last Starfighter played in his decision to enter politics.

Bush at work in the Oval Office, with a poster of his favorite movie nearby.

"My whole life, I'd grown up around politics, but it wasn't until that fateful day in 1984, at a matinee screening of The Last Starfighter at the old Orpheum Theater in Midland, TX, that I finally realized that my destiny lay in public service," said Bush, speaking at a Republican National Committee fundraiser at the Washington Hilton. "The movie showed me that no matter who you are and where you come from, you can make a big difference."

The comments surprised the estimated 600 RNC members in attendance, as well as Bush's aides, who expected the president to discuss his proposed tax cut and plan for governing post-war Iraq. Not even his closest advisors knew of Bush's passion for the Reagan-era space epic.

Straying from his scripted remarks, Bush described at length his "lost" years of the early 1980s in Midland.

"I was holding down two jobs, one at an oil well, the other for a third-rate professional baseball team," Bush said. "I had gotten a local girl pregnant, and I spent my weekends watching golf on TV and drinking with my buddies. My dad was vice-president then, and occasionally he'd offer me some vice-presidential stuff to do, you know, just to get a taste for politics. But I was too distracted by other things. Basically, I was your typical unfocused kid."

One idle Saturday, Bush said he purchased a ticket to a matinee showing of The Last Starfighter. The seemingly inconsequential act would have profound repercussions on the young man–and, ultimately, on the entire nation.

"Just minutes into the film, I found myself relating deeply to Alex, the lead character played by Lance Guest," Bush said. "He lived in a trailer park and had little opportunity to advance himself. His only escape was playing video games."

After achieving a record score on a video game called "Starfighter," Alex is contacted by a mysterious man who invented the game. The man, named Centauri, proves to be a space alien whose home planet, Rylos, is under impending attack by a sinister invasion force known as the Ko-Dan Armada. Centauri had invented the game as a means to recruit standout video gamers who could pilot the real-life versions of the Gunstar spaceships featured in the game.

Bush was enthralled.

"Here's this kid, with nothing going on in his life, and it turns out that his only talent, one that seemed so trivial and ridiculous, could alter the fate of the galaxy forever," Bush said. "That really inspired me."

Bush said he could also identify with Alex's initial reluctance to becoming a Starfighter.

"At first, Alex didn't want to do it," Bush said. "He figured, why should he fight for the Star League and risk his life battling an enemy he knew nothing about? But then, when the other Starfighters were killed in an attack on their base and [evil emperor] Zur sent his vicious Zan-Do-Zan assassins to Earth to kill him, Alex began to realize that the only thing standing between the Ko-Dan and universal conquest was himself."

Continued Bush: "I realized that if Alex turned down the chance to be a Starfighter, he would have been assassinated, and Earth would have been destroyed. It made me think long and hard about my own place in the world: Was I making the right decisions? Was I helping people as much as I could? Was I missing out on a chance to save mankind?"

Bush added that he loved the film's breakthrough computer-generated special effects, as well as the fact that Alex had a robot double–something he had dreamed of having in his youth.

Transfixed by the film, Bush would go on to see it seven times that summer, memorizing its dialogue and buying a VHS copy on the day of its release. But The Last Starfighter's most profound impact on Bush was the way it motivated him to leave the private sector and enter politics.

"It made me realize that politics truly was in my blood," Bush said. "Who cares if I wasn't a good businessman or a sharp scholar? Alex was even worse off than me, and look what he achieved."

Bush admitted that, while running for Texas governor in 1994, he kept his Last Starfighter videocassette cued up in his campaign bus' VCR, ready for rewinding or fast-forwarding to his favorite scenes on a moment's notice.

"When my spirits were sagging, I'd watch the scene where Alex tells Centauri that he's just 'a kid from a trailer park,'" Bush said. "Centauri replies, 'If that's what you think, then that's all you'll ever be.' It helped me remember that the only boundaries that exist are those you create in your mind."

Continued Bush: "Or, as Alex says to [his girlfriend] Maggie, 'Don't you see this is it? This is our big chance. It's like, whatever this is, when it comes, you've got to grab on with both hands and hold tight.'"

The fundraiser audience reacted to the Bush speech with near-silence.

"I sort of remember the movie when it first came out, but I never saw it," RNC chairman Marc Racicot said. "As a Bush supporter and GOP policymaker, maybe I should rent it sometime."

