Nick Castle’s science fiction adventure film is one of my all time favorite “Star Wars” rip offs. It’s a film that fully embraces the hero’s journey trope and has a damn good time with it, bringing in robot clones, big headed aliens, and a pretty great mythology begging for a franchise. “The Last Starfighter” thankfully hasn’t lost any of its luster even in the midst of the glut of “Star Wars” wannabes, and it’s still a big personal favorite of mine.
After finally achieving the high score on Starfighter, his favorite arcade game, teenager Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) meets the game’s designer, Centauri (Robert Preston). He reveals that he created Starfighter as a training simulator for developing and recruiting actual pilots to help fight a war in space. Whisked away from the banality of his trailer park life to a distant alien planet, Alex struggles to use his video game-playing skills to pilot a real ship, with real lives at stake, and save the universe as the last star fighter.
Castle’s direction and lively energy keep “The Last Starfighter” a movie that is teeming with potential to blast off and become its own movie series, but is sadly never rewarded it. For a movie that packs in a lot of questions without losing a step as a briskly paced and exciting action adventure, “The Last Starfighter” works, and it channels so much of what made “Star Wars,” Amblin, and science fiction so rewarding. It’s not a criticism of the movie per se, but I wish we’d gotten a follow up down the line with explorations in to the Starfighter line and how they saved the universe. Whether or not the studio intended the film as a one and done cash grab or something more ambitious we’ll never know, but it still keeps its charms to this day.
Even the final space battle is quite thrilling, despite the ancient special effects. “The Last Starfighter” is a cult classic I hope more people seek out if they haven’t by now. I hope someday the renewed interest allows fans a larger universe and a few more follow ups.
Featured in the newly remastered edition from Arrow Video, there is Maggie’s Memories: Revisiting The Last Starfighter, an interview with Catherine Mary Stewart. Into the Starscape: Composing The Last Starfighter is a twelve minutes interview with Craig Safan. For those who may be interested, there’s a rather charming musical version of the film by Skip Kennon and Fred Landau that fans of the film might enjoy checking out. There’s Incredible Odds: Writing The Last Starfighter, a nine minutes interview with screenplay author Jonathan Betuel. Interstellar Hit Beast: Creating the Special Effects features special effects supervisor Kevin Pike.
Excalibur Test: Inside Digital Productions is an eight minutes interview with sci-fi author Greg Bear, who discussed Digital Productions, the company which did the film’s CGI. Greetings Starfighter! Inside the Arcade Game is a great seven minute feature with arcade game collector Estil Vance. Heroes of the Screen is a twenty five minutes archival making of featurette. Crossing the Frontier: Making The Last Starfighter is another thirty two minutes archival making of featurette. There are a slew of image galleries, nine total; there are two original trailers, and three audio commentaries: one with Lance Guest and Jackson Guest, one with Nick Castle and Ron Cobb and finally one with with Mike White.
As for physical elements, Arrow includes an excellent insert booklet along with new original artwork from Matt Ferguson and a great fold out poster for the original film.