Movie Recap: The Last Starfighter (1984)

Tron meets Star Wars anyone?

Alex Rogan wins an arcade game and gets recruited by the Starfighters. The CGI is expensive so he returns to Earth to faff about before the big space finale. The Last Starfighter has likable actors, funny dialogue and amusing creature designs. Lance Guest makes for an affably bland hero and a goofy robot clone. Robert Preston’s alien mentor enjoys trolling the script and everyone around him. The rest of the cast does what they can with their archetypal characters. What the film lacks is momentum. It feels like the prologue to a franchise that was never to be.

Want to learn more? Then read my spoiler filled recap.

Act One: Military Recruitment

Last Starfighter 1 Arcade
The neighbors are oddly invested in Alex’s arcade score.

Scene One: Trailer Park
ALEX: I can’t afford college! How will I get out of this trailer park?
GIRLFRIEND: You’re 24. Get a job.
(Alex plays a Starfighter arcade game. He wins. The bored neighbors cheer.)
ROBERT PRESTON: I designed that game young man. Step into my sketchy car for a prize!
(Alex does. Cuz he’s an idiot. The car blasts off to outer space.)

Scene Two: Starfighter Station
ROBERT PRESTON: Welcome to Rylos! You can help the starfighters battle Prince Idiot’s enemy fleet!
ALEX: What? I can’t be a starfighter. I’m just a kid from a trailer park.
LIZARD: Stop kidnapping twinks. Take him home.
(Robert Preston takes Alex home. Prince Idiot’s enemy fleet blows up the starfighter station.)

Act Two: Refusing the Call

LS2 Robert Preston
Robert Preston channels his con man role from The Music Man.

Scene Three: Trailer Park
ALEX: You replaced me with a clone? Why?
ROBERT PRESTON: To distract the assassins.
(Assassin shoots at Alex. Hits Robert Preston.)

Scene Four: Starfighter Station Rubble
ALEX: I brought back Robert Preston’s corpse.
LIZARD: They blew up the base. You’re the last starfighter now.
ALEX: What? I can’t be a star fighter. I’m just a kid from a trailer park.
LIZARD: You just had this conversation. Why return if you aren’t ready to shoot things?

Scene Five: Trailer Park
GIRLFRIEND: Let’s have sex!
DECOY CLONE: I don’t wanna.
(Assassin shoots the Decoy. Green fluid spurts onto the Girlfriend. Decoy drives a truck into the Assassin’s comm. station and explodes.)
GIRLFRIEND: At least somebody finished.

Act Three: Space Invaders

LS3 Villains
The nondescript villains turn on each other.

Scene Six: Outer Space Battle
ALEX: Has this movie started yet?
LIZARD: Started? It’s nearly over. Here’s the enemy fleet.
(Alex kills the enemy ships with his video game skills.)
ALEX: It’s a good thing that mass murder doesn’t phase me.

Scene Seven: Enemy Command Ship
PRINCE IDIOT: I shall use my fleet to overthrow the galaxy!
GENERAL STARSCREAM: You couldn’t overthrow one measly star fighter. I’m taking over.
(The Prince flees in an escape pod. Alex blasts the Command ship.)
SOLDIER: What do we do now?
GENERAL STARSCREAM: We die.
SOLDIER: This would mean more if we had any personality.
(The ship explodes.)

Scene Eight: Trailer Park
(Alex’s starship lands in the trailer park.)
ALEX: I want you to leave your family and friends to live in space with me.
GIRLFRIEND: Okay.
(They blast off.)

THE END

Interstellar

LS4 Departure
Who wouldn’t trust this guy?

“The Last Starfighter” is not a terrifically original movie. ~ Roger Ebert

I’ve been on an 80’s sci-fi kick lately. The Last Starfighter isn’t a glorious mess like Dune, low camp like Flash Gordon or a misfire like Krull. It’s fun but forgettable. Both competent and jaded. Alex experiences no sense of wonder during his trips to space. He’s seen Star Wars as many times as we have.

The Last Starfighter snuck in before the PG-13 rating. Alex is sexually active, his kid brother looks at Playboys and there are several violent deaths. The villain escapes and Robert Preston miraculously revives in a desperate bid for a sequel. A sequel has not been produced. Instead we got novels, video games and an off-Broadway musical.

Did you see this film in cinemas? Did it stick in your memory?