Starman (1984): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

You have to give it to John Carpenter. Even when he stumbles, he’s still one of the finest directors around who manages to set himself apart from his contemporaries stylistically. While “Star Man” is an obvious attempt to cash in on the good Spielberg “ET” dough, “Star Man” manages to be a pretty okay movie, either way. Carpenter sets aside his usual nihilism in favor of a more measured alien love story where it retains much of its appeal thanks to the wonderful turns by Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges. This is especially a movie where Allen shines, as she delivers a performance filled with layers and emotion to the very end.

“Star Man” centers around a widow named Jenny Hayden who is still mourning the loss of the love of her life. She spends her days remembering her beloved husband and refusing to step outside and move on. When an alien ship answers a message sent by NASA, the being tries to contact mankind but crashes on Earth after being struck by a missile. The amorphous glowing ball of light Star Man inevitably stumbles on Jenny and obtains the identity of her lost husband. Taking on his looks, his voice, and every bit of quirk he once held, he beckons Jenny to take him to a landing site where he will meet with a vessel and fly back home. Now being pursued by the military, Jenny begrudgingly decides to help the being travel to Arizona.

Although “Star Man” is Carpenter’s best efforts to deliver a commercial film, he still manages to deliver it on his own terms, offering a down to Earth and homespun romance. What’s most interesting about “Star Man” is the way Jenny is able to come to terms with the loss of her husband under such extraordinary circumstances. Carpenter is very good at grabbing peak performances from his cast, and here he pulls absolutely marvelous turns from his two main cast members. Bridges and Allen’s chemistry is top notch, and the way they interact with one another amounts to some of the best drama and romantic fodder in the whole film. Carpenter knows how to balance the Star Man as a being that’s both fascinating but a tad bit menacing.

Especially how he’s able to gradually catch on to human tricks the more time he spends on the road trip with Jenny. Carpenter includes one his best establishing sequences in his repertoire with the evolution of the Star Man and how it manages to adapt instantly to the being it first sees. We’re never quite certain what it finds so appealing in Jenny’s lost husband, but when he does he forces her to bring so many emotions including regret, and guilt to the surface. “Star Man” becomes less and less science fiction the more we delve in to narrative, and Jenny’s bond with the Star Man allows her to come to terms with her biggest loss, and the Star Man to understand what’s so special about humanity. “Star Man” edges by thanks to the unique approach and great turns by its stars. While it’s still not what I’d call a masterpiece (or even Carpenter’s best), it’s a solid genre effort that I didn’t mind finishing.

The Collector’s Edition features an audio commentary with director John Carpenter, and star Jeff Bridges. “They Came From Hollywood: Re-visiting Starman” is a twenty four minute segment including interviews with director John Carpenter, actors Jeff Bridges, Charles Martin Smith and script supervisor Sandy King-Carpenter. It’s a great look back at the making of the film, cutting no corners with fun looks at the making of the production, along with great anecdotes from folks like Sandy King Carpenter. There’s also mention on how Karen Allen helped Jeff Bridges start his tradition of creating photo scrapbooks for the folks he worked with on set. There’s a vintage eleven minute EPK from the time the film was made. It includes interviews with the cast and crew, including Karen Allen, who is missing from the new features. Finally there’s the original teaser trailer, the original theatrical trailer, TV Spots, and a Still Gallery.