The Last Starfighter (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review


The Last Starfighter was the first film to feature extensive CGI work throughout the film. Does this makes this a good film? No. The film isn't all that great, but it does make the film an interesting watch from a historical perspective.

Studio: Arrow Video
Release Date: July 13th, 1984 (theatrical) / October 27th, 2020 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 1 hour 41 minutes
Region Code: A (locked)
Picture: 1080p (2.35:1 aspect ratio)
Sound: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1, 
Subtitles: English SDH
Slipcover: Yes
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Dan O'Herlihy, Catherine Mary Stewart, Barbara Bosson, and Norman Snow
Written by Jonathan Betuel
Directed by Nick Castle
Rating: PG (sci-fi violence)

THE FILM


Alex Rogan lives in a trailer court where his mother is manager and everyone is like a big extended family. He beats the Starfighter video game to the applause of everyone in the court and later that day finds he has been turned down for a student loan for college. Depressed, he meets Centauri, who introduces himself as a person from the company that made the game, before Alex really knows what is going on he is on the ride of his life in a "car" flying through space. Chosen to take the skills he showed on the video game into real combat to protect the galaxy from an invasion. Alex gets as far as the Starfighter base before he really realized that he was conscripted and requests to be taken back home. When he gets back home, he finds a Zando-Zan (alien bounty hunter) is stalking him. Unable to go home and live, Alex returns to the Starfighter base to find all the pilots have been killed and he is the galaxy's only chance to be saved from invasion.

I did not grow up with THE LAST STARFIGHTER. This was a film that I saw at the video store all the time, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to see at the time. It wasn’t until the last ten years that the film came up on my radar again, prompting me to finally take a look at the film.

I have to say that I did not like the film. I was impressed with the production design, creating a wonderful world that we haven’t seen before. The film looks like it cost a lot. I also thought that the make-up and make-up effects were also very well done. The look to the different aliens throughout the film was cool and always believable. The casting was on point as well. None of the characters annoyed me which is something that happens often when you have big casts like the one found here. 

I want to also call out the CGI on display here. This was the first film to use CGI extensively, and while it hasn’t aged well at all, it is impressive for what it is. None of it was all that convincing, but I don’t think that was really the point. The filmmakers needed to see how far they could take the CGI and sometimes films are built around that need. Now, for audiences in 1984, I am sure that the CGI was mind-blowing. We had never seen anything like this up until that point and I am sure it was all very exciting. 

It is a shame that the film that surrounds the CGI isn’t very good. I am sure that if I had seen this when I was a kid I would have liked it much more, but the film feels like the first act in a longer film. There is a lot of world-building, but the film spends way too much time on that and not enough on action. There isn’t all that much action. The starfighter base is destroyed very early on and then the film drags until Alex decides he wants to fights again. 

The cast is good, though. It was really nice to see Dan O'Herlihy in a non-villain role for once. He was really enjoyable here and his makeup was also well done. Other than that, the film is a wash. There is a lot of world building, but not enough action to keep the story moving. The film just feels like a demo reel to show off what CGI can be used for. 


THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND


Presented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and given a brand new 4K restoration, THE LAST STARFIGHTER looks amazing. Film grain is present throughout the whole film, noticeably, which lends way to the film looking like a film. Colors look great with neon lights of the trailer park store feeling like they are going to pop off the screen. The colors, along with skin tones look and feel natural. There is also a nice depth to the picture. The film was shot in 1984 and feels like a film from 1984.

The sound, two separate tracks, sounds great.

THE FEATURES

Audio Commentary with Lance Guest and Jackson Guest

Audio Commentary with Nick Castle and Ron Cobb

Audio Commentary with Mike White

Maggie Memories: Revisiting The Last Starfighter (9m 28s, HD) An interview with actress Catherine Mary Stewart

Into the Starscape: Composing The Last Starfighter (12m 20s, HD) An interview with composer Craig Safan

Incredible Odds: Writing The Last Starfighter (9m 27s, HD) An interview with screenwriter Jonathan Betuel

Interstellar Hit-Beast: Creating the Special Effects (10m 14s, HD) An interview with special effects supervisor Kevin Pike

Excalibur Test: Inside Digital Productions (7m 46s, HD) An interview with sci-fi author Greg Bear on Digital Productions, the company responsible for the film’s CGI

Greetings Starfighter!: Inside the Arcade Game (7m 24s, HD) An interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance on reconstructing the Starfighter game

Heroes of the Screen (24m 19s, HD) Archival retrospective featurette on the making of The Last Starfighter

Crossing the Frontier: Making The Last Starfighter (32m 2s, SD, 1.33:1) Archival documentary on the making of the film

Image Galleries:

The Cast (26 images)
Starfighter Arcade Game (42 images)
Starfighter Command (216 images)
The Starcar (82 images)
The Gunstar (76 images)
Ko-Dan Armada (89 images)
Alternate Ending (44 images)
Anatomy of a Starfighter CGI (37 images)
Promotion and Merchandise (29 images)

Trailers:

Theatrical Trailer (2m 47s, SD, 1.33:1)
Teaser Trailer (1m 33s, SD, 1.85:1))

THE WRAP-UP


For me, THE LAST STARFIGHTER doesn’t work. It has a really novel premise, with some great filmmaking, but the film just plods along with not much action. The film has that lovely 80’s look and feel to it, but it all adds up to a not very good film. This did no stop Arrow Video from making a wonderful blu-ray release. They have a bunch of new interviews along with the previous blu-ray which gives fans just about everything they could ask for. Add in a brand new 4K transfer, this makes for one stellar blu-ray release.

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