One of the best underrated celluloid gems from the ’80s is The Last Starfighter. It starred Lance Guest as Alex Rogan, a bored teenager stuck in a trailer park who wants to leave home and who can blame him? Soon enough, Alex gets his shot…at the stars. Literally.
One night, Alex plays this arcade video game called Starfighter in the trailer park and sets a new record in the game, much to the cheers of his middle-aged and elderly neighbors who have nothing better to do. Later that night, Alex is abducted by a fast-talking con man called Centauri (Robert Preston), who’s actually an alien. It turns out that the video game was a way for Centauri to uncover gifted recruits for the Star League on planet Rylos. Before Alex knows it, he’s caught up in an interstellar war and faces the choice of returning home or defending the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada–the plot line of the video game he played back home.
Ok, so The Last Starfighter is a Star Wars ripoff, but it’s a damn good one! Director Nick Castle infused the film with an innocent, sincere and naive charm that works. The film is a wish fulfillment of every sci-fi fan who wants to be whisked away on a grand space adventure. That idea is even expressed at the very end of the movie when Alex Rogan’s little brother Louis (Chris Hebert) eagerly begins playing the Starfighter video game so he too can be recruited.
The film isn’t perfect, it’s pretty simplistic, but it’s a fun watch. It had many nice performances, especially from Preston and Dan O’Herlihy as Grig, Alex’s boisterous reptilian partner on their fighter ship. Alex was a very relatable character who grappled with wanderlust and self doubt. His arc was predictable but well done. The spaceship designs were unique and eye catching thanks to artist Rob Cobb, and the film had a rich and rousing score by Craig Safan. It was one of the best Star Wars-esque themes I’ve ever heard and fits the tone of the film.
There’s been talk of a sequel for some time now, but as these things go, it’s stuck in development hell. It would be fantastic if a sequel were to be made; this story is ripe for further examining. Did Alex return to Earth? Did his brother become a Starfighter? Whatever happened to that buffoonish villain Xur (Norman Snow)? But it’s been thirty years since that film came out, trying to launch a sequel and reunite the remaining cast members may be too difficult.
So it may be best to just remake The Last Starfighter. But in this celluloid market crowded with unnecessary remakes why reboot this one if it’s still fun to watch? Well, while the film has many merits, there’s room for improvement. A remake can be better written and less simplistic, although it shouldn’t try to be dark and gritty. A new take of The Last Starfighter needs to retain the pleasant charm of the original, which will be hard to duplicate. But the right director can pull it off. An important thing that can be improved would be the special effects, of course. At the time it came out, The Last Starfighter had then-revolutionary CGI effects that are horribly dated now. You and I can generate better effects with our desktops at home. Another thing that must be changed for a remake is the look of the Rylans and Emperor Xur. They look utterly ridiculous with white hair that wraps around their heads and bald tops. Another flaw with The Last Starfighter was that the major villain Xur wasn’t menacing at all. There was one scene where he appears as a hologram to taunt our heroes that had me laughing hysterically. He looked so dumb as a disembodied head! That’s surprising because the other aliens in the film are pretty well designed.
Other films with less faults than this one have been remade. The Last Starfighter is worth remaking because it has a nifty story that is relatable to us fans that needs retelling.