22 Apr 2009

Letdown of the Week

The Last Starfighter (1984)

What it has going for it: Undisputable 80s charm, that comforting sense of adventure that only 80s films seemed to have without the need for 90s cynical scientific over explanation. A great lead in Lance Guest who has that Luke Skywalker boy next-door quality. A premise that should work wonders for a family adventure, a teenager chosen to be a starfighter to go on a space mission, all based on the criteria of arcade game skills…, It’s a narrative device that brings together the dreams and aspirations of little boys everywhere, with a hobby they can all relate to, video games. 

Why it’s a letdown: Two major problems with this film. Firstly it opted for CGI just a little too early in the processes development, it really does look awful. Other films of the same time who were using models and stop motion hold up much better today. The model work in other 80s films like The Never Ending Story (also 1984), for example, really add to the sense of fantasy and mystique. This is all the more disappointing given that the practical sets and makeup effects are, in places, fantastic (check out Dan O’Herlihy’s awesome lizard-like makeup). A bigger letdown however is the lack of a real exhilarating finale, a massive epic battle to compete with the likes of Return of the Jedi (1983). Meaning that, in the end, the all-conquering heroism of Luke or Indy is a little lost on Alex. 

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