Former White House communications director Karen Hughes, a close advisor to Bush in the early days of his presidency, said she had failed to realize the full significance of The Last Starfighter during her time in the administration.

"When I first started working for the president, he would sometimes mention the movie. Once or twice, he even tried to get me to read his Last Starfighter fan fiction," Hughes said. "But I always assumed that his decision to enter politics was shaped by his desire to continue his family's long history of public service. The Last Starfighter. Wow."

Added Hughes: "That probably explains why [Last Starfighter co-star] Catherine Mary Stewart is our ambassador to Zambia."
Please tell that's real. Oh how I want that to be real.

Even if it's fake it's still funny.
anyone else think this film needs to be remade? it should be...but well...not made to suck
I always liked this movie... with reservations. The fact that I was in the middle of writing a hopelessly similar story when it came out still stings a bit-- I'd even come up with android decoys and an identical Spy Who Loved Me-derived spaceship car!

Of course, what that really shows is how perfectly TLS's writers captured the essence of adolescent fantasy. I remember being a little shocked at Alex II's militaristic insult ("Save the whales but not the universe, huh?"Wink, but it clued me to the right-wing implications of the concept: wouldn't it be great if we all had access to such a powerful weapon? Well, no. Only some of us. I don't trust you so it'd better be me. Job's easier if it's called Dictator, right?

I wouldn't be surprised at all if Dubya actually did admire the film, or that he took a completely different lesson from it. That article reads like Onion though. (edit) Yup, here's the link.

Oh, the FX. I like them, and since they're supposed to be the 'real' version of a video game I think they work fine in context.
I'll always have a big place in my heart for this movie. You can deride the special effects all you like, but this is a movie that wholeheartedly believes in itself, and it sucks me in every time. What makes the primitive CGI really work is that it's emulating a video game, and also, as someone said, it's all in outer space.

One of the things I really love is the performance of Guest in his dual role as Alex and Beta, and the way Stewart plays off of him in the second role. It also has one of my all-time favorite endings, for overturning the Wizard of Oz bullshit archetype in which the hero turns away from fame and a magical life of excitement and adventure and just goes back to the farm. Fuck that. He does what any self-respecting nerd would do: he picks up his girlfriend and high-tails it out of the damn trailer park. And the final scene of his little brother taking on the game to take his shot says it all.

Oh, and O'Herlihy gives one of the finest performances under heavy makeup in history. The guy is just great.
Maybe I'm just a sucker for 80's films (as my defence of Monster Squad shows) but I liked this one to. Still have an old vhs copy of it and although I don't think it holds up as well as Goonies or Monster squad it’s still a pretty good little flick.

I don't mind the cgi spaceships as (and I know it wasn't the original intention) It seems to add to the whole video game setup of the movie.
It's a pretty obvious ripoff of the Robert Heinlein novel How Space Suit Will Travel, but that doesn't stop it from being a great load of fun. I watch it every time it pops up on HBOFamily.
There's supposed to be a film based on the same video-game scifi recruitment premise (not a remake) in the works, but the name escapes me.

Additionally (video game recruitment):,70981-0.html
"As quickly as they had come, the infidels were gone. It was on that day I put a jihad (holy war) on them."

Originally Posted by Nigel St. Buggering

And the final scene of his little brother taking on the game to take his shot says it all.

I love that shot. It really seals the deal on the movie for me.

Just awesome.
"Back to sleep, Louis, or I'm telling Mom about your Playboys!"
Love that line.
Inspired by this thread, I watched it again tonight. In the end credits, Wil Wheaton is credited as "Louis' Friend". Now, I don't remember Louis having a friend, and I certainly didn't catch sight of Wil Wheaton. I wonder if he was cut out.

The making-of doc is good viewing, by the way. It finally acknowledges the pioneering and influential work of the effects, and the sheer guts it took to be the first to try.
Yeah, Wheaton's scenes were cut late in the game, hence his name still appearing in the credits.
Love this flick.

I recall a conversation from a few months ago between a friend of mine and his dad. Dad said the movie wasn't that good and his son without missing a beat said, How would like a punch in the nuts?



He's responsible for Theordore Rex. That he shouldn't want a Last Starfighter remake karma on his hands is understandable.


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