Film: The Last Starfighter

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Film:

The Last Starfighter

Director: Nick Castle
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Distributor: Universal Studios

At the time of its original release in 1984, this modestly budgeted sci-fi excursion had the distinction of offering some of the first examples of purely computer-generated animation, an apt (and frugal) special-effects solution for a movie with a plot line rooted in computer games. Both the computer-generated visuals and the arcade game now look quaint, but writer-director Nick Castle’s affable, good- hearted adventure holds up nicely, thanks to a clever premise—the title game is actually a test for prospective starship pilots, planted by embattled aliens under…

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At the time of its original release in 1984, this modestly budgeted sci-fi excursion had the distinction of offering some of the first examples of purely computer-generated animation, an apt (and frugal) special-effects solution for a movie with a plot line rooted in computer games. Both the computer-generated visuals and the arcade game now look quaint, but writer-director Nick Castle’s affable, good- hearted adventure holds up nicely, thanks to a clever premise—the title game is actually a test for prospective starship pilots, planted by embattled aliens under siege from an evil invader. When a restless teenager (Lance Guest) racks up an impressive score, he finds himself spirited away to the besieged planet and thrust into the midst of an intergalactic war. Apart from Castle’s skill at contrasting his extraterrestrial settings with the mundane details of his hero’s earthbound life, the movie gets lift-off from two thorough pros, Robert Preston, who makes the alien recruiter, Centauri, a planet-hopping cousin to The Music Man’s Harold Hill, and Dan O’Herlihy, the alien copilot, who suggests a scaly Walter Brennan. Older fans will snicker, but kids and young teens will find this rite of passage absorbing, while their folks will savor Preston’s brash charm. —Sam Sutherland

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