RE:View -The Last Starfighter (part 2)The Dark Herald
Picking up where we left off.
When Alex got into Centauri’s car, he shook hands with a stranger whose face was shaded out. There was a static shock and then the stranger got out just as the door closed in and Alex.
That was a robot named Beta. He had two purposes in the story. One a touch of comic relief as he tried to imitate Alex in his daily life and two he gave Catherine Mary Stewart more screen time. It fleshed out her character a little. And it also provided the director some much needed transition shots. You can tell the scenes that Lance Guest got called back to shoot. He is obviously wearing wig, since he had to cut his hair for another movie.
Back to Rylos.
Rylos had a sort of “the future has been light since the 70s” kind of aesthetic. In a post-Star Wars world, it felt a little behind the times. A little too clean to be believable. The alien costuming and set designs were a little out of date too. It had a TV vibe to it. Which isn’t a shock because TLSF was produced by Lorimar, which mostly did TV work. They were decidedly a big wheel in their day, making Dallas and Falcon Crest. However, they had switched to family sitcoms, like Perfect Strangers and Full House by the time Last Star Fighter was shot. The movie reflected that. Starfighter leaned heavily towards comedy.
Which is why this coming-of-age story with a few chuckles thrown in, turned into a fish out of water story with Alex saying, “What?” All the time. I can’t argue with the results, Last Starfighter is a fun movie but I can’t help but wonder what the film would have been like if they had kept the more serious tone that had started in the trailer court.
To me, it feels like they played it safe when they didn’t have to.
I suppose that’s why the Rylosians looked a little silly. Everyone was bald, had a big head, and white hair. The makeup did leave the actor’s faces clear, so they could get emotions across. Latex makeup was in its early stages back then and couldn’t really move with the actors’ faces. Dan O’Herlihy managed a credible performance as Grig, despite the limitations of the mask he had to wear. The actors playing the evil Ko-Dan fared slightly better as their makeup was just built-up latex making it less mask-like.
This movie was made seven years after Star Wars, so there had been a lot of time to study George Lucas’ story structure and the Hero’s Journey. The Last Starfighter reflected this new school of scriptwriting. The stages of the hero’s Journey were mostly there. Although, there were some problems with a few of the elements.
The Refusal of the Call to Adventure is a big part of the Hero’s Journey and it’s only natural that an eighteen-year-old kid who had been knocked off his feet wouldn’t want any part of a galactic war when his plans for the evening had mostly revolved around getting a hand under Catherine Mary Stewart’s bra. That part worked just fine.
The problem started when Centauri died. When a hero enters the Underworld, he has his Road of Trials there, and then there is a price to be paid for leaving the underworld. The death of a mentor is a typical sacrifice the hero has to make, the death of Obi-Wan in Star Wars. The problem is that after Centauri’s death, Alex started refusing the Call to Adventure again. After the third time, it was starting to make our hero look like a bitch. It’s okay to struggle, stumble and declare, “I can’t do this.” That’s fine. But Alex Rogan kept throwing tantrums. When he finally committed himself to becoming a Starfighter, the moment felt a little diminished.
A few words about the antagonists. The primary one was the Gamma wonder “Emperor Xur.” And he absolutely came across as a Gamma with butthurt. It was clearly why he had betrayed the Star League and was helping the Ko-Dan Empire disable the Great Frontier. An odd effect was that you felt a little sympathy for the Ko-Dan Alpha male, Commander Kril. He was clearly under orders to suck up to this little toad and he obviously hated it.
When Xur’s plans to assassinate Rogan had failed, you felt some emotional gratification for Kril when he ordered Xur’s arrest. He also had a great send-off line. When informed the ship was going to crash into the moon and he was frantically asked, what do we do? He calmly said, “We die.”
Grig was pretty much the real hero of the movie. He took over the mentoring duties, flew the ship skillfully and finally convinced Alex to pull his head out of his.
The final battle scene was as good as mid-Eighties CGI could make it, but Zoomers will still be left groaning or yawning. I will say this in its defense. Given the budget, it looked better than what it would have if they had gone with models.
The last Starfighter wins the day and goes home to snatch his girlfriend away to the stars with him.
There was clearly a setup for a sequel, but it never happened. It didn’t make quite enough money for that. However, it became one of the 1980s cult video classics like Blade Runner and The Terminator.
There has certainly been a lot of interest in a franchise revival in the last ten years. Seth Rogan was trying for a long time to get one going. The problem is that The Last Starfighter had IP rights problem from hell. Its studio was Orion Pictures which went bankrupt and that scattered rights among various stakeholders. Then Lorimar was absorbed into Warner Brothers, it was then revived and divided up into separate divisions for TV, Film, and Other. There was no clear ownership of rights for TLS between anyone.
Which is why you will never see a special edition with upgraded effects.
It was a franchise with no future but then a law slipped through that declared, that after 35 years, film IP rights automatically reverted to the original writers. The Last Starfighter was made in 1984. In 2019, its writers started sending out copyright strikes to all of the IP squatters.
It would appear they have recovered their rights. They have put out a sizzle reel and are looking for backers.
I hope it won’t be garbage but this is 2021. For now, I wish them luck.
Okay, I’m done here.