Gems Of The 1980s: “The Last Starfighter”

Posted on August 8, 2015

“The Last Starfighter” is arguably one of those highly influential movies that few have heard about. One of the first movies to entertainment-Junkies-last starfighterutilize computer graphics, it combines a pulp feel with a coming of age movie to create a wonderful little universe where larger-than-life action combines with personal drama, with an emphasis on mixing comedy and drama.

The plot is relatively simple: The Ko Dan Empire has invaded the Star League worlds and threatens to destroy their worlds. The recruiter Centurion has seeded the galaxy with testing devices disguised as video games in order to find pilots that have the requisite talent to run the GunStars. Alex plays one such game, and gets the highest score; he is soon carted off to headquarters of the Star League, but is saved from death by refusing to serve. But the starfighters meant to protect the League have all been killed in the attack, forcing Alex to return as the last starfighter.

Storywise, the movie combines a lot of different elements into one cohesive whole. While Alex is stepping into the role of saviour of the galaxy, he is also romancing his girlfriend by proxy: In order to ensure that Alex survives an android was left behind to act as a double, ,and that android provides for not only a lot of the humor of the movie, but also allows the romance to continue. There is also the interplay between Centurion and the alien Grig that adds an ironically human touch to the movie.

As noted, the film also has the first use of computer graphics as more than merely background effects. Although computer graphics had already been used in a number of movies, this was the first movie to use them interactively; the actors had to respond to effects that they could not see and would not exist until well after they were done acting. Although primitive by today’s standards, they are nonetheless the cornerstone of the movie rather than merely just part of the scenery. All told, “The Last Starfighter” is one of those weird movies that everyone should see at some point just because it is such a fun little movie with a lot to offer.

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