The Last Starfighter (1984)


(director: Nick Castle; screenwriter: Jonathan R. Betuel; cinematographer: King Baggot; editor: C. Timothy O’Meara; music: Craig Safan; cast: Lance Guest (Alex Rogan), Robert Preston (Centauri), Dan O’Herlihy (Grig), Catherine Mary Stewart (Maggie Gordon), Kay E. Kuter (Enduran), Norman Snow (Xur), Barbara Bosson (Jane Rogan), Chris Hebert (Louis Rogan), John Maio (Alien), John O’Leary (Rylan Bursar); Runtime: 100; Warner Bros.; producers: Gary Adelson/Edward O. Denault; 1984)
“Thankfully the film doesn’t take itself seriously.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Alex Rogan (Guest) is a high school senior living with his mother and younger brother in a backwater trailer park who aspires to go to an out of town college and escape his dull life, but his application for a loan is turned down. Feeling despondent, the youth goes to his trailer park office and plays his favorite video game where he’s piloting his Gunstar ship to protect the Frontier against Xur and the Kodan Armada. He beats the Starfighter game and the park residents gleefully spread the word that Alex is their hero. He is approached shortly afterwards by the game’s fast-talking inventor Centauri (Preston) and asked to come with him in his souped-up sportscar for his surprise prize. It turns out he’s taken in a spacecraft to another planet, where he’s recruited to fight in an intergalactic war against a superior enemy that simulates the video game. On the planet Rylos, he’s pitted against Xur (traitor son of the Rylan leader) and the Kodan Armada (a gaggle of aliens). They are the same characters from the game, but this is real-life. Alex is given the honor of being a Starfighter and in taking on the invading enemy’s entire Armada. If all that sounds preposterous, it is because that’s what it is. Thankfully this Star Wars rip-off doesn’t take itself seriously and it’s all played for laughs as a parody of such sci-fi flicks.

The film follows two stories. The first involves Alex fighting on the side of one alien army over the other. He first refuses but when he returns to Earth and is attacked by enemy aliens and finds out that all the other Starfighters were killed, the trip layed on him is that only he can save the universe. So he returns to Rylos. Here he receives help from a reptilian-looking creature called Grig (O’Herlihy), who trains him and becomes his pilot and he becomes the gunner. The second is the story of “Beta,” the simuloid beta unit who looks just like Alex and replaces him in the trailer park so no one will know he’s missing. This makes for some pretty funny stuff. The robot has to fool his obnoxious, wiseacre kid brother, Louis (Herbert), a collector of Playboy magazines, into thinking he’s only having a nightmare when he spots the robot making some mechanical repairs on his ear and has to take off his head in full view of him.

The computer-animated special effects were good for the eighties, and the video game scenario looked just like the war battles. This one is a must-see for video-junkies and those who like off the wall cult films. The story and acting might be bland, but it has a certain sci-fi’er charm that could appeal especially to the younger generation.